Back to school: One NQT's hopes and fears ahead of June 15

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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An asthma sufferer, our NQT diarist has been working from home since March 23. He is now preparing to head back into the classroom from June 15. He discusses both his anxiety and his hopes...

It is safe to say that it has been an unusual NQT year! As I sit down to write this, we are all currently faced with a lot of uncertainty about what a return to school will be like.

Being an asthma sufferer, I myself have been teaching from home since schools shut down in face of the coronvirus pandemic on March 23 to all but vulnerable students and the children of key workers. This means that, since becoming a teacher, this has been my longest period outside of a real classroom environment.

Lockdown has been long and strenuous at times, but now the time is approaching when I will be heading “back in”.

I find myself with “return to work” butterflies in my stomach. Like many other teachers, I am wondering what teaching is going to look like when we return. If I am honest, I am slightly nervous. I feel anxious and tense given the present situation with Covid-19.

However, like many teachers, I am also itching to get back into the classroom and to be teaching again. It is such a strange whirlpool of emotions.

I am very fortunate in that my school has been incredibly understanding and supportive to all its staff, myself included, during this time. They have keep us all informed as much as possible and they have been appreciative of all our concerns.

It is fair to say that teaching and the classroom will be a completely different environment to what we are all used to when we do return. We will be stepping very much into uncharted territory and, naturally, this brings with it a heightened level of stress and anxiety for everybody concerned – teachers, parents/carers and the pupils.

It will also be important to remember that the pupils will have had very different experiences during lockdown – some very positive, some not so. Looking out for any safeguarding issues will be high on the agenda.

And so, at the time of writing, our year 10 pupils are due to return to school on June 15. As teachers, it is up to us to ensure that the pupils feel as safe as possible when they rejoin us. They will need reassurance and extra support as they will probably be feeling quite apprehensive.

There will be lots of alterations to our usual teaching practices in order to ensure that the school is a safe environment. Social distancing must be maintained and habitual behaviours, such as lending equipment to pupils who need it, will not be possible. Trying to refrain from these “normal” teaching behaviours will be a challenge in and of itself.

It will also be more difficult to keep the pupils focused in lessons I fear as no doubt we will all be remaining vigilant for any breaches of social distancing or other safety rules.

As teachers, we will also be on the look-out for any symptoms of Covid-19 being exhibited by the pupils (or colleagues). All of these extra considerations will make focusing on the lessons in hand more complicated.

When planning lessons, there is still no way of knowing for sure how many pupils will be attending school, as many may wish to remain at home. This means that those pupils who remain at home will also need to be sent work to complete.

And as there will only be year 10 and year 12 pupils potentially returning to schools, online teaching will still need to take place for pupils across the other academic years.

From a personal perspective, it will be lovely to be able to see my pupils again and ask them how they are doing. It will be important to keep the nature of the teaching as relaxed as possible for the pupils in the beginning.

I think that it is imperative that we make sure that the pupils are okay as our first priority – giving them time to talk and space to be themselves again should they need it.

We also then need to check in with their learning and see whether they have developed any misconceptions or have fallen behind during their time spent home learning. We cannot simply dive into new content without first assessing where our pupils are at.

Thinking a bit further ahead, I do not know what September will bring, as everything is so shrouded in uncertainty at the present. One thing is for sure though, I am very much looking forward to having all of my pupils return and I sincerely hope we can create some kind of “normality” for them. Wish us luck and stay safe!

  • Our NQT diarist is a science teacher at a comprehensive school in the West of England.


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