I have read many tweets from NQTs applying to schools, making it to the interview only to be turned down, on repeat. It is an experience that I know only too well. I want to share with you my experience to give you hope and encouragement that all will be well.
After qualifying in April 2007 (from the GTP), my partner and I took a year out to work in Toronto, Canada. It was the last year that I could, being 29 at the time. It was an experience I will never forget and perhaps one I will blog about another time (we’re talking Mississippi gas station work, pigs feet and turkey legs, lol), but it meant that I returned in the summer of 2008 having missed the application deadline.
We were broke, desperate for work but determined. We moved in with a friend and I began looking for teaching work. My only option was supply. I applied to many agencies, attended many interviews answering the same questions about what I was looking for, how far I’d be willing to travel, etc. I thought we’d have to move back home as I had heard nothing until the second or third week of September…
I was asked to cover a Year 6 class in a 2 Form Entry school in Hackney. I was terrified. It was my first teaching role since qualifying, and in Year 6, and in Hackney. Lots of nightmares went through my head about what to expect, how the behaviour might be, what work I’d be asked to teach. I was a bag of nerves. Long story short, it was as bad as I expected: poor behaviour, no planning, no TA (not uncommon now). But it was so worth it.
I discovered that I was their 7th or 8th supply teacher in the space of 3 weeks. I was determined to stick with them. They were clearly neglected from a deprivation of love, kindness and a role model. And so I did. I just kept on turning up. My focus was purely pastoral, creative-based, well-being activities, getting to know them… listening to them… My mum had also given me great advice whenever I was scared or worried: to just keep getting up and turning up, it would pay off. And it did. By the end of the week, the children would run up to me in the playground and smile; something I hadn’t really seen from them. We found a happy place and then better learning habits took root. Eventually, their teacher returned and I had to say goodbye, but I will always remember that experience; it gave me the confidence to keep going.
And so my supply adventure continued. I found myself in many different schools across London, teaching across Key Stages, in diverse socio-economic communities. The last placement that year was covering a Year 5 class in Feltham. It was a tough crowd. I had come full circle but was now armed with greater classroom management strategies and could think quickly if I had to plan off the bat. Ofsted would visit during that period as well, lol. Of course, my whiteboard wouldn’t work when they visited me! However, it just added to the adventures the year had presented me with.
After Easter, I began applying for NQT positions. I remember applying to so many. Filling in the endless application forms, tweaking my personal statement to suit the schools. I wrote to all the schools in my local area asking for work as well. I heard back from one, just to say that they had an application form on their website. I nearly gave up. I wasn’t being shortlisted. What was I doing wrong?
Eventually, there was one brilliant school near me who was advertising for a Year 3 teacher. I called the school, arranged a visit and filled out their application form. I handed it into the office and waited. And waited. Nothing. The deadline passed. Nothing. It’s okay I thought, onwards we must march. Then I received a call from the school. Someone they had planned to interview had cancelled and would I be available for an interview tomorrow? The rest is history. She explained to me that if I hadn’t visited the school, I wouldn’t have been considered. Lesson learned: visit the school! @FrankiLopezzz explains it very well in her tweet thread where she discusses the importance of visiting the school and mentioning the experience in your application forms. View it, here.
I have taught in many schools since, but I want to give reassurance to those still looking. Supply teaching, while quite scary and uncertain, opened many doors for me and developed in me so many useful skills. It gave me the pleasure of teaching so many wonderful children, some living in dreadful conditions, desperate for love, desperate for someone to give them some attention and kindness and love. It grounded me.
My journey wasn’t easy, but through all the storms and ups and downs, it has worked out. It will work out. The right school is out there waiting for you. You will find it.