I’m sure I am not alone when I declare myself a victim of ‘student/NQT syndrome’, a highly contagious affliction where the patient tries to do everything he/she possibly can. The symptoms vary from patient to patient but often include excessive amounts of energy (comparable to a Springer Spaniel puppy) through to heightened emotions, often resulting in an eruption of tears, anger or both at the most inopportune moment. We deny it initially, “surely not me, I’m just doing my job!” but sooner or later, we realise that we are being consumed by this exhausting and occasionally career threatening affliction.
I have often tried to try to convince myself that I am just being conscientious, to prove that I really was the right person for the job (bearing in mind that the role is only for 12 months until completion of the NQT period) or that I am capable of using my own initiative and don’t want to be a burden to anyone (probably common amongst the more mature of us who have already enjoyed a career). Ultimately however, our unending levels of energy, willingness to take on everything (I now have someone holding my arm down in staff meetings to stop the volunteering) and our occasional lack of judgement creates greater problems: It can be perceived as arrogance, can cause upset and even create difficult situations for all involved especially for those who have to try and resolve any ‘mishaps’ as a result.
I’m not saying that having high levels of energy or lots of new ideas is a bad thing, it really isn’t but it is about judgement, about weighing up what and and when new ideas, styles and practices are appropriate, we must not forget that as students, NQTs or even as early professionals, we can learn our trade from those around us, those who do it day in and day out, those who have, for some time, lived, breathed and slept a scholastic life. It’s great that we know the pedagogical theories, but it is in school where we will learn the most, from teachers, SLT, support staff (don’t ever underestimate the knowledge of support staff!) children and parents. This learning process will, like in life, continue throughout our careers. Mark Anderson, @ictevangelist wrote in his Education Evangelist post Dealing with Difficult Conversations (19/05/15) “every day is a learning day. A day where I don’t learn something new is a pretty poor day.” As an aside, in my inaugural post I alluded to the fact I had been on the receiving end of a difficult conversation, if I’m honest not my first, where I was told to learn to walk before running – I was already in the grasps of this debilitating syndrome, was completely unaware but had already started displaying the irritating symptoms. Of course my Amazing Teacher Wife (ATW) had warned me about it but when do we listen to our partners when we are unwell?
The problem is, of course, that when we are training or observing teaching we gather copious quantities of ideas, advice and perceptions, we merge them, manipulate them and then try to find ways of putting every single element into our own practice. We also combine that with our desire to learn more and take on more responsibility and so offer to run extra clubs, attend additional training opportunities, take the lead in launching new ideas and given the chance, solve world peace! It seems that many of us fail to use any form of filter or even plain old common sense to realise that we can’t do it all nor to consider the consequences when we don’t achieve what we have committed to.
I’m hoping that this post rings true to other NQTs, otherwise I am seriously afflicted! A parent recently came into my classroom with a bag full of resources that she was donating to the school, she said that she had made them during her NQT year when she was conscientious and bounding with energy so I guess that I am not completely alone. It could also be that I am joining the profession later in life, I spent almost 15 years establishing a career, reached middle management and had lots of life experience to boot. Whilst I have been there and done that, as I said to my Head Teacher during our conversation, I haven’t been here or done this and so need to learn from those around me albeit good, bad or indifferent. Must of all I need to learn to filter ideas and develop a judgement for when to show drive and determination and when I need to listen and take stock.