NQT Special Edition: Looking back on my NQT year

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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This year’s SecEd NQT diarist is a teacher of English from a school in the Midlands. Here she reflects on her first year at the chalkface – the challenges, successes and hopes for year 2

As the final half-term of my NQT year begins, I am taking the occasion that this diary entry affords to look back on my year so far.

You may be in the same position, or perhaps you are pulling yourself over the finishing line of your training year. Either way, hopefully some of your thoughts and reflections are similar to mine...

Lessons from my NQT year

So, what have I learnt so far this NQT year? Well, first off I learnt the hard way that using your PPA time wisely is vital.

I noticed earlier this year that I would often use my PPA time rather recklessly, which then meant lugging lots of material such as exercise books back and forth from home as they still needed to be marked. I now use PPA to cover tasks that I know will exacerbate stress or cause me to be disorganised if taken home.

Remember that things such as planning and tweaking lessons can be done remotely. As such, I try to use the PPA time in school to cover as many of the “heavy duty” tasks as possible!

An 80 per cent timetable, in my eyes, is perfection. I think that with the increase in teaching time next year, I will probably spend most of term one “re-regulating” my marking and planning patterns.

Second, I have learnt this year that not every lesson needs to be all-singing, all-dancing. Not only is this ambition unsustainable, but it is not particularly beneficial for the students either. Sometimes it just so happens that the odd lesson needs to be spent tying up loose ends, catching up on reading or consolidating knowledge already covered.

I spent a lot of my time earlier this year trying to make every lesson spectacular, concerned that I was going to be visited at random and would have to justify my every move as a classroom teacher – but this simply has not been the case.

I know that as long as the activities I lead have a valuable place in the continuum of the students’ learning, the medium in which I deliver these activities will always vary from one day to another.

Finally, I have learnt this year that not all students are going to “like” you. This is something I really struggled with early on in the year. I noticed a change in my persona from student to student which led to conflicts – i.e. not sanctioning certain students as often as I should just to minimise the backlash from the trickier ones. Inevitably, other students picked up on this and often it actually made things worse.

Ultimately, positive relationships are built on mutual respect for boundaries and consistency. For a student, this lesson transcends beyond their secondary education and is something they will face head-on in their adult life.

So I am doing them no favours by accepting or justifying negative behaviour in my classroom. Just remember: you are never going to win them all over and this is totally normal.

Successes from my NQT year

Throughout the course of this year I have become much more confident in my own planning and resource-making and I am now regularly sharing materials with other colleagues.

I have always been quite self-conscious of the fact that I am a new teacher and I was worried that offering my material to staff who know the job inside-out would come across as arrogant or conceited.

However, it is worth remembering that all teachers appreciate a ready-made resource, even if it is something that they can tweak or save for later. A community of sharing is something to be valued in a job like this, where precious time can often be wasted by reinventing the wheel. So make the effort to share and know that your hard work will be appreciated!

Elsewhere, surviving my first GCSE cohort has definitely been a huge highlight. I took my class on as a trainee last year just as they were beginning key stage 4 and it really has been a long and emotional two years.

They are completely unaware that they have been as much of a major milestone for me as I (hopefully) been have for them, which is quite poignant. Although we have had ups and downs and they have not always been the most compliant, it is amazing to see the hard work materialise into success for them. Whatever August may hold, I know I have been as dedicated in stretching them as much as I can, which is really satisfying to reflect upon now.

Priorities for year 2

As mentioned, having less PPA time next year will mean I have to adjust how I manage my workload outside of lessons. As such, one focus ahead of next year will be on refining all my schemes of work and trying to “de-clutter” all of my resources (I am amazed at how much I am hoarding already). I am also focusing on refining teaching techniques.

This is not adding massively to my workload but will hopefully pay dividends come lesson planning in year 2. It is also very useful to reflect back (with the beauty of hindsight) and evaluate particular methods and lesson approaches that were catastrophic (believe me, there were a few) and those that perhaps just need some care and attention or minor tweaks. It will be a great feeling to have all of my lesson foundations in place and ready to go.

Meanwhile, with exams in full swing, we have just enough time to take a step back and a deep breath before it all begins again. I plan to enjoy the moment for as long as I can!

  • Our NQT diarist is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands. Read her latest diary entries at http://bit.ly/2K0xABK

NQT Special Edition: Free download

This article was featured as part of SecEd’s 10-page NQT Special Edition in our June edition. To download a free pdf of all 10 pages, which offer advice for new teachers across a range of topics including behaviour, classroom practice, wellbeing and more, go to the SecEd Knowledge Bank. The NQT Special Edition was produced with kind support from the National Education Union. Visit www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/nqt-and-trainee-teachers-10-pages-of-tips-advice-and-support


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