In a recent NQT session, our senior leadership team representative stood discussing our topic for the week before interrupting himself to say: “Your priorities as an NQT should be planning lessons, delivering lessons and marking. If anyone asks you to do anything else, you let me know.”
I laughed at the time, before realising that it was a genuine remark. My goodness, if that was all we were required to do in this job, there is no doubt that the drop-out rate for new teachers wouldn’t be so high.
If he wants me to let him know whenever I’m asked to do something else, he is going to have his ear chewed off daily with the finer points of my to-do list, which funnily enough contains very little teaching or planning time these days.
There are multiple school performances, television entries, NQT folders, Artsmark applications, assembly entries and even staff Strictly Come Dancing occupying my time – along, of course, with the dreaded marking.
It got me thinking about how much my priorities really have changed since doing this “for real” as opposed to on the PGCE course.
Full-scale lesson plans have become a hindrance – my lessons are planned in the scheme of work I write and that is more than enough. I enjoy having the scope to see where a lesson takes me. This could, of course, be me gaining comfort or being lazy – or desperately finding time for other tasks.
My favourite part of the job is still teaching (key stage 4 is preferred), though the amount of time I spend planning thoroughly has definitely dwindled since achieving the NQT title.
I feel forever trapped in a constant mountain of marking, whereby the books from one class are returned as another’s arrives in a constant cycle that still sees me spending my evenings with the red pen and not considering my lessons for the next day.
How times have changed since the PGCE where every task had a differentiated resource along with “fun” activities along the way.
I decided to discuss this with a colleague in music, explaining how the demand on up-to-date marking was getting me down and it had even seen me buying stamps and stickers in an attempt to cut out the amount I was having to write.
The school helps with provisions such as “no meeting week” and yet I still feel behind. I explained to her how I feel as though I’m writing the same comments over and over again when marking multiple books.
Then, she saved my life – introducing me to her marking stickers, an A5 template of levelled stock sentences with a tick box alongside both for achievements and targets with the demanded pupil response box underneath.
We’ve aptly named it tick, tick, boom – tick for achievement, tick for improvement and boom, marking done.
After sending off for 500 tick, tick, boom stickers for my key stage 3 theory books, I can safely say I’m not dreading the weekends as much as I was before.
And it also goes to prove that it’s better to share your woes as maybe, just maybe, someone else might know better than you. Now, back to my planning...
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.