As a Newly Qualified Teacher, I appreciate that there are hundreds of challenges that we NQTs face on a daily basis: New school, new students, new responsibilities, yet same old dreaded observations. Throw into the mix a global pandemic to cut short your training year, and it's much harder looking for that golden nugget of a job (but on the plus side I have mastered the art of interviewing in shorts, shirt and tie).
The teaching profession has been shaken this year by enormous numbers of PGCE teachers having been under lockdown without access to months of valuable class-based experience they would otherwise have received. The upcoming NQT year for these new teachers is going to be challenging, strange and mentally trying. Having recently gone through my own NQT year, I’ve assembled a list of the 5 things this year’s NQTs should take note of for saving time and energy in this unpredictable first year of teaching.
Being an NQT (newly-qualified teacher) can be tough, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. You suddenly have a new class, new routines and a whole lot of responsibility to contend with. To feel confident and able, establishing clear routines from the start can go a long way. Below, we’ve set out some suggestions as to how Pobble might help you be effective in your teaching of writing from day one.
Learning how to become a teacher is just like learning how to drive a car. This is because when you learn to drive a car someone is always with you. Once you pass your test you are on your own, and this analogy is very similar to teaching, whereby once you pass the course you have been studying the door closes and you are now the teacher. When this happens you are given full responsibility for a class, and you are therefore accountable for both their learning and progress.
In true Scottish storytelling fashion, there is a tale, which may or may not be true, that tells of when Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence was in its infancy, in the middle of the first decade of the millennium. The tale was that - along with the areas of Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Wellbeing – ICT was to be a responsibility of all practitioners. This would mean that every Scottish educator would be required to explicitly take ownership of supporting and tracking the digital skills of the learners in their care. Then sadly, the story goes, for some reason ICT was quietly removed from the ‘responsibility of all category’ and subsumed under the banner of technologies.
Technology and teaching are now a combination that is fast becoming the norm. We as teachers use technology so frequently that it has become routine without us even realising it. We are now dependent upon our VLE to take attendance and an interactive whiteboard is now more common than its predecessor - ‘the whiteboard’. However, despite these actions being considered the norm, there is still a stigma attached to using technology that means teachers and senior leaders are scared to bring it into the classroom or integrate it into school.
Nobody could ever accuse me of being tech-savvy. While to my parents I may be a whizz-kid because I know how to operate their DVD player, to my friends I am nothing short of a Neanderthal, daubing on cave walls and trying to make fire. At my last school, there was nothing to challenge my cave-dweller ways. While some teachers would use the digital learning platform, the vast majority of us taught in the same way that we had been taught when we were students: whiteboards, marker pens and photocopied worksheets.
This time last year, I was in your shoes; a 23-year-old, fresh-faced former trainee teacher who was jumping onto the relentless treadmill that is the NQT year. Last August, I made a vow to myself: to provide the students in my care with the best education I can provide, but to not completely surrender my life to my career. In this article, I hope to share some of the tricks I deployed in order to help me keep calm and soldier on through my NQT year, hopefully for you to plunder.
Remember the first time you stepped into the classroom of an experienced teacher to observe their lesson? Did they make everything seem so easy? Were you swept along with the rest of the class in the energy of the lesson? Or bored to tears because you didn’t know what you were looking for; keen to get on with teaching your own class? If you have student teachers in your school, this is likely to reflect part of their school experience. Described in Lortie’s seminal Schoolteacher (1975), teacher training is an “apprenticeship of observation”; learning through observing others is an integral part of all Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in the UK.
As a sequel to her original piece on handling newly qualified teachers at the beginning of the year, Jane Basnett's former pastoral colleague, now an NQT, returns with thoughts on how we might support such teachers at this time of year
This post has to begin with a huge thank you to everyone who has supported an NQT in their first few weeks of Proper Teaching. You might have given someone a warm welcome, made timely cups of tea, given advice, asked probing questions, shared resources, sympathised with teacherly woes, or invited an NQT to observe a lesson. Or you might be one of the wonderful people who offer your time and patience to mentor a new teacher. Whoever you are, thank you!