The NQT week that was

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The inability to say 'no' leads to the week going by in a blur for our NQT diarist.

My boyfriend has a sore shoulder. He bought some new weights from Amazon but they turned out to be too much too soon for him. He overexerted himself and now cannot lift weights for at least a month while his injury heals. 

The concept of overexertion is all too familiar to us NQTs; we constantly run the risk of taking on too much and burning out. 

There are always so many activities to be involved with that essential teacher jobs such as planning and marking can struggle to get a look in. I have started to wonder if there will ever come an evening when I stop working before 11pm at night. 

Wistfully dreaming of a distant future where my free periods or sacred 4am until 6pm time might actually be used for such jobs, I reflect on what it is that has taken up so much of my time this week.

Monday began with preparations for a visit on Tuesday, in association with a charity that aims to encourage young people from under-represented groups into STEM degrees.

After spending the previous week begging, bribing and blackmailing fellow teachers to agree to lesson observations from the visitors, the remaining concern was lunch. In a building full of classrooms, how was it possible that I could not find one room free to plonk some visitors in over the lunch break? 

By 4pm I was no closer to solving this dilemma, but taking a group of 6th-formers on a Young Enterprise trip helped distract my mind from the coming shenanigans! 

I walked into work on Tuesday imagining the faces of my visitors as I explained that there would be nowhere for them to eat on school premises and we would have to take them to some nearby builders’ café.

Thankfully, in the final hour, I was rescued by a lovely art teacher who took compassion on my predicament and allowed me the use of her room. 

After a speedy bit of grovelling with the school bursar to loan me some cash to provide sandwiches for the guests, I was off to Tescos and back before you could say “break time”. 

I was surprised to find, by 4pm, that no-one had got lost and all seemed to have had an enjoyable and insightful day; what a relief. 

Wednesday signalled the launch of my new lunchtime initiative to raise the numeracy skills of some of our lowest attaining year 7 pupils. This was a proud moment and, if a success, will have some real impact with some of our most vulnerable pupils. The main challenge was getting the year 7s to turn up; a significant proportion of them cannot tell the time, so asking them to be somewhere by 1:10pm is pretty useless.

Thursday went in a blur. The only thing I know is that it is gone and I can never get that time back.

Tomorrow is Friday. I am being observed by an advanced skills teacher who is completely exceptional, and I am terrified but also excited to hear her suggestions as to how I can encourage the independence and confidence of my year 10s, thereby reducing the assault on my eardrums I endure every time they find something mildly challenging.

If it weren’t for the imminent weekend, I feel like I could burn out. There is no denying that an NQT’s workload is heavyweight and capable of causing some serious emotional injuries.

I think a major part of the problem is my inability to say “no”. From my experience, this is a common NQT problem, which I may discuss in future diary entries. For now though, I just need to get through Friday, and then it’s the weekend!

  • Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of maths from a south London secondary school.



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