For me, becoming a teacher was a very long process. It actually took me 10 years to make the decision to go for it.
When applying for universities at the end of school I was contemplating the career decision but opted for something that gave me more options in case I changed my mind. Within that time though, I had relatives and friends who became teachers and the talk of the workload and stresses just put me off. I continued to work in education but in different roles – I was a housemistress in a boarding school and a TA in a prep school. I knew education was where I wanted to be but couldn’t quite take the plunge to go fully into teaching.
My TA job was incredible and made me feel super confident in the classroom and they pretty much prepared me as much as they could for teaching life. I would cover classes, plan group work etc. They all told me that I would find teaching easy after being a TA.
Well, we all know life isn’t quite that easy. Honestly, I struggled during my PGCE year and found the switch from TA to teacher incredibly hard. I knew that for my NQT year, I was going to need to find a school which would be really supportive and help bring my confidence back.
Luckily for me, that school ended up being one of my PGCE placement schools. I got the job while I was on placement with them, so it felt good knowing the environment I was going into as well as the staff. I was fortunate to be invited to social gatherings and got all of the gossip before I even started. For my state of mind, that really helped those first day nerves.
Factors Which Can Affect Your NQT Year
There is no perfect class. There will always be a child or a circumstance that will make you worry about whether or not you are handling things well. I’m about to go into my third year and have just been told which year group I will be in next year and every single year group there was some issue that you would worry about (mostly because you naturally only hear of the negative stuff in the staff room).
At the end of the day, YOU know those children best. YOU understand what sets them off, what helps them work well, which children will have a positive/negative impact on the others. I couldn’t even tell you how many different seating arrangements/table configurations I tried last year. You are not going to get the perfect seating chart first time and even with the most well behaved class you are going to have to shake things up a few times a year. You do what works for you and your class.
Your NQT Mentor
This is the person you meet with weekly, who observes you and gives you advice on how to improve. My mentor dealt with my crying and frustrations over my class, she called them silly names to help me laugh about the situation and was fantastic at boosting my spirits.
I’ve also known people who have had mentors who nitpick at everything they did, which demoralised them, while another colleague had one who helped her through her relationship issues because it was making her feel down. Whatever relationship you have, having a good mentor can help you survive the year.
The number one thing I LOVE about my school is the staff. It’s a school where people actually go into the staffroom and socialise during their lunch break! Everyone supports each other no matter where they are in the school.
However, the other thing that made my year was my partner teacher. We both started at the same time and supported each other through figuring out the strange new school environment. I learned so much from her and we definitely found a groove working together – we knew who would plan what and developed lots of ideas together. For me, working in a two-form entry worked so much better for me because there was someone else to learn from and bounce ideas off when I couldn’t think of anything.
While the PGCE and NQT years were hard, there is nothing like having the classroom all to yourself and the freedom of being able to teach how you like without worrying about whether the actual class teacher agrees with how you’ve done something. There’s such a pride of ownership of the class and it’s always fantastic to get to know all of their individual personalities.
Through all the tears and the struggles, this lockdown is definitely making me miss the laughs that you can have with your class which make becoming a teacher worthwhile.