Diary of an NQT: Have I forgotten how to teach?

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Feelings of anxiety are beginning to rise as term one begins – will our new SecEd NQT diarist remember everything she learnt during her training year?

As I begin this regular diary for SecEd, I can’t quite believe that just this time last year I was about to embark on the most challenging journey – my PGCE.

I can still remember the moments before the bell rang for registration on that first morning. Sitting at my desk awaiting my students, classroom tidied and organised, full of gusto and ready to accomplish what I’d eagerly anticipated.

Within weeks, the pedantic to-do lists, the neatly filed exercise books and my plans for a routine sleeping pattern quickly unravelled before me.

I, too, quickly realised that nothing can quite prepare you for the eye-opening experience of teacher training.

Now as an NQT, I look back with genuine fondness of everything I experienced in the last year. Even at the trickiest times of coursework deadlines, learning walks and an impromptu Ofsted visit, not once did I not enjoy being in the classroom in front of my students.

However, as July approached, I breathed a not-so-silent sigh of relief to myself and my colleagues. As guilty as it made me feel at the time, I was immensely grateful for the break and I thought that returning for the next term I would automatically feel like a “fully fledged” teacher.

I did not expect, however, to have those familiar feelings all over again. Despite managing the training year well, I can’t help but be plagued with the irrational doubts that I am sure many NQTs are feeling – Will I remember how to handle an unruly student? What tone of voice should I be using? Have I forgotten how to teach?

As a write this diary entry, I realise that it is just two days before our year 11 students receive their GCSE results. It is also only a week before the department welcomes a new key stage 3 curriculum plan and the school itself welcomes a new cohort.

Ultimately, everybody in the school community will be faced with a new set of challenges to overcome and for the first few weeks nerves will be rife for all.

This gives me immense relief to know that I am not battling these pesky concerns alone. A new school year has an impact on us all, whether that be the pastoral team, heads of department, or the “powers above”, who have the task of accommodating a whole faculty/school of staff and students.

The conclusion I have reached: we are all in the same boat. And if you’re similar to me in that you often give advice but struggle to listen to your own, then I suggest this: treat the NQT year as a progressive and proactive year – a stepping stone to figuring out what you’d like your role to be in the school. That is what I am focused on as I write this.

Whether it be extra-curricular activities, school trips, brushing up on subject knowledge, or just homing in on classroom skills, use this year to explore the positive things that made you choose this career.

And remember, as an NQT nobody expects us to know everything just yet. We are still learning – sometimes even just the basics! I am lucky to work in a school where support is a simple door-knock away, and I believe it is key to remember that asking for support is not burdening other faculty members with your concerns or worries. Often, sharing these feelings not only helps put a plan of action into place, it opens the lines of communication and care for others.

It is for this reason I am excited to be writing this regular diary entry for SecEd. I’ll be recounting both my successes and the difficulties I will no doubt face. I want to document an honest reflection to the NQT year, offering some approaches to the challenges that I’m sure we will all be confronted with at one point or another.

I hope you enjoy! Good luck for the year ahead!

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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