Diary of an NQT: My first formal observation

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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As her first formal observation approaches, our NQT diarist is searching for a development area on which to focus in her lesson

This week I have been preparing for my first formal observation. Despite the countless observations during the ITT year, it has been a good few months since the last visit and, as I am sure my fellow NQTs will agree, it is nice to teach at our own pace and have some breathing space away from the routine of observations.

Saying this, it seemed easier last year – because the observations were so frequent, it became normalised. As the year progressed, the finishing line was in sight and the process became a bit easier.

However, it is never easy having someone scrutinise your every move in the classroom. I can’t imagine ever feeling completely confident and prepared for what I see sometimes to be “a performance”.

There is a list of areas I’d like to address when being observed this year – especially those things for which I was a repeat offender last year.

When previously planning lessons for an observation, I fell into the trap of showcasing everything I possibly could in one hour, which inevitably took away from the essence of the lesson. On more than one occasion I was told to strip it back and make sure there was a clear balance of both student and teacher-led activities.

When organising my first observation with my mentor, I voiced my concerns about this and she suggested that I choose just one focus area to centre the observation around. This could be a specific AfL technique, a behaviour management technique or something I’d been researching but wasn’t quite sure how to execute properly.

This way it gives me a clear opportunity to build on more explicit skills and makes the whole routine of observations much more developmental. I really like this idea, as it helps inform my planning and discourages me from throwing elements into the lesson plan unnecessarily.

I have dusted off the ITT folder that I thought would be buried away forever, leafed through my previous feedback, and have made a list of areas that I still feel unsure or unconfident about. I still remember the sting of receiving criticism on certain aspects of my teaching, but as I look back now, I feel grateful that I have a record of things that will help shape the training of my NQT year. It also makes me feel better knowing that the stress of those countless observations has been worthwhile!

I have had several weeks to get to know my class now, which is key to my classroom management and forthcoming organisation. So I have chosen to be observed with my top set year 8 group, with a focus on my ability to stretch and challenge the most able students. This may seem like a cop out for a first observation, as I don’t have many issues with behaviour management and they are generally a very enthusiastic and positive group of learners.

However, this is something quite important to me, as stretch and challenge isn’t something I was able to experience much as a trainee. I don’t want to fall into the routine of thinking they’re my “easy” class, and therefore become complacent in my teaching.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been researching quality teaching techniques for stretch and challenge, and this observation will focus on a small number of tried and tested techniques that have been implemented. I hope my mentor can see these in action and give me any tips for polishing or adapting them.

I can’t imagine that at this stage my feedback will be perfect; I’m still learning to overcome the nuances that every new day brings, but I feel that I’m ready to have some focused feedback to help direct me.

I will report back next week with an honest account of how it went, alongside my mentor’s feedback – with the hope that I will share some common ground with my fellow NQTs.

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


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