NQT Special: Reflections on an NQT year

Written by: NQT diarist | Published:
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This year’s SecEd NQT diarist reflects on the ups and downs of her first year at the chalkface

So, how have I fared during my NQT year? It has been a pretty enjoyable year and I do feel lucky that the school I am in provides a great deal of support and creates and promotes an ethos of personal endeavour to improve.

There have been times when I have felt anything but the “novice”, having benefited from our “Half Term Reviews” and sophisticated Professional Learning Menu (in-house CPD sessions).

All teaching staff in my school are expected to pursue the development of their skills and teaching strategies and we are all given practical, honest feedback regularly to improve our craft.

I suppose the biggest difference for me as an NQT is the recording, logging and “proving” of the work I am doing. From my own perspective, the paper trail has not been dissimilar from my training year. I have been compiling a good handful of documents to track progress and development as well as evidencing each standard. I do think that in teaching there needs to be a thorough system that ensures we demonstrate our competence. However, there have been several documents and processes that replicate each other and perhaps this process could become more efficient.

First year successes

So – what do I think I have been consistently good at? First, my planning: I have become well-known for my methodical organised approach and wherever possible I plan ahead and take care in considering what my pupils are capable of and how they can be challenged. Likewise my planning for successful learning with high expectations is usually evident and has been noted in observations.

My time-management as part of planning my week has always retained a continuous marking strategy that exceeds the expectations set by the school – so when half-termly book checks are completed by departments my feedback has been very encouraging.

Second, my practice and application of school sanctions, in particular the use of rewards to encourage, motivate and engage pupils, has been effective.

I have awarded approximately 150 Merits – these are achieved when three stamps have been received for good work, effort and/or attitude. It has created additional work for me, but the product of this positive attention has enabled some great success stories for individual pupils.

I have found it an enjoyable aspect of my role to celebrate the good things that pupils are able to do, although I have not shied away from the negative sanctions when it has been necessary to make an impact, such as calling home and setting detentions.

Areas for improvement

Just as importantly, what are the areas in which I need to continue to improve?

First, I still get extremely frustrated with myself as I can fall into “tell mode” – explaining concepts to pupils while in my head thinking “they should be explaining this to me”! I have started to address this, but it is a habit, often when time is against me. I need to become more skilled in flipping the learning and focusing on consolidation in order for pupils to be sharing their understanding with each other and me.

On occasion my “tell mode” has even stopped classes discussing and group working. As such, I have started to openly tell classes that my “ramble” and the notes on the board will be reducing and they will need to stretch themselves to make sense of the learning more independently.

Second, self and peer-assessment – my pupils are able to work collaboratively to feedback to each other and are great at reviewing their own work (they are all in the habit as we are a great school for exercising these strategies).

However, I find I am not tactical about when I build these opportunities in. I often don’t frame this time well enough for pupils to be clear on what I am after. Is it to improve a piece of work? Or identifying gaps in their learning? Is it to create their own targets for the coming week or month?

I could make this time more effective and meaningful for pupils which would in turn improve our dialogue.

Other targets for next year

In September I am picking up two sixth form sociology classes. So some polishing needs to be done on my own subject knowledge as many sociological studies and perspectives have developed since I was studying! Likewise, I face the practical issue of how do you approach teaching “students” rather than “pupils”? What expectations should I have? How much should I expect them to extend their own learning? How independent should they be/should I make them? Familiarising myself with new content, resources, and schemes of learning is a daunting task.

Another target is supporting my learners with SEND and accessing exams. I had a placement last year in a SEND school during which I learnt an incredible amount. However applying this to key stage 4 in a mainstream setting is different again.

Ensuring I meet the needs of all learners while they are studying for their sociology GCSE, as well as supporting their assessments for eligibility for extra examination time, readers, scribes, word processors, larger font sizes, and so on, will be a key challenge for me. Ensuring I facilitate the appropriate evidencing of their access arrangements and translate this back into the classroom to support their progress is of great importance.

I think my final target needs to be to chill out and enjoy it more (maybe this should be a Teaching Standard). I find teaching an intense occupation and the time constraints and expectations will always keep us on our toes. However, I want to make learning enjoyable, accessible and of value in my classroom – and I know that if I can take the time to do this effectively then anything is possible.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England. You can read their regular weekly diary for SecEd at www.sec-ed.co.uk/blog-search/author/95

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd's NQT Special Edition – an eight-page special published on June 25, 2015, offering guidance, advice and support to all NQTs and trainee teachers. To download the full eight-page section, which was produced in association with the NASUWT, click the Supplements button above


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