What if...


SecEd welcomes a new teacher to our weekly NQT diary blog ― she teaches maths in south London and started the term worrying about "what if.."

Okay, so at the risk of fuelling private sector cynics who blast teachers for our holidays, I am going to just come out with it: this summer has been amazing and I have loved every minute of it!

I have travelled, I have caught up with family and I have to admit that, despite my prior cynicism, the Olympics did actually leave me with quite a tasty glow. 

Such a glow was this that not even Jessie J prancing around at the closing ceremony wearing an outfit that made me think she had forgotten how to get dressed (followed by the murdering of one of the greatest songs of all time by some ginger dude with a guitar) could spoil my enjoyment. 

The only drawback of this lovely summer has been that, as I am about to start my first term as an NQT, I am feeling a little “fresh”. 

Niggling voices have started to penetrate my psyche, interrupting my internal island of calm and sowing tiny seeds of doubt and fear as the start of the year looms ever closer. 

What if I have forgotten how to plan a lesson? What if I have forgotten how to do proper AFL and cater for varying SENs? 

What if I forget what all these acronyms even mean? What if I have lost any (dubious) skills I ever had for effectively managing major disruptive behaviour? 

What if can no longer even manage minor disruptive behaviour? What if I find myself at the front of a classroom with 30 manic children all jumping up and down on the tables shouting and throwing text books and attacking each other with compasses and then I look down and realise I have forgotten to put any clothes on?

Okay, so the last example is a little far-fetched, but I hope I am not alone with the feeling that, regardless of how comprehensive and hands-on our training – whether a university or school-based PGCE, a GTP or a Teach First – starting a new term after the summer holidays feels to some extent like starting out as a newbie again.

Perhaps I am being paranoid, but I cannot quash a sneaking suspicion that, this year, lesson observations will be judged more critically, with higher expectations of brilliance. What if I fail to step up to the raised bar?

This is where a discussion I heard about the true value of the Olympic Games provides me with some comfort. In this discussion, it was said that the true success of the Olympics should not be measured using immediate outcomes, but their long-term legacy.

As NQTs, I believe this is relevant to us. It can become all too easy as a teacher to slip into the trap of feeling like short-term outcomes are important. 

We all know the feeling of spending hours planning for a single observation, feeling like the outcome of those 50 minutes are the be-all and end-all of our professional careers.

We must not allow these short-term outcomes to cloud the bigger picture. I believe that the true measure of our successes this year will not be in lesson observations, or even in the grade Ofsted chooses to inflict upon us from one 10-minute snapshot of a lesson.

Our successes will be measured by the long-term impact we have on our pupils and the foundations we build to develop ourselves as professionals.

In the closing ceremony, Sebastian Coe said that the Olympic Games had inspired a generation. I find the prospect of the coming academic year both exciting and daunting and I am proud to say that we NQTs are embarking on a journey to inspire and educate the next generation of young people. I hope you are too!

  • Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of maths from a south London secondary school.


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