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NQTs of 2020 – Covid-19 may have disrupted your training, but you can still ace your NQT year

Emma Meadus pens a letter to the Newly Qualified Teachers of 2020 set to join education in the unique era of coronavirus...

  • NQTs of 2020 – Covid-19 may have disrupted your training, but you can still ace your NQT year

Every September I am filled with mixed emotions, from the excitement of fabulous new work shoes to the crippling case of imposter syndrome that stalks me in the middle of the night.

As an NQT of 2020, your training will have been affected by school closures. You’re probably feeling scared and anxious because it’s likely you’ve missed out on those final weeks of training and teaching practice. So, what can you do to alleviate this situation?

Firstly, accept you’re going to have some gaps in your understanding. Spend some time reflecting on what it is you don’t know.

Did you miss some key lectures? Which skills did you not get a chance to hone? Knowing what it is you don’t know is a great place to start for anyone, not just an NQT, in developing your practice.

It’s a reflection tool to fall back on throughout your career. Trust me, you will never get to a place where you think, “I’ve cracked this teaching lark!”, and you really shouldn’t if you’re a self-improving, reflective teacher.

Embrace that feeling of nervousness. A bit of apprehension is a good thing because it sharpens your senses, keeps you grounded and shows you care.

Chances are though, you may feel more than just a bit nervous and overwhelmed sometime in your career.

We all have our own unique signals that indicate we’re anxious. For me, I find it hard to focus and my mind races.

When I recognise this, I step away from my work and consciously slow my thinking, asking myself some critical questions. What is really important to me now? What is the right thing to do? This helps to refocus me on what really matters.

Learning how to recognise the signs and then use them for a positive outcome will pay dividends in your career.

Invest in relationships in your new school. Schools are full of people who like to help people learn and know a lot about teaching – who’d have thought! You’re going to need all your new colleagues, not just your NQT mentor, to help you grow as a new teacher. Be brave and ask for help.

I used to worry this would make me look unqualified and weak but it’s just the opposite. Asking for help shows strength of character and a willingness to learn. Your colleagues will respect and like you for it.

Don’t overlook teaching assistants. They will have seen it all before, every teaching fad that’s been and gone, know all the families in your school and, if it’s anything like my school, know the exact location of that hidden stock of glue sticks.

As an NQT, I’d made it to the summer term and was feeling good. Routines were nailed and I was planning my daily maths lessons in less than two hours – result!

Suddenly a parental complaint to the governors came like a bolt out of the blue. My headteacher and governors could see it was malicious and dealt with it swiftly, but it still knocked me for six.

At some point, you will deal with something that shakes your confidence. This is the time when you’ll need your team around you.

Turn to your colleagues, open yourself up and listen to their wisdom. There is a lot of insight to be had from our shared tales of teaching woes and how we came through them.

Look for the opportunity in every setback. When I’d got over my righteous indignation, I reflected on the situation.

In my naivety, having been forewarned that the parents were known for being tricky, I had avoided them. I’d not had the daily, casual conversations that go into building up parent relationships. They’d perceived me as aloof and the complaint was a way to get my attention.

I learnt a lot from that incident, including the importance of prioritising building good relationships with parents.

Bouncing back from setbacks as you develop your teaching skills can become draining, even for the most resilient and chipper of people.

The key to survival in your first year of teaching is being adaptable. Be open to change and keep objective. This is hard, especially when you’ve invested so much of yourself into your teaching and your classroom.

I can remember spending a whole weekend making a bingo game for one observed lesson, only to be told by my mentor that I could have achieved the same effect with a mini whiteboard and pen.

Give yourself time, allow yourself to feel disappointed, but then find opportunity in the challenge and come back fighting. You’ve got this!

Emma Meadus is headteacher at Coppice Valley Primary in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Follow her on Twitter at @meadus_emma.

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