I survived and I thrived!
People say your first year of teaching, as an NQT is the hardest year of teaching you will ever face, and they aren’t too far wrong. I think the only thing that could be harder, is doing your NQT year, having an OFSTED inspection AND facing a global pandemic which resulted in a worldwide lockdown and closure of schools. Despite this, I survived my NQT year and I thrived in my teaching career.
What Have I Learnt?
I think the biggest thing I have learnt throughout this year is not to take anything for granted. Things can change with the flip of a coin. When my school went into lockdown, I didn’t know when or if I would see my pupils again. I didn’t know if I would be back standing at the front of the class, delivering a Maths or English lesson before schools closed for summer. For me, this was extremely hard for me to get my head around.
Your first class will hold a special place in your heart. They are the first children you teach as a qualified teacher and the thought of no class photo, not saying goodbye to them properly and not being able to give them a little gift at the end of the year was definitely something that I struggled to accept.
As I have reflected on this year during lockdown, I remember all the highs of every day. Teaching is a hard job and there is no job out there quite like it but whenever you remember the laughs, chatter and achievements of your class, you remember it is all worth it.
Don’t take a day with your pupils for granted because it can all change so quickly. Enjoy the ups and downs and remember why you are doing it.
The dreaded ‘O’ word.
We knew we would be getting the call at some point this year as it had been quite a lengthy time since our last inspection. I vividly remember the day I got told Ofsted were coming. During a lesson, I quickly went to my partner teacher’s classroom to ask her a question and as I was walking back to my classroom, the headteacher met me in the corridor and said the words ‘2-day inspection starting tomorrow’. I remember racing back to my classroom, heart beating, and I told my teaching assistant. We both didn’t know what to do or what to think.
I have never experienced anything quite like what I as a teacher, and we as a school went through that week. Everyone was stressed, on edge and tense. Every time my classroom door opened my heart stopped thinking it might be an inspector coming to observe me.
After day one, my headteacher told me that the inspectors are aware of two members of staff that they have not yet observed – me being one of them. So, the pressure was really on the next day. Thankfully, I got away lightly and wasn’t observed or interviewed.
The relief we all felt when it was over was immense. We all pulled together as a team and got through our inspection together. If you are faced with an Ofsted inspection, be sure to know your lesson inside out. Understand why you are teaching this lesson now, and what lesson will follow. Be prepared for any misconceptions or questions the children might ask. Stay organised but stay relaxed, it is just like a normal lesson and you will get through it!
Teaching in Lockdown
When the Coronavirus pandemic struck, schools were forced to close, and homeschooling took the place of teachers. For everyone, this was something new that we had to adapt to and overcome. Parents became teachers and teachers became carers for key worker children. Being adaptable is definitely a key part of being a teacher but this was a new level of change.
As a school, we put together home learning packs for the children. This took a lot of time, planning, assembling and delivering of packs. We also slowly introduced Google classrooms for our children. Again, this was a lot of new learning for many teachers and a series of trial and error to learn what we could and couldn’t upload for our children. While the majority of our pupils were at home during the lockdown, we did have a number of key worker children who were permitted into school. Teachers were placed on a rota system where we either worked from home or worked in the school.
A typical working from home day consisted of CPD sessions, planning work for the packs and planning for the weeks we were in school with our key worker children. A day in school consisted of the same home learning work that other children were completing, a lot of outdoor play and sports and plenty of artwork. From this experience, I made connections with children I didn’t specifically teach, I learnt a lot through various CPD sessions, and I was able to broaden and strengthen my own skills. I highly recommend taking part in CPD sessions when you can as this will help to develop your skills and will promote employability in you as a teacher.
As well as all the home learning packs, we as teachers delivered a range of live sessions via Facebook and I put together a sign language song featuring the staff at school. Lockdown has given me a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise and for that I am grateful.
If you are ever faced with something like this again, do not be scared to step outside the box and bring your own passions into school. Find something that is unique to you that you could tailor to both the pupils and staff at your school.
Your NQT year will be one of the most challenging years of teaching. You will experience things you never thought you would have to face as a teacher, from the funniest moments to the craziest things the children say. You will grow as a teacher and experience so many highs and lows.
You will survive, and you will thrive.