Like an ever-rolling stream


It's work/life balance week? It doesn't feel like it to our NQT diarist, for whom time has become like sand slipping through her fingers.

“Do you know it’s national work/life balance week?” chirped my head of department as he strolled in early on Monday morning. Work/life what? Oh, that thing normal people have who do a normal nine to five job. We NQTs could be forgiven for forgetting the meaning of the word.

I am sleep deprived. Please tell me I am not alone in this. Do I just need to work on my time management or do all NQTs feel like walking zombies?

Sometimes I think my body arrives at school around an hour and a half before my brain wakes up. Then before I know it I’m putting my coat back on and heading out of the door, five lessons down and another five waiting me come sunrise. 

I feel like there is no time in the day. Where has all the time gone? It slips through my fingers like sand. Time has become a precious commodity, in particular the little time when not in the classroom between 4pm and getting kicked out of the school building.

Before becoming a teacher I was warned of the copious, laborious and heartbreakingly pointless administration tasks that would make me want to claw my eyeballs out. 

This week I got my first real taste of frustration at being asked to conduct a task that felt like a painful distraction from the necessities of planning and marking for the next day. This low point for me came when I was asked to cut out a selection of paper numbers for a number line in another teacher’s classroom. 

Resisting the urge to throw my dummy out of the pram, I printed said numbers onto fresh blue and red paper. I had just about resigned myself to an hour alone with scissors and paper when, thankfully, I had the genius idea of lassoing some eager year 7s and cajoling them into cutting out the numbers for me with the promise of house points.

At the time, being asked to cut out paper numbers when I had not yet prepared for the lessons I was to be teaching the next day seemed like the most torturous waste of time. 

Rationally, however, there was a purpose to this seemingly meaningless number-cutting, for this was part of the ritual preparation of classrooms in anticipation for the school’s Open Evening.

Open Evening; the one day that the school is on show to potential new pupils and their parents. I do not know a thing about the school application process, but I know from the forceful, verging on militant communications from senior staff during the build-up to this event that Open Evening is a big deal in the school calendar.

I may have dodged the number-cutting bullet, but no teacher could dodge the Open Evening grenade completely. 

So my Tuesday evening was spent at Action Station Maths; dressed in my smartest suit, my biggest smile pasted across my face, extolling the virtues of my school and department to parents and children alike.

The thing I can be truly thankful for is that, unlike some poor soul whose job it is to sell dodgy dusters to elderly women, I actually have a product I believe in; because my school is pretty awesome. 

So although my jaw ached, although I was not completely “down” with the allocation of working hours to display work and paper cutting (particularly in national work/life balance week!), and although by the time I arrived home in the darkness of that evening it dawned on me that I would need to be back in again in less than nine hours’ time – with the bigger picture in mind, I was proud to be representing something worthwhile.

  • Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of maths from a south London secondary school.


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