As teachers, we have the capacity to over-think a fair amount, which is why after last week’s diary entry I belatedly decided to create yet another more personal new year’s resolution – to become a little more spontaneous, or “less time thinking, more time doing”.
So far, my resolution has seen me get a tattoo, (which I vowed I never would), travel hours across the country visiting my distant friends, and book an American road trip for the six-week summer holiday (the stability of being able to plan that far ahead is certainly a major perk of the education industry. That road trip has become my motivation for getting through the copious amounts of paperwork!).
This resolution may have the most impact on my personal life, but I am hoping to bring it into my professional life also, as sometimes I think us NQTs don’t know when to stop over-thinking things and to just trust our instincts.
As an NQT, our plans are still extensive and thorough in case of senior leadership’s own act of spontaneity (known as “climate walks”) or to satisfy our observers.
I am still over-thinking every scheme of work I write, every lesson I plan, and even every PowerPoint I create – in my head I am changing the world one drama lesson at a time (with equally aligned and animated supporting visual aids!). However, I now see such rigid structure isn’t necessary with every class and I need to trust the spontaneity of where a lesson can go.
I need to learn to trust my own teaching skills and allow myself to drift away from the plan if the lesson appears to be asking me to do so, even if that means side-stepping a plenary to ensure the students have had the amount of processing time they require.
It would appear this belated resolution has cropped up elsewhere. In a recent training day, our principal invited us to disregard certain conventional planning restrictions and to become a little more spontaneous in our approach. She used the slightly unconventional educational metaphor of a saucepan, saying our lesson potential can become contained, especially for the gifted and talented students, as we always rigidly plan upwards in three tiered differentiated learning objectives, beginning with SEN.
“I want you to take the lid off the saucepan and just see what happens... become a little less controlling.”
My head instantly filled with the mayhem of a saucepan frothing over, which we later discovered was to represent the limitless potential of the highest achievers in the class. She’s right – the odd extension activity, after-thought objective or leadership task isn’t enough for these students to achieve an A*. Why are we planning upwards when we should be planning down? From now on I will always establish where I want my highest achievers to be first – take a risk with my planning and let the students drive the lesson.
I feel very fortunate to be moulding my career in a school which still allows even the most experienced teachers to experiment and take risks. Being an NQT is a little like passing your driving test then driving solo on the motorway for the first time – I’m learning far more as I go on this exceptionally fast-paced journey. It’s a little scary and a lot of responsibility, but I’m definitely enjoying the ride.
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.