Dip Diary 4 – Experience of recent NQT’s

I’ve been receiving lots of messages from newly qualified teachers about completing the Dip/ Droichead process. I asked my followers to contribute to some guest blogposts on their personal experience of the dip/droichead process and to offer any advice to NQT’s. I was overwhelmed by the amount of teachers who agreed to answer a list of questions and I hope their experience will help with your NQT journey!


What course did you complete? When did you qualify?

I did the B.Ed in Froebel (so in NUIM). I qualified in 2015. In my first year out I was in Learning Support, so I did the Dip in 2016-2017.

How did you find the job search?

It was tough! It was disheartening going to interviews where it was clear that the job had already gone to an internal candidate. It involved sending out a huge amount of applications and not hearing back from the majority of schools.

Any advice for teachers currently job hunting?

Don’t give up. A lot of jobs will come up in August and then again around October (I got my first job in October). Subbing can actually be a blessing in disguise as it gives you a chance to get known in a few schools and see where you’d like to work (and where you definitely wouldn’t).

It can be helpful to do interview training with someone. I did this and it was really effective for me. When it comes to interview, it’s important to be there before your interview time – so if your time is 3:20, be there at 3:10 or before.

There are loads of sample questions for teaching interviews online – read through these and know what your answer would be. If possible, say it to yourself out loud in the mirror.

During an interview, when asked a question take a second to think about it. You don’t have to launch into your reply. If you need to ask them to repeat/rephrase it, that’s perfectly ok. It’s likely that you will be asked at the end if you have any questions for them, so come prepared with something to ask.

What role did you have? (If mainstream – what class?)

I had 1stclass for the Dip.

Did you complete the traditional dip with an inspector or the Droichead process?

I had an inspector.

How did you find the process?

Very easy. The inspector was not like a teaching placement inspector. She was very positive and had a few simple areas to work on.

I will admit that it’s daunting before the inspector comes in as you don’t know what to expect!

Did you have a mentor or a go-to person to support you in school?

Not a specific one no, but I was lucky in that my staff were very supportive.

What was the most difficult part?

Beginning it all. It was a bit bewildering and when you haven’t met the inspector, that can be daunting. Not knowing what to put into assessment folders/ how much detail to put in plans was very hard.

How many hours did you do preparing/planning etc.?

My weekly plans took about 4 hours at the beginning. Towards the middle and end of it, they took about 2 hours or less. I used to do an hour before/after school every day making resources or correcting, and went home straight after school one day a week. I never worked through my break or lunch times, they were very important to me!

How did you find the weekly planning? Any tips for NQT’s?

I thought the NIPT templates were terrible, so customised my own ones. If you have the freedom to do this I really recommend doing so, it speeded me up a lot.

I would also say not to agonise over your plans for too long – keep them short, simple and understandable for yourself. No need to add in every tiny detail. It’s also ok for things to repeat in your plans. I used a comprehension box as part of English station work – things like this can remain the same.

Remember that this is not teaching placement and you don’t need to have every single word that will come out of your mouth written down on paper.

I really didn’t mind the weekly plans once I was used to them, and once I had my own templates they were quick to complete. I used to just type them up on a Thursday after school.

When planning by theme, use the NCCA online planning tool. You can input a keyword (water, for example) and it will bring up strands/strand units related to that topic. Very helpful instead of having to look through a zillion different curriculum areas.

I would also carefully evaluate the activities you do. If it takes you longer to make than it does for them to complete, is it that valuable an activity? Can you simplify it so that it creates less workload for you? Do you need it to have a written response that will then have to be corrected? Do you need to laminate everything? Work smarter, not harder.

What resources/websites/blogs etc. did you find most helpful?

Twinkl, LiteracyShed, Teacherspayteachers, TES, Scoilnet, Mash, Pinterest and Irish Primary Teacher of course!

The PDST have also brought out great stuff – I found that their sample activities for all classes were great for art ideas and ensuring that I covered the curriculum there.

I would also ask other teachers in the school for tips/ resources you could borrow, and make use of anything already in the building. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

What advice would you give to a NQT?

Relax. This is not a race. Make sure you take time for yourself and go to the gym/ watch your favourite show/ meet up with friends etc. A burnt out teacher is not a good teacher.

I wouldn’t spend your summer planning (assuming you have a job) – if you don’t know the kids, this is a bit pointless imo. Take the time to rest up. If you must plan anything, plan your routines and transitions, these are most important to have ready imo.

Things to think of: where you will keep resources, what copies to use, general homework you’d set, attention grabbers,  line up, behaviour management system. There are loads of examples and further questions online.

It is important to remember that unlike your placements, you will not be graded on Dip visits – it’s just satisfactory/ unsatisfactory. Do not feel like you have to spend hours perfecting minor details as you may have during placements! It will not earn you a higher grade and I would argue that it brings no actual benefit to your teaching.

Take shortcuts. If you’ve an older class, they can help you cut up resources/ put up displays. If you’ve a younger class, maybe you can enlist the help of kids in after school clubs to help you prepare materials (I still do this). With older classes in particular they often really enjoy getting the opportunity to shape how their classroom looks. It’s a freedom that they may not get at home.

I would also say to lean on the staff in the school (assuming you have kind, supportive staff in your school). Make sure you spend time in the staffroom. It can be a great source of support and stress relief.

Coming out of college you will have great ideas and new methodologies to share, but look to the experience and guidance of older teachers too. They will have practical experience and tips for you. I know in college there are many fads (see learning styles – a neuromyth), so be careful to critically evaluate what you have been taught in the past and read around it.

Anything else you’d like to include?

You’re a new graduate, you will fuck up! Everyone does! Don’t beat yourself up about it and think you must always be perfect. You know from college that kids don’t get everything right 100% of the time, so I’m not sure why we teachers often seem to think we will be any different.

Your displays do not have to look like those on Pinterest (and let’s be honest – how much use is spending hours on a fantastic display that the kids may never look at?). If you want to do that, great, but don’t feel pressured to ‘just because’. Every single lesson doesn’t have to be fantastic. The key is being consistent and being kind to yourself and the children.

There will be rainy days/ windy days/ days just before holidays when nothing goes right, the kids wind you up and a beautifully planned lesson goes to pot. That’s just how teaching is. Teaching in the real world is nothing like in college – you cannot be expected to get it right all the time. As long as you come out of those failed lessons with an understanding of what didn’t work for you, that’s great.