NQT Special Edition: Diary of an NQT – Looking back on my first term

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SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of citizenship, RE and humanities. As she approaches the end of term one, she reflects on her highs and lows so far

We are nearly in December and my first day as an NQT in September now seems light-years ago.

The routine of school, marking, assessments, planning, more marking, weekend (and repeat) has taken over my life and I have become one of those teachers who counts down to the next holiday. I am not proud of it but really, how else are we to survive?!

My first months as a qualified teacher, while at times stressful, have seen many fantastic moments. Realising that the year 9 class I had dreaded teaching when I first saw them on my timetable are now my favourite class to teach, was a particular highlight. In my PGCE year I struggled with the behaviour of a very similar class to the one I have now. I found myself in constant battles and the students and I never had a really positive relationship.

This year, the equivalent class are my absolute favourites. They engage in the topics, they want to debate and absolutely love any opportunity to share their opinion.

Classes now feel relaxed but with an underlying understanding of my expectations, and I teach the lessons feeling as though everyone in the room is enjoying themselves (including me).

Last lesson, one girl put her hand up and said “Miss, you’re my favourite teacher”. I thanked her of course, thinking she enjoyed the political debates, the engaging lessons... but no: “Yeah Miss we like you cos you dress well,” another pipes up.

Not quite the reasoning I was hoping for, but with that class, I’ll take anything for them to engage with me in a positive way!

Another highlight of the year so far came just a few days ago when I was told that all the hours I had put in to creating specially designed SEN lessons for a particular girl in my year 10 RE class had been paying off. She had had her uncle phone up the school to tell them what I had been giving her in class and to say that so far this year, RE was the only subject she was able to understand and engage with – because of these resources.

While I suppose it is not a good thing if she is unable to access other lessons, to hear that the hard work I have put in is actually making someone’s life at school better was a real high.

In the rollercoaster of school life, where there are highs, there are of course lows as well. Being bogged down with hundreds of baseline tests to mark was definitely a low point. Feeling the heavy weight of all that marking made the first few weeks a real test (if you’ll pardon the pun).

For now, the pressure of assessment marking has died down, but as we come to the end of units, I know the next bout of assessment marking is looming.

Another thing that has really started to get to me is the fact that my organisation is beginning to crumble. I could cope with teaching, planning, marking, data, meetings and tracking. But as soon as I took over a new form after half-term, all my systems fell apart. My to-do lists got too long and too complex.

Now I feel as though every day I forget to do something important. I feel so bad when someone in my form asks me the same question for the third time and I know I still haven’t found out the answer.

That is definitely something I want to improve upon in the next two terms. I don’t want to forget to do things. I need to come up with a better system, rather than relying on scribbled notes in my planner. Perhaps a weekly to-do list (rather than daily) would be better now. I also want to be the best form tutor I can possibly be. I want to be able to give them my time and energy so we can do fun things. I want to organise charity events and create great assemblies for them to share with the year group. I don’t want the form to become just another thing I have to do in the morning.

In the last few weeks, I have also been working on being a good mentor for the student teachers that are taking my lessons. Until now, my responsibility has been to check their plans, observe the lessons and give them feedback. Although I have found that difficult at times, on the whole it has been okay and I no longer see it as a burden. That’s lucky I suppose, as I have just been informed that from February, I will be taking over as the student teacher’s official mentor. I am flattered that my line manager thinks I am capable of that, but also apprehensive about how much extra work it will entail. Time will tell...

For now I will worry about organisation and becoming the best form tutor I can be. I’m sure there are many other things I could improve upon this year, but by taking these steps first, I think I’ll feel more confident in myself as a competent teacher, tutor and mentor.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of citizenship, RE and humanities at a school in the Midlands. You can read her regular diary entries every week in SecEd or via www.sec-ed.co.uk/blog

NQT Special Edition: Free download

This article was published in SecEd as part of our November 2016 eight-page NQT Special Edition. The Special Edition, which was published with support from the NASUWT, offers best practice advice and guidance ranging from classroom practice and wellbeing to workload and your rights and entitlements as an NQT. You can download the entire NQT Special Edition as a free 8-page pdf via http://bit.ly/2fAp3q0


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