Diary of an NQT: The quiet students

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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A recent experience has opened our NQT diarist’s eyes to those quieter students in her classes who might be slipping under the radar...

This week, I’ve been introducing new modules, rejigging seating plans and looking through my data to get an idea of gaps of my students’ knowledge.

It has been a positive start back since half-term. The break was a great opportunity to refresh, and it gave me a chance to reassess my priorities for this term.

Alongside this, I feel that I’m getting to know my students more and more as the weeks go on. It is still taking me some time to develop relationships with the quieter students in my classes and I’m finding that there are some that fade into the backdrop, so to speak.

However, it has come to my attention that one particular quiet student, someone who rarely instigates any drama, is not necessarily a student who is fully engaged with their learning.

I received an emotional phone call last week from a parent of one of my students. She relayed to me that her son was finding English difficult. He felt that he wasn’t doing particularly well and this had manifested into a real anxiety for him.

He didn’t feel comfortable in asking for help and often felt as if he was lagging behind other students. I was really surprised to hear this. This student wasn’t on my “radar” as such – his written work flagged up no major concerns and he is well behaved in lessons.

This incident, however, has drawn my attention to the fact that we’re never quite aware of all circumstances to do with an individual student and the struggles they may be facing.

I immediately arranged a meeting with both the student and his mother. We went through various pieces of work that he had completed since beginning at the school, as well as discussing his specific worries and concerns.

It was eye-opening – but also quite sobering – to listen to a student at such a young age with such a vast amount of worry concerning his performance. This was to the point that it was actually zapping him of his enthusiasm for the subject.

As we discussed things, I actually avoided mentioning grades and targets, and focused on strategies that would reignite his enjoyment of English. I explained that this – first and foremost – was what mattered at this point.

Since this conversation, I’ve been considering the dynamics of each class I teach. It goes without saying, year 7 are usually sprightly and energetic, whereas I often find myself fighting a case for my subject with my year 11 students: “But Miss, why do we have to learn this? It’s not going to help us!”

My experience recently has emphasised how important it is to bottle up this enthusiasm in year 7 as long as I can. I must work my hardest to maintain and nurture a love for the subject for as long as possible. It is so important for my students to see a personal value in the subject and to take pride in the work they are producing.

Call me optimistic, but I do believe that the progress assessments, grades and so on will naturally fall into place if we first ensure students are engaged, motivated and enjoying the subject.

While we have a responsibility for our students, when we see up to 150 per day it’s inevitable that some will slip through the net at some point. I’m really grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to channel some positivity into this student, but I can’t help but consider others. This experience will definitely force me into keeping a watchful eye on my quieter students and the levels of engagement across the whole class – not just the ones who enjoy the centre stage.

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


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