Category Archives: NQT

The first year as a teacher.

The Mystery of Moving Forward

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Please remind me of this post in ten/twenty years time!

This week was concluded, not by the frenetic end of the week finishing-off and catching up activities, but with an enlightening and engaging training session from @alanpeat. We had booked Alan in over 12 months ago, but due to unforeseen events we had to rearrange to Friday gone. Alan Peat is someone whom I take great delight in reading on Twitter and, unsurprisingly, was very excited that he was coming to my school to share his wealth of knowledge, experienced (not to mention his vociferous opinions on the education world!) – if ever you get a chance to see Alan, do it, he is worth every penny, offers lots of free, useful, resources whilst still promoting his publications.

Now, I’m not an Alan Peat stalker, but an NQT with a love of learning, a teacher who wishes to develop and progress, a teacher who wishes to keep on top of the changing world, or dare I say, one step ahead (if that’s remotely possible). I have been lucky enough to also have had a training day hosted by @ICT_MrP (Lee Parkinson), which has resulted in me taking a level of responsibility on our computing team and developing our computing hardware and software armament.

When sharing my excitement of the training sessions, or recalling my attendance at #pedagoolondon, I was chided with a “you’ll get over it” by at least two more experienced teachers. A comment that I chose to laugh off but one that has escaped my musing: why would anyone sneer at the opportunity to gain greater experience from those with specialism tested, and peer reviewed knowledge? Typically, this is not the voice of everyone: my wife, @hayleyearl, has been teaching for fifteen years, has developed a skill far superior to mine at blogging (themusingsofateacher.wordpress.com), and is starting to spend some time speaking at conferences and learning from her peers. Furthermore, both the musingsofateacher and my own blog are a direct result of and have been shaped by award winning blogger @ictevangelist, Mark Anderson, another source of pedagogical CPD. My deputy head was sharing his excitement about the number of key speakers we have had in the past eighteen months and we often have a catch up about items that have appeared on our Twitter feeds.

With the shortage of funding for the local authority to put on training courses, and the provision of private, offsite training being cost prohibitive, I rely on Twitter, attending teach-meets, conferences and the knowledge of my peers to shape my practice. It is experiential CPD which, in my opinion, is the most superior form of CPD. I know that often teach-meets are at the end of a long day or week and that it impinges on family and marking time or that I’m reviewing my Twitter feed when I should be heading off to bed but these opportunities are to be embraced, relished and utilised: after all, it’s for your own benefit.

So what turns a teacher from a pedagogy enthusiast into a disengaged, uninterested plodder? Is it an age thing (although I’m no spring chicken!)? Is it apathy for an ever changing industry? Nevertheless, whatever it may be, I don’t want it to happen to me!

Loaded to the Max

WorkloadSeven weeks into my NQT life and this is my first blog since the summer, I have a pile of My Plans to write and two piles of books to attack with a red pen but feel that a temporary interlude is necessary. A chance to regroup and refocus.

Before achieving QTS, I enjoyed joining my local ukulele group, bashing out some songs and having a good ‘sing song’, not to mention the occasional gigs I would perform at. Now, my week involves juggling marking, planning for class, intervention and writing club whilst trying to demonstrate that I am developing as a teacher: The only ukulele playing occurs when I am teaching it at school!

Admittedly this term has been crazy, as an NQT in year 6 I am desperately trying to ensure that I am challenging the children to an ‘appropriate level’ so as to prove that they will achieve the expected ‘levels’ of progress before the dreaded SATs arrive. We have had a week-long residential (which has rendered me completely exhausted), RWC 2015 theme week and requirements to support an international partnership week. Just to add to the pile, I discovered that I will be observed by an HMI inspector as part of my former university’s inspection on the same day as a presentation tea for external visitors and a 5-hour-long parents’ evening.

This is not a blog of complaint, nor one desiring sympathy from fellow, exhausted, teachers but a nod to all NQTs who feel that they are barely ‘treading water’ if not already on their knees. It is also an even greater nod to all those teachers who have experienced or continue to experience these feelings and continue to provide an exciting, engaging and positive environment. The blog is also a chance for anyone to share any successes in improving their work-life balance.

The good news is that I continue to love the job I do; I have 30 wonderful children who make all the challenges of life worth it. I work with an amazing team whom I have developed a strong and positive relationship with (especially since the residential) and have an amazing TA who brightens up the classroom every time she enters it (don’t tell her if you see her!). My SLT has been ultra-supportive and continue to provide positive feedback with regards to my practice; and so I feel that I continue to strive forward.

Finally, I acknowledge my wonderful family both my children and wife at home and my extended family who have all provided support throughout the term. I still manage to adhere to the house rules of ‘no school work whilst the children are awake’ and so get to spend the weekends and the evenings being a dad and a husband but wish I could offer more…

The holidays are upon us and, sooner than a wink, the year will pass by – assuming I have the privilege of receiving a permanent contract at my current school at the end of the year and remain in the same year group, I believe that I will be quicker at rattling through the workload and maybe even get the ukulele out (an accomplishment that my wife will no doubt look forward to!).

The Mystery of  How (not) to do everything.

                                                                     Image credit: MZMcBride

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.