Diary of an NQT: Reflective but not overly critical

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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It is important to be self-reflective but not overly critical if we are to let work go at the end of the day, as our NQT diarist has found out to his cost

Like any job, teaching consists of good days and bad days. Last Friday was my first bad day since starting my new post and this had a big, negative impact on the enjoyment of the weekend and the days that followed.

There were myriad reasons for me feeling this way. I had dealt with a few behaviour incidents during the day and was not entirely satisfied with how I had handled some of them.

For instance, there is a small group of boys in my tutor group whose behaviour has deteriorated recently.

When these boys turned up to form time five minutes late on Friday morning, I took them outside of the classroom to discuss the situation, one of them responded disrespectfully and I lost my temper. The boy responded in kind, causing the situation to escalate into an argument.

Thinking about the incident throughout the day, I realised that I had exacerbated the situation by failing to remain calm in the face of the student’s defiance. Although the student’s behaviour was unacceptable and I was right to challenge him, my response should have been more measured.

After a few other minor incidents throughout the day, I left school on Friday afternoon in a negative mood. Unfortunately, this persisted throughout the weekend as I repeatedly went over the events of Friday in my head. By Sunday, I had become frustrated with my inability to shake off these negative thoughts. There is a fine balance between being reflective and being overly self-critical, and I was conscious that I was indulging in the latter.

I have spoken to senior colleagues about this and they have been uniformly supportive, assuring me that separating school and home life becomes easier with experience.

To resolve the situation, I spoke to the young man in my form again on Monday morning, calmly explaining why I had been disappointed by his behaviour. He admitted that he too regretted the exchange and offered a sincere apology for his actions. This has allowed us to make amends and move forward, and will hopefully have a positive impact on our relationship as teacher and student in the future.

When school finishes, it is vital to stop worrying about what has gone wrong during the day. Professional reflection is an important part of the job, but overthinking a situation has no positive effect – instead, it can make you feel worse and blow it out of proportion in your mind. The incident with the boy in my form was relatively minor, yet by dwelling on it after leaving school I effectively put a dampener on my own weekend.

After the first half-term of the academic year, both students and staff were exhausted. It was a rewarding but very long seven weeks and everyone was ready for a well-deserved week off. In my previous article before half-term, I wrote about the necessity of being at the top of your game at all times when dealing with your students. While it is crucial to aspire to this, the reality is that no-one gets it right all the time.

My career is still in its infancy, and only by making mistakes will I learn how to avoid repeating them in the future. I adore this job and know that my overly-critical thoughts are a reflection of how seriously I take my work.

However, I also need to ensure that I do not allow self-criticism to affect my life outside school. I am determined to leave work this Friday in a positive frame of mind so that I can enjoy my weekend without any worries hanging over me unnecessarily.

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


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