NQT Special: Reflections on term one


So, how was your first term as a teacher? As part of SecEd's NQT special edition, we asked an NQT from the North West to write a short diary picking out some of the highs and the lows from their first three months

It is September 3 and we find an extremely nervous teacher, sat in a classroom, one hour before any pupils are due, PowerPoints set-up and ready to take on the world – or so was thought (if you haven’t guessed, I’m a drama teacher).

It was in this agonisingly long hour that I really started to evaluate my journey so far. 

Up until now I have always been a student and from this day on I was the antithesis of a student. I am a teacher and yet I didn’t feel like I knew half as much as I should... 

Luckily, being a teacher, I have since discovered, that teaching isn’t that different from being a student. In fact, I’ve learned more in my first term than I did while training.

A die-hard teacher, while I was training, shared the analogy that teaching was like learning to drive: you can’t solely learn to do it by reading about it, you definitely don’t get better at it by writing evaluations, and you certainly don’t understand how to do it until you’re out doing it on your own. 

My first lesson was a class of bright-eyed but worryingly nervous year 7s, new to the school and for most of them completely new to my subject – I mirrored two of those features.

As they are all lined up at the door, we exchange the generic pleasantries. The second thing ever said to me by a student was exclaimed from the back of this line: “Are you our teacher?” 

I confirmed that I was. 

“Your picture was in a booklet we got sent home and my dad says you look about 16 – are you 16?” 

My initial reaction was to laugh, and I did. 

And it was at this point that I realised that if I was to cope with the trials and tribulations of a secondary school that a sense of humour would be my key teacher tool.

The second thing I have understood is that, though I had planned to fit the complete works of “Bill” and the History of Theatre from Grecian to Brecht into the first day, the most important thing to do was to get to know these young people.

I would not be able to teach them anything if I did not know the first thing about them.

It was shortly after this that I came across my second milestone as a teacher (especially of a performing art).

The reasons why the school employs you, the reasons you do the job, and what the pupils believe your role is are often completely different things.

This disillusion came to light in a key stage 4 class whereby I discovered that the teacher I had taken this class from was the “coolest”, “kindest” and “amazing” teacher ever – prerequisites that weren’t mentioned in my application process.

This term, I have also faced the question that I think all training or NQT drama teachers have heard – are we going to do proper drama?

There is no right answer to this question, or at least I don’t know it if there is.

For key stage 3 the reply is mostly: “What is proper drama?” 

And for key stage 4: “Well we’re doing the drama that gets you a GCSE – is that alright?” 

But for key stage 5 it must be: “Are you joking? Proper drama? Proper drama left you three years ago – you don’t get an A level for ‘proper drama’!”

Before my first 6th form lesson was the second time that I felt the fear of all fears. What have I possibly got to teach them? Who am I to teach people just a few years younger than me? Where is the way out? 

Having written 5,000 words on key stage 5 teaching in an evaluation of one workshop while training, you can understand why I didn’t feel quite so prepared now.

But, as I edged towards the door, luckily inertia set in and before I knew it I was stood in front of them, acting as if this was the most natural thing to me. Luckily they were acting like they understood what I was talking about.

So, what I thought would be my toughest class to teach has become my best. A level teaching keeps me going through the week. I’m constantly being kept on my feet and at times staying one lesson in front of the class, but most importantly it is the lesson where I understand why I teach my subject.

The main thing I have realised over my first almost-completed term is that nothing is as bad as it seems and as long as you’re well-planned and prepared, or at least you believe you are, school is quite an enjoyable place.

However, I can’t believe that I could have done it without the support of my other NQTs and most of all not without the stories that fill the staffroom on a daily basis confirming that we’re not alone in our journeys and there’s always an opportunity to smile at least once a day.

  • Our NQT diarist writes anonymously and is a teacher of drama from the North West of England.

NQT Special Edition Download
On November 28, 2013, SecEd published in partnership with the NASUWT, eight pages of best practice and advisory articles aimed at supporting NQTs and young teachers. Ranging from behaviour and CPD to SEN and pedagogy, the articles offer valuable, practical advice and are freely available. You can read them in the best practice and blog sections of this website. Or you can download the free eight-page PDF at http://bit.ly/1aYJWUo



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