NQT Special Edition: Reflecting on my NQT year

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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SecEd’s NQT diarist is at the end of his first year at the chalkface. He reflects on his highs and lows – and his priorities for year 2...

As the end of my NQT year approaches swiftly, it is time to reflect on all that has happened since taking up my post. It has been an immensely satisfying and exciting year, and I am struggling to come up with any truly negative experiences to discuss.

Some days have certainly been more challenging than others, but I feel that any issues that have arisen over the course of the year have served to make me a stronger practitioner. Indeed, many initially difficult situations have led to an unexpectedly positive outcome and allowed me to develop as a professional.

In this job, it is impossible to make it through an academic year without encountering problems. Regardless of the severity of the issue, what is important is how you confront and subsequently resolve these problems.

Communication between stakeholders is vital and, to deal with problems effectively, it must be prompt and consistent. One of my strengths as an educator is the onus that I put on communication. Schools are complicated machines with many different parts working in tandem, and strong communication is vital to ensure that everyone is striving towards the same goal.

Despite any dramas that may arise, my main focus has always been the students who enter my classroom day after day. I have written before about the importance of relationships and am very happy with the atmosphere of mutual respect that I have built with my students. I have a strong rapport with every class that I teach and feel a great sense of pride when looking back over the work they have done this year.

My head of department recently gave me very positive feedback about the academic progress of my students, which makes all the hard work seem worthwhile.

However, I will never treat any of my students as a percentage on a spreadsheet; each one is an individual whose needs must be met at all times. I hope that every student I have taught has benefited from being under my tutelage and will remember our time working together fondly. In the case of my key stage 3 students, I look forward to seeing them grow into young adults and sincerely hope that our paths will cross again as they move up the school.

Early on in my NQT year, I wrote about struggling to maintain a good work/life balance. This has improved over time, although I still have the odd sleepless night where thoughts of school preoccupy my mind. These thoughts are rarely negative, but I do need to learn to switch off more effectively. After all, thinking about the order in which I’m going to mark my assessments while lying awake at one in the morning has very little practical benefit.

Despite not always getting the work/life balance right, I have never felt overwhelmed by the workload this year. I think the trick to surviving your NQT year (and beyond) is to compartmentalise jobs and be very strict when prioritising what needs to be done. My advice is to prioritise and just get on with things – and, very soon, your list of jobs will begin to shrink. Of course, it will soon start to grow again, but that is what makes the job so fast-paced and satisfying. There really is never a dull moment in this profession.

As I look forward to my second year of teaching, I am determined to build on my successes during my NQT year, and explore new ways to engage and inspire my students. I now feel wholly invested in the wellbeing of my students and the school community as a whole. I have been lucky to gain employment in an institution where I want to stay for many years to come.

I recently spoke to a valued colleague and friend who will retire this summer after nearly 30 years of teaching at the school. As she prepares for the freedom of retirement, I am just starting out on my career. After such a long time at the chalkface, this colleague still speaks highly of both the school and the profession. Indeed, if age were not a factor, I suspect she might insist on doing another 30 years. I can only hope that, when I reach retirement age, I will have retained that feeling of pride and joy at being a member of the teaching profession.

During my training year, the headteacher that I worked under during my first placement told me that teaching is the best job in the world. One year into my career, I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England. To read his previous entries this year, visit http://bit.ly/2K0xABK

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 28, 2018, 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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