Diary of an NQT: A spanner in the works

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Despite being well organised, our NQT diarist faces some challenges that force her to change her best laid plans…

I have already been through the rigmarole of new routines as my school went back. As I sit back and reflect, I am considering all the things that I thought I would need in place for a successful beginning to the term. I had worked hard to organise myself in some key areas only for the beginning of term rush to send me right back to the drawing board.

Seating plans: Seating plans (for me, anyway) relieve a huge amount of stress and anxiety about welcoming new faces into my classrooms. For most of us, seating plans will be mandatory by a certain point in the first half-term – scribbled with data, Pupil Premium details and information alike.
Trying to be organised, I decided to do my seating plans at the end of the summer term. I’d received class lists and spent hours meticulously placing the students. Of course, coming into school last week, sets had changed last-minute, and other information had been updated. I was completely thrown off.
I also gauged that some students weren’t best placed among others resulting in some small disruptions as I tweaked things... Although it seems minor, these things for an NQT can throw us off. I’ve now realised that data and other sheets of information may give us an insight, but it doesn’t fill a whole picture.
A colleague kindly offered to take a look at my seating plans, so if you’re concerned it may be worth asking your mentor or others in your department.

Display boards: I was ready to attack my display boards when I got hooked into a debate on “EduTwitter” about the notion of display boards. It seems some believe they are a waste of valuable time and others maintain that personalising your learning environment can give us a sense of comfort.
I see both sides, but I couldn’t let my walls go completely bare. I’ve decided to “doll-up” my classroom bit-by-bit, sourcing some valuable ideas before I invest in hours of laminating and tangling myself up in border roles. I read an insightful blog that suggested display boards be interactive – such as extension and vocabulary tasks for key stage 3 and perhaps mock exam papers/prompts for key stage 4. So, at the moment I’m working it around everything else – a work-in-progress.

A half-term worth of lessons for each class? Fresh out of our training year, we are quite used to writing a double-page lesson plan for a 50-minute observation. Let’s not forget the reflection, then the reflection of the reflection, and so on (the memory still haunts…).
I planned around three weeks’ worth of lessons for my classes. These weren’t particularly in-depth, just loose guidelines. I’m thankful that I didn’t spend any more time on these. Quite quickly I’ve found that some lessons have taken longer than anticipated, some have been shorter (cue the running around for extension tasks trying not to panic).
I certainly needed to know my classes first before going into any further depth with planning. I assumed that because I taught a set 3 in my training year, I “knew” what worked for this level of ability, and this just hasn’t been the case.
I’m now focusing on gathering ideas on what works for them as individual classes and I’ll spend the next week getting to know my students better. I’m better understanding why our teaching should be moulded around the students, rather than the other way around. So, if you’re feeling behind or under-prepared too, it seems quite normal at this point!

So I have spent a number of hours focused on these three things. However, as I reflect on my last week it’s none of the above that stand out. The most important thing has been simply establishing myself and my classroom expectations. And as my mentor pointed out, this is something that if not focused on early enough may be more difficult to turn around later on...

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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