NQT: Surviving not thriving! by @NQT_tweets

For the first time since I began NQT year, I feel like I am truly getting time to relax and reflect on the whirlwind year so far. Enduring the year has been an almighty slog and, at times, a real struggle. Despite my ambitions to become an outstanding classroom practitioner promoting positive outcomes for pupils at all times, in reality, there have been points of the year that have been a case of surviving rather than thriving.

This is a re-blog post by @NQT_tweets and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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The biggest driving force in transforming my teaching has undoubtedly come from sharing and observing good practice both within my department and on a wider school level.  By attempting to embed good practice into my daily teaching, I have become a better teacher resulting in positive outcomes for my students.

Having said this, whilst experimenting with strategies and research has led to some of my best lessons; it also has resulted in some epic classroom fails. Lack of experience and under confidence can result in strategies and methods falling flat, leading to ineffective lessons where pupils make limited progress and desired outcomes are not achieved. As we head towards the summer term it seems an appropriate time to reflect on my not-so-finest hours of the year. Below are my biggest NQT balls ups. Perhaps by sharing, it will prevent those of you starting NQT in September from making similar errors or may provide comfort to others NQTs and trainees that have made similar errors. Whilst new to the profession, we all need to remember that we are not alone when we have those crap days at work where you regret ever going into teaching in the first place.

I was definitely too nice at the start of the year. ‘Don’t smile until Christmas’ is perhaps a little extreme but I, subconsciously, wanted students to like me and therefore wasn’t 100% confident in laying down the law. Not confiscating phones, being a little hesitant to change seating plans, not always following through on consequences for missing homework etc. I’ve learnt not to be afraid to be mean if it results in better learning. Ultimately, if students know that you care primarily about them achieving the best possible outcomes then they will like you in the end anyway (even if they give you evils when you refer to them heads of year if they haven’t done what you’ve asked).

Teaching the occasional awful lesson. I am not proud of it. Running out of time and being rushed has meant that I have planned some (albeit unknowingly at the time) rubbish lessons that were boring and weren’t challenging. The poorly planned lessons then have knock on behavioural issues which impede learning further. I have learnt the hard way – trying to save time by not putting enough time into planning engaging lessons is a huge no no.

Losing an essay. It pains me! I am usually so organised and I am so ashamed.  I have marking folders for all of my classes and in this once instance took the essay at lunch and didn’t immediately put it into my marking folder. I still have no idea where it has gone. Now, no matter what, I file work (in the correct place) as soon as I get it.

Binge-marking! When it is 11 at night and you are marking your 60th essay the feedback becomes neither meaningful nor helpful.

Not building up model answers on the board. I started out the year by writing model answers and handing them out. Only the most industrious students even glanced at the answer. Planning the answer and composing it together allows students to see how to construct higher standard work. Having said this, my ability and confidence to do this only really developed after Christmas once I had more experience of the curriculum, better knowledge of what makes a good answer and a greater understanding of the exam boards’ assessment objectives and mark schemes.

Not taking enough time off and burning out. A combination of laryngitis, late night marking, rushed lesson planning, miserable winter weather and just the general difficulties of NQT year during the winter term resulted in 3 days off work and a few tearful phone calls to friends and family. It is part of the parcel of NQT year. I can’t imagine anyone avoids it. Embrace it, power through it and things will brighten up. But make sure you take time off if you need before it results in you being more ill than if you had just stopped and recovered a little earlier in the process.

Forgetting why I went into it in the first place. The difficult realities of teaching have, at times, made me want to jack the whole thing in. I have had to learn to focus on the positive elements of the job to get me through the worst days and to try to focus on why I chose to become a teacher in the first place. After a crap lesson, just stay a bit late that day and plan engaging lessons for the next day. Start a fresh the next day and don’t stop giving it your all.

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