NQT Special Edition: Diary of an NQT – Planning my priorities for year 2...

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Every week, SecEd’s NQT diary follows the ups and downs of an NQT working in a school in England. As her NQT year comes to an end, our diarist reflects on how far she has come

Last week, I was invited back to the university where I trained to take part in an NQT conference. Six of us who completed the PGCE last year went back to talk to and lecture the current PGCE students.

It was a strange experience going back and feeling so different; so much more confident and sure of myself than I was when I was sitting in their place listening to the previous year’s NQTs.

Listening to their concerns and questions was a great exercise in evaluating how far I’ve come since I was in their position, and also how much there is still to achieve.

The current PGCE class asked me questions such as, “how on earth do you plan outstanding lessons for every single class?!” Well the answer is you don’t. I’m sure I’m not alone in this view. It’s not possible. But this did make me think about an area I could develop in my own teaching.

This year has been about survival. What can I do to survive from one day to the next? I know it should be about teaching outstanding lessons and the progress of the students but it just hasn’t been this. I’m not sure any NQT can really honestly say that that was their priority this year.

One of the ways that I survived was by realising and accepting that I wouldn’t be teaching outstanding lessons for every single class every single day. Even when I write it now I feel a little guilty. But seriously, I don’t think it’s possible. Life happens, things get busy, and the next thing you know your class are working from the textbook for two lessons because you didn’t have time to create anything more engaging. I’ve tried to cut myself some slack this year, but this is something I want to tackle in the next year.

I want to try to take more time to plan more outstanding lessons. I want to rely less on textbooks for subjects that aren’t my specialism. I want to be an outstanding teacher all of the time – not just in observations.

As teachers, we are graded on a system which creates this big lie – the lie that teachers teach like their observations all of the time. I can be graded as outstanding, get my positive feedback, leave the office and go and stick on a DVD for my next class and I’d still be an outstanding teacher (according to the system). I’m not saying I’m that extreme, but the lesson I teach the period after my observations is not the same standard as the lesson I just got judged on.

This is what I want to try and change. I know it’s unrealistic to expect every lesson to be outstanding, but I want to make a higher proportion of them hit the mark.

Despite this sobering realisation, my day at the NQT conference did highlight some of my achievements this year. When I was in their position last year, I was terrified of going into a full teaching timetable with scary, badly behaved classes. I knew my behaviour management was still not that good and it had been difficult to create positive relationships with challenging classes in the PGCE year.

Now, one year later, I can say that I have successfully created positive relationships with every single one of my classes. They know I am strict but not unreasonable. They are respectful but they engage and debate. I can manage their behaviour. I know this seems pretty basic, but it was my biggest fear coming into this year and I’d say one of my biggest successes as I look back on my year.

The kids seem to like me (most of the time) and the staff do too. I have a friendly and supportive relationship with my head of department and we work really well together. She values my hard work and input and she always has my back when I’m flapping around not knowing what I’m doing!
Other than settling in and creating really positive relationships with both staff and students in the school, I think my biggest success has been to be recognised as an outstanding teacher by the senior leadership team (despite the underlying guilt of knowing it’s not all the time).

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even think they really knew me. I’d had passing conversations and exchanged pleasantries, but other than when I was interviewed, I’ve had very little to do with the SLT.

But apparently they talk. They actually read my observations filled out this year and have passed them on to each other. They practically begged me to take on more exam classes next year (so I will only have key stages 4 and 5 on my timetable). It makes me happy to think that the hard work I’ve put in has been recognised, even if they don’t say it in so many words.

I know I have a lot still to work on, but I can’t think of a better NQT year to have had. I’ve had all of the support I could possibly need, I’ve made great friends and lasting positive relationships and I’ve made good progress towards being the best teacher I can be. Roll on next year as an NQT plus-one!

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of citizenship, RE and humanities at a school in England.

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s NQT Special Edition. The publication offered eight pages of specialist best practice advice for NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Supported by the NASUWT the special edition published on June 29, 2017, and the eight pages are available to download as a free pdf from SecEd’s Supplements page: www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements


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