How was it for you?
At school recently I was asked to comment on my transition year from trainee to NQT. I was only supposed to write a paragraph but it became so cathartic that I ended up writing a blog post about it! Any comments greatfully recieved. It has done me a world of good! Ready to face the afternoon!
My NQT year
I was a lot angrier in my first year. I used to dread Monday and Wednesday afternoons as I was faced with bottom set year 11s and incredibly disruptive year 9s. Actually the same goes for P6 on a Thursday and P4 on a Tuesday.
The principle problem was that I had gone from teaching about 15 lessons a week to teaching 26 lessons a week including an A-Level course, 2 GCSE Year 11 sets, 3 GCSE Year 10 sets and 8 year 9 groups. In no way was I ready for the shift in work that involved. It is difficult to explain the shift you have to go through of making absolutely everything perfect and trying (and i am nowhere near an expert on this) to make everything effective. Time spent marking is not with every detail having feedback but now with key ideas receiving feedback. You don’t really fully understand that until the end of the NQT or the middle of the RQT. You feel like you are letting the world down when you might do a tick and flick on a set of year 8 notes. You feel that a PowerPoint is a failure if one of the slides looks just a little out of place. This idea of being effective becomes more and more important when the classes build up. In my first year I taught in the region of 600 students. Marking that amount of books was a real struggle for me and is still something i have to work hard to try and keep on top of. That shift is not really something someone can prepare you for – that simply is something that happens and you deal with as and when you encounter it. Organisation is definitely key!
The real big shift was managing behaviour on my own. There weren’t going to be the supportive mentors looking at every lesson to check on my behaviour management techniques. As the year wore on I got a lot angrier and slightly disillusioned. Would the kids ever shut up when you asked them to? However I didn’t set enough clear boundaries which is now covered by the school behaviour policy! If there is something clear to work with it made it much easier to enforce. The other problem was that all of a sudden you are a complete member of staff – when you are out on duty you are not shadowing someone you then have to be up to speed on what to do in a situation as well as knowing the policies which tell you want to do in different situations. There is a far higher expectation on you as a teacher to both support the students as well as support other members of staff. It is assumed that you are authoritarian enough to be able to command respect around the school so as to carry out these sorts of duties.
I was lucky and didn’t have a form in my first year of teaching – a useful situation as I then became a support tutor and was able to observe how some people managed forms and managed the different issues that arose in those forms. Some of the things i learnt then i still use now.
The pressure points i think come in 2 distinct groups. The pressure of work and the pressure of being tired. The pressure of work is the combination of a variety of assessments which need marking, books to be checked before they go to monitoring and evaluation, a set of a-level essays to review, some planning to do, some key stage 3 planning and same A-level reading (usually before tomorrow!). This comes like the tide. Each term there is a surge in work expectation and some of it you will bring on yourself. For example if marking gets left too long and then all needs to be done by next Monday along with those essays then you construct a massive work load for yourself. However at other points, especially as the exam lead up comes, then you start to get more and more work as you start to pile on the practice essays and the practice questions all the way up to the exams. This is then added to by the assessments which are due as well and the homework you set which you try and mark in order to ensure you engage the younger students so that you still have older students to teacher later down the line!
The tired pressure is slightly different! As term goes on you get increasingly tired. The constant people management does naturally drain you and by about the 6th week you want to just sit down for an afternoon rather than do anything else. The more this feeling grows the more difficult everything else can seem. This comes around at the end of term and can either lead to people feeling angrier or to people feeling lackadaisical with regard to planning and/or behaviour management.
Er not really selling the dream here!
That sounds horrendous. I love my job though and that is not me being cheesy. Like every other teacher in the school you get through. In fact you begin very quickly adapting to the environment you are in and start learning the tricks of the trade to help teachers (rather than trainees) become far more effective with their time. There is nothing more valuable than time. Marking and report writing (try writing reports for 240 year 9s and that was my NQT year) are an essential of the job. Spend your time complaining about them and you will end up hating it. Take a more positive attitude and the chore factor goes.
You also get to know the schemes far better. After the 3rd year of teaching the schemes we have, not only am i rewriting stuff i just don’t like but you start to get time to read around the subject and remember why you live teaching your subject so much. The more you teach as well the easier it gets as you know what will work and won’t. The more you move on then the more you go back to the trainee stage of being able to trial; things out and evaluate whether they were effective or not. The shift from trainee to NQT is enormous but the real positive shift is that it is your classroom. I spend hours telling my kids that they aren’t hitting enough RE or they are boring me with simple regurgitation and that they need to really engage with the subject. A mentor might tell me off for that but students have commented about how they remember not to say ‘proof’ unless they bore me!!
The shift from trainee to NQT is enormous but it is what you make it: a positive or negative shift. Even some of the worst classes present the best challenges if you look at the big picture!
How was it for you?
How was your NQT year? Did you have a similar experience? Better or worse? Have you really sat back and thought jkust how far you have come since those first tentative steps into teaching? Does your school give you a chance to express these ideas and achievements? I would be keen to read your comments!