Beginning teaching during COVID -19: advice from newly qualified teachers

December 2021

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 47:5, 749-751

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study, part of a larger study that explores the transition of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who began teaching in the summer of 2020 in Hong Kong, explored the advice NQTs have for pre-service teachers (PSTs) graduating during the COVID-19 disruptions.

The study
In the summer of 2020, 35 NQTs graduated from one initial teacher education (ITE) programme in Hong Kong.
Two did not become teachers.
The remaining NQTs were invited in December 2020 to complete a qualitative online survey.
The survey was designed to gather NQTs reflections regarding their transitional experiences. 20 responses were received.
All participants were informed of the study’s purpose and their rights.
One question asked the NQTs what advice they would give to PSTs graduating in 2021.
The question responses were coded following qualitative analysis procedures.
The themes generated are presented as three pieces of advice.

Findings and discussion

Advice 1: be mentally prepared
The NQTs reported feeling mentally ill-prepared for teaching.
They suggested that graduates should develop coping strategies to help with their transition.
The NQTs recommended that graduates remember why they chose to become a teacher, as this will help them overcome possible challenges.
NQTs also suggested that graduates actively find ways to ‘relieve their stress’ and make time for themselves,
Numinous studies have explored teachers’ mental well-being, with work-related stress increasing being seen as an occupational issue (Burrow, Williams, and Thomas 2020).
For NQTs, stress can come from many aspects of the role, including workload and complex teaching contexts.
The disruptions created by COVID-19 have added to these stressors (Wong & Moorhouse 2020).
Graduates are advised to be mindful of their mental health and develop coping strategies.

Advice 2: be practically prepared
The NQTs reported feeling overwhelmed by the demands of teaching and heavy administration responsibilities combined with the uncertainty of COVID-19.
They advised graduates to become as practically prepared as possible before beginning teaching.
This preparation includes becoming familiar with digital pedagogies.
One teacher recommended that graduates become familiar with specific digital tools.
She felt these tools, had ‘really transformed [her] lessons since the second school closure.’
There has been a growing need for NQTs to be competent in using technology as they transition into digitally infused schools (Starkey 2020).
COVID-19, and the requirements to conduct remote teaching, has prioritised this need, as technology has become the primary enabler of teaching and learning.
Graduates need to be familiar with digital pedagogies for a variety of potential teaching scenarios.

Advice 3: be flexible and adaptable
As the situation is still uncertain and changeable, NQTs believe it is important for graduates to be flexible and adaptable while being willing to take risks and try new things.
Schools are complex places.
NQTs must be flexible enough to be able to adapt to various contexts and student cohorts (du Plessis and Sunde 2017).
Virus control measures, student/staff infections, and remote teaching caused by COVID-19 have increased the complexity of schools.
NQTs need to be able to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances.

In many ways, the three pieces of advice reflect the usual concerns of NQTs as they enter the profession, however these have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The upheaval COVID-19 has caused to education means that PSTs may need to be more proactive in their own preparation, and consider the additional complexities COVID-19 brings.
Hopefully the advice from NQTs can help.

Burrow, R., R. Williams, and D. Thomas. 2020. “Stressed, Depressed and Exhausted: Six Years as a Teacher in UK State Education.” Work, Employment and Society 34 (5): 949–958
du Plessis, A. E., and E. Sunde. 2017. “The Workplace Experiences of Beginning Teachers in Three Countries: A Message for Initial Teacher Education from the Field.” Journal of Education for Teaching 43 (2): 132–150
Starkey, L. 2020. “A Review of Research Exploring Teacher Preparation for the Digital Age.” Cambridge Journal of Education 50 (1): 37–56
Wong, K.M. & Moorhouse, B.L. 2020. “The impact of social uncertainty, protests, and COVID-19 on Hong Kong teachers.” Journal of Loss and Trauma 25(8), 649–655 

Updated: Apr. 05, 2022