NQT Special: Diary of an NQT – term one

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SecEd’s NQT diarist writes every week detailing the trials and tribulations from her first year at the chalkface. Here, she looks back on her first term at the successes, failures and lessons learned...

I can’t quite believe that we are (almost) a third of the way through the year.

As the climax of the first term draws ever closer, I would like to sum up a range of things that have gone well since September – and also some things that have not gone so well! Hopefully, there are some commonalities between your experiences and mine.

I am also thinking ahead to next term when I want to give myself some manageable goals to focus on. I think this is really important. I find that it is quite easy to get caught up in the classroom routine and forget that there is still lots of personal development and growth for me to gain this year.

What went well?

Let’s begin with the positives. What do I feel that I’ve achieved? Well, I think my classroom management is finally a strength. I know my routines and expectations and I’m finding that implementing them has become second nature.

I’m really pleased with this, because I do believe that it is such an important factor in successful teaching. When I manage a good working environment, it usually (although not always!) leads to a really good lesson. Of course, I still struggle with some students in terms of behaviour, but I’d say that generally my students know the boundaries of acceptability in my classroom.

That is the positive side of having such a long autumn term – plenty of time to embed routines. Now let’s hope that I can maintain it after the holidays...

I have also worked really hard this term to introduce some extra-curricular activities into the department. I have been keeping an eye out for local debating groups and national creative writing competitions.

I have managed to get quite a few students on board with this and it has been lovely to extend my skills beyond the classroom. I’ve worked with students who I wouldn’t normally teach, which has been great for establishing my identity in the school. It’s also lovely to see genuine enthusiasm from students who love and appreciate the subject you teach; there’s nothing like this to raise your spirits after battling with grumpy, defiant teenagers all day!

Challenges

Now, in terms of difficulties I would say that managing a form group is certainly at the top of my list. I can honestly say that at the present moment, the teaching part of my job is the easiest!

I completely underestimated the energy it takes to manage a group of 30 or so 11-year-olds. The role of the tutor is completely different and I am required to switch into and out of this multiple times in the day.

It’s been really quite difficult to manage and keep track of a range of needs and it has required constant communication between myself and other subject teachers and also the parents of my tutees (although this has actually been quite useful in “breaking the ice” and getting to know colleagues across the school). I’m still grappling with the role, but I do hope I’m doing it some justice.

I am also still struggling with the time I am spending on my lesson planning. I am still getting constant reminders from my mentor not to reinvent the wheel – I’m unquestionably guilty of this.

However, the problem is, I actually enjoy planning lessons. And while it is great that there are so many platforms for sharing resources, I almost feel that if I haven’t sat down and designed/tweaked the lesson myself, I struggle to deliver it. Having said that, I still don’t believe in flowery resources and PowerPoints. I think I just need to focus on the balance and ask myself “what’s the impact of this?” and “is this going to maximise the learning?” before spending two hours in front of my computer each evening.

I’m definitely seeing improvements in relinquishing all the unnecessary control and reducing the time that I spend planning, but it’s still a work in progress.

Planning for term two

Thinking ahead, I am prioritising some things in order to keep myself afloat. As soon as January hits, it is mock season at our school. This means serious marking that I already fear will take over my life for a short period.

Some of you may already be in the throes of this, so you’re already champions in my eyes. From what I can remember from my ITT year, it’s a massive undertaking. The stress – with the ominous ability to spread itself around the department – can be almost contagious.

However, I refuse to worry or let it spoil the festivities over the holidays, so I’m utilising different feedback for assessment procedures to make sure I’m managing my exercise books and summative assessments from now until then.

In addition to this, I’m prioritising my CPD sessions. My school’s CPD is structured superbly and we can choose a range of topics to explore at the beginning of the year. These range from opportunities to visit other schools to more focused sessions on behaviour, SEN and feedback. It covers pretty much everything an NQT could need.

I’m really lucky in this respect, and I’m actually looking forward to these extra sessions. I’ve picked a topic that focuses specifically on dyslexia. This is something I haven’t really been exposed to as much as I’d like. I have a few dyslexic students who I’m working tirelessly with, but I want to make sure they are making adequate progress and ensure that the methods I am using are helping them address the specific issues rather than just providing temporary solutions. This is a huge priority for me, as it’s something that I still lack a lot of a confidence with.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands. You can read her weekly entries via http://bit.ly/2K0xABK

NQT Special Edition: Free download

This article was published as part of SecEd’s NQT Special Edition – eight pages of best practice advice aimed at NQTs and trainee teachers as they come to the end of their first term. All eight pages, published in November 2018, can be downloaded as a free pdf via http://bit.ly/2FGrF77


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