Diary of an NQT: Stepping outside my specialism

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Our NQT diarist last sat in a geography lesson 17 years ago – he is now charged with teaching this subject, an experience that has been surprisingly satisfying...

As mentioned in previous diary entries, my new post requires me to teach classes outside my specialist subject. As well as history, I have five classes of English and two classes of geography. Prior to beginning the job, I was confident in my ability to deliver the English curriculum – I have an A level in English literature – but was fairly worried about teaching geography.

I have not studied geography since I was in year 9 – 17 years ago! I have been lucky in that the head of geography has been very accommodating of my lack of experience. He has provided me with excellent resources and lesson plans, which have been crucial to my being able to deliver the content to my students. Teaching the subject has required a great deal of private study to ensure that my subject knowledge is strong enough.

Although I am not expected to create resources for my geography classes, I spend a lot of time planning these lessons due to being less confident with the subject.

Even within my main subject, there are topics that I am less familiar with, which require far more planning time than areas in which I specialise. With geography, however, I must put this level of preparation into every single lesson. In effect, I am teaching the curriculum to myself before relaying it to my students.

Despite my initial trepidation, this has proven to be extremely rewarding and – to my surprise – I am really enjoying teaching geography. The schemes of work are fascinating and the lessons very well designed. There is, of course, lots of crossover with the themes and skills that are studied in history, and I am finding the parallels between the two subjects very interesting to observe.

One of my geography classes is a set five year 9 group of just 15 students. Like the small English class that I have previously described working with, these students present fairly extreme academic or behavioural problems.

Due to these additional challenges, I must ensure that I am completely confident in the content prior to teaching this group, as their focus can slip very easily if the lessons are not engaging enough.

This has been one of the more difficult classes that I teach. However, we have settled into a routine of mutual respect and they are aware of my high expectations, which I reinforce constantly. They produced some excellent work during the first half-term – we have been studying plate tectonics and earthquakes, a topic that they have engaged with brilliantly.

On the last day before the recent half-term break, the class had to sit their first year 9 assessment, focusing on the causes and effects of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The students gave the assessment their all, working studiously for an hour to show the skills and knowledge they had developed over the past six weeks.

I have never been so professionally satisfied when marking a set of work. While the assessments were not of the highest standard, every student was able to display that they had made progress since I took over as their teacher. I am very proud of the endeavour my students have shown, but also quite proud of myself for successfully teaching a subject that I had almost no knowledge of a few months ago.

I will continue to prepare as thoroughly as possible for my geography lessons. My set five students have set the bar high with their first assessment and I owe it to them to ensure that I deliver the rest of the curriculum to the absolute best of my ability.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.


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