Diary of an NQT: After the observation...

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Our NQT diarist’s long-awaited first formal observation has happened, leaving her exhausted and with an unexpected outcome…

Last week I wrote in anticipation of my first formal lesson observation. As I noted, I was quite anxious about unearthing previous bad habits.

Well the day came and I tried my best to teach with typicality – I didn’t plan anything particularly mind-blowing. I wanted to stay true to how I have been teaching my year 8 group for the past six weeks.

As described last week, in the lesson I included a focus on stretching and challenging my most able students – an area that I have not been particularly confident with.
I have mixed feelings about the outcome of the observation. The lesson itself went fine – the students were well-behaved, responsive and generally most of them completed the tasks to a satisfactory level. All in all, it appeared to be an effective lesson.

Afterwards, however, I felt completely drained and exhausted by the whole process. When I should have been feeling quite positive, I felt strangely disconcerted. Something didn’t feel right. I had done something different to usual with this class, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

I waited until the end of the day to receive feedback from my mentor. As I waited, I couldn’t shake this unsettled feeling. I felt just as nervous before, during and afterwards.

When I finally met with my mentor, we had a positive dialogue about the lesson. I’d questioned effectively, and my transitions were fairly smooth. But she did note how nervous I was throughout the whole observation. She was sympathetic, but I instantly realised what had been so different. My mentor (who had observed me throughout my training year) commented on how I had led the lesson far more than I usually did.

I had clearly pulled in the reins through the fear of something going “wrong”. Because of this, I’d given myself far too much to think about, to remember and to execute. The pressure had got to me and my nerves affected everything I was doing, from the way I communicated to students, to even writing the wrong date on the board! That explained why I felt the change in dynamics and why I felt completely and utterly exhausted by the end of it. When I look back in retrospect, I don’t think I stopped talking for the whole hour!

When my mentor asked me why this might have occurred, I considered the following: it could have been my lack of experience in teaching a high-ability set, but mainly I think it was the need to prove to my mentor my own capabilities as a teacher. Many of us were graded at the end of our training year. Whether that be outstanding, or good, in an ideal world we would all maintain the status of this in our NQT year.

I was really concerned about this and it seems I was too busy trying to convince my mentor that I knew what I was doing, when really the students had the aptitude to showcase their skills independently. I’m really disappointed that the lesson didn’t give them the opportunity to do this.

It did, however, make for some useful targets going forward. For example, we discussed the concept of peer teaching, which I’d never considered before. For this high-ability class, it would have been perfect for taking the onus from me and allowing my students to shine. As a personal target, I’m making an effort to visit more experienced teachers in the department who use this approach. I believe that whatever stage we are at in our NQT year, observing other colleagues is an invaluable practice.

So overall, it wasn’t too bad an experience for the first observation, but there are definitely some personal obstacles and confidence issues still to overcome.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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