Diary of an NQT: Focus on your work/life balance

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Being keen to please and eager to say ‘yes’ can make achieving a healthy work/life balance incredibly difficult for new teachers. Our NQT diarist reflects on how he is ensuring that the balance is right

Now that I am into the second month of term, I am making a concerted effort to manage my workload more effectively.

I am determined to remain on top of everything that needs doing while ensuring that I am able to have a life outside of school.

My department has two other NQTs and we all spent the first few weeks of term in a state of perpetual exhaustion. There are times when teaching feels like an endurance test.

It is crucial to build up your stamina to ensure that you are able to give your absolute best to every class that you teach – it doesn’t matter if it is period 5 on a Friday and you are looking forward to going home, you have to be on the ball at all times.

The workload during ITT was daunting, but it built up gradually over time. During the NQT year, teachers must hit the ground running and work relentlessly hard in order to ensure that they do not fall behind with their work. There are also many added pressures, most notably the complete accountability for the progress of your pupils. Every day brings a new deadline and it would be very easy to feel swamped if you did not manage your time efficiently.

I am fortunate in that my department and wider group of colleagues are very supportive of the school’s NQTs. Our departmental colleagues have been generous with resources and advice on lesson planning, and teachers from other departments have made themselves available to advise on other aspects of school life.

Furthermore, our NQT facilitator has designed a comprehensive induction programme, featuring training sessions every Tuesday afternoon that focus on support and our professional development.

I have heard stories from friends who I trained with who have not had this level of support in their new posts, and this has had a very negative impact upon their satisfaction with the job so far.

We NQTs still have so much to learn about the profession and must seek help from senior colleagues at every available opportunity. I am grateful to my new school for making the professional development of its NQTs a clear priority.

I believe that it is also vital to maintain interests outside of work. Two of my new colleagues are keen climbers, and I have begun to join them at the local leisure centre once a week for a couple of hours on the climbing wall. This has been a great way to get some exercise after work while also building friendships with fellow teachers.

I have had to minimise my social life considerably since qualifying as a teacher, but I set aside one night of the weekend to see non-teacher friends – you know, those people who don’t want to hear about schemes of work or marking policies! It is a good way to force myself out of the education bubble. It is easy to let the job consume every waking moment and I try not to bore my friends with endless tales of school life.

Only by getting the work/life balance right can an NQT truly thrive and enjoy their first year on the job.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.


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