Having just completed his NQT year, our blogger Tim Handley looks back to the PGCE and reflects on just how far he has come
I’m sure lots of you are just about to embark on your NQT year. The start of the school year is fast approaching (how fast do these holidays go?!) and, probably along with it, lots of nerves, worries and anxieties about the year ahead.
I’ve been browsing TES Connect over the past few weeks, and have seen many messages and posts from new NQTs that really resonated with me. This made me dig out a piece of writing I did this time last year, which listed some of my fears for the coming year. I’ve also added four things that I feel about my NQT year which I probably didn’t expect this time last year.
I hope this proves an interesting read that reflects on the differences between the end of the PGCE and the end of NQT year. I really hope this doesn’t sound ‘preachy’ in any way and of course - these are just my experiences and reflections.
Three things you may be feeling now:
1. Everything is down to me
This, for me, is the ‘big one’ - or at least it felt that way at the start of my NQT year. A year on, I still think this was a valid feeling. After all, there is nothing to inherit from the class teacher whose class you are borrowing.
But, over the past year I feel I have managed to incorporate all the small things that need doing into my daily routine. And the fact that there is nothing much to inherit is a good thing - it gave me the scope to try things out and borrow things I’ve seen elsewhere.
The main thing I forgot to take into account was how helpful others would be and that help was only ever an ask away.
2. Everyone says it’s the hardest year of teaching - is that true?
During our PGCE I remember we were constantly disheartened by people saying our PGCE year would be our second most difficult in teaching and that the NQT year was harder. Many of us were in denial - ‘It can’t possibly be harder than this’.
Looking back on the past year, it’s very tempting to agree, but I’m not quite sure that’s true. Assignments, copious research, incredibly detailed lesson plans, form filling and mastering the basics of teaching are replaced by, amongst other things; teaching a fuller timetable, evidencing your NQT standards, and crucially, developing your skills as a teacher. These are not necessarily harder than the challenges you face on a PGCE - just different.
3. I don’t want to be sick!
I remember worrying about being ill - which I guess is silly when illness is almost inevitable in this job, especially for someone not immune to all the germs carried by children ;-)
I’m not sure if I was more worried about being ill - or about having time off sick - but I have now learned that it is counterproductive to come to work and attempt to teach, when you really should be at home.
Four things you might not expect:
1. Your teaching style develops enormously
I expected that my teaching style would develop, but don’t think I quite realised it would develop as much as it has.
I didn’t appreciate how teaching full time gives even more time to develop the way you teach. You have a whole year to try things out; keep those that work, whilst letting go those that didn’t. This sometimes didn’t feel possible during the PGCE, because you are only borrowing a class for a short period.
2. You’ll look back your PGCE and won’t believe the progress you’ve made
I didn’t quite expect to look back on plans I’d written during my PGCE and think how poor they were. They seemed to be the sort of things I could have planned quickly this year, rather than the hours and hours they took last. I guess this evidences my first point about not appreciating how much I would develop over this year.
3. Having your own class(es) is amazing
Yes, I knew this would be great after borrowing classes on placement - but didn’t fully appreciate how different it is having your own class.
You get to see the development of the group of children over a whole year, rather than just a few months. You get to know your children really well and use this to plan learning that really fits how they learn best. You get to see the academic and social progress of the children over a longer period - and - get to directly affect this.
It was a great feeling to look at my end of year levels this year, and at the progress the children had made - and know that the progress was evidence that I can actually teach ;-)
4. It’s an even better year!
And finally - I didn’t expect my NQT year to be as amazing as it has been. Yes, it’s been challenging in parts, but as a whole I’ve found the past year has been a super experience. The hard work is easily outweighed by the responses from colleagues, parents and most importantly the children - and the realisation that you are making an impact, no matter how small, on the children in your class.
So, if you are about to embark on your NQT year I wish you good luck (not that you’ll need it of course!) and hope that you will find your NQT year to be as rewarding as I have found mine.