NQTs: Calm in the face of calamity


As we approach Christmas, two NQTs, including this year's SecEd NQT diarist, reflect on their first term at the chalkface.

SecEd’s NQT diarist (writing anonymously)

I may be nearly a whole term in, but sometimes I still cannot believe I am actually a qualified teacher.

Over the past few months I have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. I have been frustrated, angry, tearful and a social recluse. I spend the majority of my waking hours feeling like one of the walking dead, but despite this, I am feeling a sense of purpose and excitement about my job that I haven’t felt for a long time.

Moving from a calm, quiet, largely male office environment to a classroom full of 30 hormonal girls was, at first, quite a shock. I will never forget my first experience of standing in a crowded, stuffy corridor wondering how I was going to convince a bunch of shrieking, high-pitched girls that it really was in their best interests to line up quietly. I quickly learned to save my voice. I opt instead for the stern glare up and down the line tactic; calm in the face of calamity.

In true teacher style I am going to present to you some carefully selected “What went wells” and “Even better ifs”.

What went well…

What went well is that I have been blessed with so many enrichment opportunities they are coming out of my ears! Despite the fact that they take a significant section of my time that could be used to plan and mark, grasping such opportunities has already added so much to my school experience, in particular for helping to build rapport with the pupils. 

What went well is that I feel I am slowly getting to know my pupils more as individuals. This is slowly making the job easier; the better I know my pupils the better I can show them that I care about their education and goals, and the more they (hopefully) feel I am able to help them to achieve these goals.

What went well is that I have started attending ritual staff bonding sessions in the pub. Whereas in my PGCE year I felt too exhausted by 5pm on a Friday to contemplate any form of social interaction, this year I have become a little more adventurous and it has been an immensely valuable and rewarding use of my time. 

Even better ifs…

It would be even better if I could learn to say “no” a little more. This is a purely selfish wish, driven by my own desire to have a semblance of sanity by the end of the year. I fully intend to keep saying “yes” to the things that directly affect the learning of my pupils, contribute to our school development plans and offer the opportunity to develop a better relationship with my pupils. But I do need to learn to decline invitations to act as a surplus pair of hands at events where my presence is not strictly beneficial.

It would be even better if I could find more time to observe my peers. There is such fantastic practice going on right under my nose but I have been so busy trying to string together coherent lessons and keep up with my marking that I have barely used the goldmine of experience available. 

It would be even better if I could find a way to make my most severely special needs pupils retain their learning of numerical concepts. I have made this my personal priority.

Lyndsey Hall

It seems like only yesterday I was stressing about teacher training day. The term has slipped away from me so quickly and yet I have learnt so much and a lot has happened. Here are some key lessons from the last three months and some thoughts about next year.

Behaviour management

I am still struggling to tread the fine line that is behaviour management. I am too hard on one half of my timetable and too soft on the other. It was not a conscious decision on my part to be hard on some classes and not others – I think it might boil down to their behaviour during my first few lessons with them which has affected how I responded to them.

I definitely do not have the balance right for any of my groups yet and this is a focus for term two. I am scared it might be too late for the classes I have been too soft on to reign their behaviour back in. For the groups I have been too hard on I am working on damage control and making praise a focus.

I was in a training session on Wednesday with my faculty that was highlighting higher ability pupils and what they respond to with regards to our teaching styles. A pie chart was displayed on the board with 29 per cent allocated to praise. 

I leant over to my colleague who had just been promoted to manage positive rewards within the school and pointed it out. Another teacher turned around and quite aggressively shushed us. Out of the three of us I giggled, Lauren got cross and Karen apologised. Suddenly I had regressed 10 years and was a student again.

The three of us handled the situation very differently and it did make me think how we as teachers are not so different to our students and how there are some circumstances when we really should not come down on them like a ton of bricks.

Work/life balance

Delegation and work/life balance are definitely lessons I need to learn. My head of faculty has had to tell me twice so far to unwind and not worry so much about little things. This will be a lot easier said than done.


The dominating fear I have for term two is that I will struggle to complete all of key stage 4 and 5 practical exams. The weeks fly by so quickly and it constantly feels as though you are running out of time.

There will be a battle for performance spaces when exams hit. We get evicted into classrooms and there is also a battle for computer rooms in order to get all theory work complete. The thought of doing this for three year groups makes me feel a little sick. I have to keep reminding myself to work in baby steps. I set myself a target for the week and work towards that. Time always feels like it is against you when you are working towards public performances. 

Also, we have just started working towards the school production and as I was planning the rehearsal schedule I started to panic that we may run out of time. When voicing these concerns to my year 13s, one of the more cheeky and vocal members of the group piped up with: “Don’t worry so much miss, we will sort it. We will call additional rehearsals if we need to or stay later.” Now whenever I start to stress about the little things I remember this and call upon a little bit of my year 13’s faith.

  • Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of maths from a London secondary school. Lyndsey Hall is a drama and dance NQT from Sir Herbet Leon Academy in Milton Keynes.

Free best practice download for NQTs

This article has been published as part of SecEd's autumn 2012 NQT special focus, which comprises a range of best practice and advisory articles aimed at new teachers as they approach the end of their first term at the chalkface. The special focus has been supported by the NASUWT and you can download a free PDF containing all the articles from the Supplements section of this website by clicking here.


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