TEST NEW IDEAS PROPERLY
I’m full of new ideas; isn’t it okay to just brainstorm with colleagues?
A team brainstorming session is a good time to air all manner of ideas, this is true, but that’s not what we are referring to when we advise testing your new ideas first. When you’re starting out in a new school, it’s natural to be full of new ideas; potential changes to the school’s systems and revolutionary new teaching methods that will reform pedagogy as we know it. Our advice for surviving your NQT year is to always spend time carefully thinking through new ideas, putting pen to paper to make concrete plans and proposals, and then testing the ideas either with some of your own students, or in a mock class setting, or even just at home with friends.
The point of this period of planning and testing is to give you a chance to create something really convincing that members of your new team will appreciate and take more seriously. As the newest member of the team, you will have to work hardest when coming up with new ideas for anything.
Doesn’t’ all this planning and testing just slow down the process?
It may seem as though our advice is forcing you to take a slower route to progress, but when you are an NQT, slow and steady wins the race. Part of taking the time to research and test new ideas is showing the kind of humility and caution that is prudent when you are new to the profession. It won’t take you long in the job to realise that real-life teaching and being part of a faculty is about compromise and steady, step-by-step development.
When you take the time to test, the final results you get are mature and considered, and these will be more successful and convincing when you pitch them to the team than those brash, revolutionary ideas that you think should be implemented straight away. The “all guns blazing” approach will only lead you to disillusion and possibly even animosity with your colleagues.
Below we’ll discuss some of the best ways to generate your ideas more carefully. These methods will help you to master this considered approach to a new methodology.
Ways to create more “considered” ideas
1. Read more books --- when you are trying to develop a mature and convincing new idea to use in your school, you need to make sure that you have equally reassuring and persuasive source material. Trying to base a new idea you have entirely on the strength of a post on Instagram or Pinterest isn’t going to work as well as an idea based on the academically sound research and published works of a PhD or education research group.
2. Observe others’ classes --- another great way to generate and develop ideas is to observe classes of your mentor or other team members and reflect on how your idea might apply to that group. As you see real students in action, you can better imagine how your idea will work in practice. You might have an “aha moment” yourself as you realise that a new class discussion format you thought of wouldn’t work here because there are always 1-2 students who would dominate it, thus making it too exclusive. A single observation could send you back to the drawing board for all the right reasons.
3. Focus on structure --- when planning new teaching ideas, one of the biggest things you should focus on is the structure of the activity. A sound structure is what will best foster an environment of creativity for students, thus allowing them to gain maximum benefit. When you pitch the idea to your mentor and others, a solid structure will also do wonders for its persuasiveness. When others can see with crystal clarity how such an activity can be integrated into the class timeframe, its merits become more apparent.
4. Take breaks and keep an open mind --- to gain clarity of vision and better formulate your ideas, you should make sure that you get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks from the slog of sheer thinking. While you’re resting, use the time to browse web forums and reading websites like Medium. Even random galleries on Pinterest can be enough for this part. Sometimes, a stroll through the online forest can turn up great little gems of inspiration. That missing piece might just drop into place right when you’re not purposefully looking for it.
Not only is there no need for you to go into your NQT year all guns blazing, but it’s also not advisable. Using a careful, considered approach to your teaching and development and taking the time to think about and test everything thoroughly will bring you a greater amount of success and satisfaction in the long run. Don’t let hastiness lead you to disillusion and burnout.