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Just like drivers, every teacher has to be a learner at some point. But now you’ve passed your test, you’re an NQT, the class is yours. You’re probably nervous, excited and anxious to start for better or worse.
So we’ve found some of the best NQT diary blogs out there, whether practical, humorous or entertaining, that you can draw on for advice before the September term and throughout your first year.
Firstly, before you check them out, get practising with things like this:
OK, maybe not, but definitely read our very own Sue Cowley’s 100 Tips for NQTs. Then peruse these fine bloggers.
Let’s start with this cleverly named blog from Year 6 teacher _Missie B (which may well resonate with a few you) which opens with a post called ‘10 things I am terrified about’ that may also be familiar. Here’s an abbreviated version. Click the link to see the full thing – it’s worth it:
I am still a child
Yes, I am 22, but I still feel about 15. A handful of my class, particularly the Year 6 boys, could probably quite easily use me as an armrest.
Being a student in all these situations was dandy – you didn’t have to contribute your ideas, because nobody really cared. But now your opinion actually matters…what if I say something stupid?
I have already experienced Ofsted which was particularly petrifying (think crying teachers, evil inspectors and a headteacher who had lost all hope) and my school is due an inspection which fills me with sheer terror.
With the children (what if they don’t like me?) and with the staff (what if they don’t like me?). Plus, is there someone to whom, at the end of the day, I can say “I could have slapped X today, he was a right pain in the arse” without them thinking me a bad person?
See point 1 – I’m still a child.
See more of her thoughts and tales on the blog at newandquietlyterrified.co.uk, such as reporting an inappropriate incident to parents on her second day, being at breaking point and five ways to ease your first-day nerves.
It’s always great to hear the stories of what NQTs are loving about their new profession. And it’s even better when it’s done with humour and enthusiasm, so here’s a snippet from Mr_B_W’s blog post ‘Top five moments that made me think “by Christ I’ve made the right decision here” (first half term)’:
Completely losing it
Not in the sense of angrily swearing at the kids (like a certain NQT I know) or having some sort of mild breakdown (as several family members seemed to expect), but in the sense that I briefly lost the ability to speak during a maths input, early in my second week. My first attempt got me halfway through the sentence before I realised I’d mixed two words up. My second attempt found me missing a word out. The third and fourth, punctuated by a theatrical, palm-raised pause, led to me stammering feebly. The situation was so ridiculous that there was nothing I could do but laugh, which I did, at first quietly but then suddenly rambunctiously, until the entire group of children were laughing with me.
Each class at my school gets to have one morning a year where parents and carers come in to help their child make a piece of work.I was extremely nervous as I had not properly met a lot of the parents. However, it went almost completely hitchlessly (though two parents, one of whom I know to be unemployed, did decide to leave halfway through), and from that moment I’ve felt very accepted by what happens to be a tight-knit (ie nosy and densely interrelated) community. Go me.
“I love it when a plan comes together”
Or more accurately, when I stumble arse-first into brilliance.
Convincing a bunch of eight year olds that I know what I’m doing isn’t too hard, but convincing their mums and dads might prove harder. However, I did a good job. I spoke honestly, at times bluntly, about the progress the children are – and should be – making; I made jokes at the right times (not, as I’m often prone, completely inappropriate times); I layman-ed the teacher-talk where necessary but didn’t dumb down too much; and I was pleased to find that the parents of Little Madam (not her real name) were much more supportive than I’d imagined. It was a long day, but a rewarding one.
Check out more of the blog at nqtmusings.wordpress.com which includes the follow up to the above post, ‘Top five moments that made me think “ohhhh what have I done?” (first half term)’ such gems as ‘Five things I have my NQT year to thank for’ and ‘New Year’s Resolutions’.
SecEd’s NQT diarist for 2015/16 was a science teacher working in the Midlands, but there’s loads of practical advice about what they learned in their first year that can be used across subjects and key stages. One of which is this tip to streamline marking (reducing workload is always a bonus):
I usually make sure I write a comment at the end of marking, including a question for the student to answer – perhaps something on our most recent work or something from earlier in the module.
When I first started, this used to take a really long time, not least because I used to write out the questions. However, now I have streamlined this process and it takes seconds to mark a book as opposed to minutes.
How have I done this? Well, I use a number system at the end of a piece of work. In the student book I will write something along the lines of “To improve on my targets I need to…” (even better if you can get a stamp that says this) and then I will put two or three numbers.
These numbers correlate to questions on a slide that is projected during the response time. The students then copy down the questions that they need to answer to improve into their books and they then answer them at the start or end of a lesson.
This saves me so much time when marking and I believe the students still benefit from the feedback just as much even though I haven’t copied the questions into their books for them.
You can find all of the SecEd NQT Diaries here including a handy ‘Art of Report Writing’ post and the final entry ‘I Wouldn’t Change a Thing’.
If you need some context, check out Laura McInerney’s account of what she endured in her NQT year. I’m sure whatever you encounter will be much, much rosier than this:
On my fourth day as a teacher I was assaulted by a pupil who came back after school to attack me.
A few months later I suffered a rib fracture from a student who tried to punch another kid – missed – and got me instead.
One student ripped up his exercise book and set it on fire in my corridor, blocking me in behind a blaze.
I was even in a serious bus crash during a school trip to Alton Towers.
And, like most new teachers, throughout that first year I endured a never-ending monotony of poor behaviour leading to little learning in my classroom. As a consequence I regularly cried my entire trip home on public transport – a journey that took the best part of an hour.
By the end of the next year I was awarded the TeachFirst Excellence Award and the students in my classroom received the best results in the school.
What caused the transformation? Trust me, it wasn’t glamorous; it was just down to sheer hard work. Mostly it was me writing detention forms and marking books.
On her website you can check out the full post as well as her post on her detention system and her selection of the best books on teaching you should read.
In this five-part series we documented the year of three fresh-faced teachers who were ready to make a big difference.
You can read their journeys through their first year of teaching here:
Everything you need for every subject across Key Stages 1 and 2.