Today marks the date that I have finally signed off my NQT documents and begin my career as a fully fledged teacher; now, all that stands between me and summer are 3 measly school days… That’s do-able… Right?
At the end of my PGCE, as part of our end of year review, a group of friends and I created a letter to a prospective PGCE student, in which we were brutally honest about life as an early career teacher. It only seems apt and right, that I recreate that moment now that I have done a little more than dip my toes in the water.
So you have taken that last leap and finished your PGCE; you have experienced a taste of assessment, marking and feedback and been witness to various government changes in a short space of time… You’ve experienced the highs and lows of your training, and you are ready to embark on your NQT year, bright eyed and bushy tailed. You feel as though the hard work is over, and in some ways it is. I will dispense my few words of advice now.
1. There will always be temptation in your way in teaching; cakes in the staffroom, 50p Friday at the canteen, your box of rewards… ‘for the kids’…
2. You will relish in the freedom of no learning journal, no triplicate paper work and no assignments! You will find, however, that reflecting on your lessons and teaching and planning is so much more natural than it was on your PGCE – you won’t even realise you’re doing it.
3. You probably began this early in your training, but you will develop your key words and phrases which become a repeated part of your teaching vocabulary. Chances are, these will distinctly resemble the phrases your teachers used on you. You will also become acutely aware of them and cringe every time you say them
“Erm… Still waiting!” “I haven’t finished speaking so you can’t possibly have a question yet…” “Fine, if you want to let everyone else in the room down, then carry on.” “I am so disappointed…” “I’m going to stop you there… I don’t think everybody is listening…”
4. You start the year with fantastic intentions of keeping your display boards constantly rotated, constantly up to date… If you maintain this enthusiasm when you’re in the midst of exam season, then you are fabulous.
5. That obsession with stationary will only get worse. I must spend approximately a third of my wages on stationary.
6. People will always pull that face when you tell them you are a secondary school teacher.
7. Your NQT mentor will be invaluable, because they are the only person who will not only willingly listen to your waffle, but make you realise you’re being a prat.
8. You might think you are now a black belt in behaviour management strategies, but you will always have bad lessons; put them down to experience and move on, because the kids almost certainly have.
9. Those naughty kids that you’re not supposed to like are still really great. It’s one of those inexplicable mysteries that will never be solved.
10. Expect to laugh. EVERY day. Laugh with children who throw paper aeroplanes. Laugh with children who ask if you want to ‘see a picture of what happens when you get worms in your eye’. Laugh with children who really cannot stop themselves from writing fan fiction in creative writing club.
11. Expect to feel old – apparently there are a million and one apps which you are not up to date with, no matter how cool you think you are.
12. You’ll soon develop strategies to avoid marking books every single weekend – stickers and stamps are like the nectar of gods.
13. Talk to people. Don’t ever bottle stuff up, because a fresh pair of eyes helps any situation. And if not, then a quick stop in the pub garden with people who make you smile will definitely improve your mood.
I can’t lie and say I am not over the moon that my NQT year is over; the pressure of having your own classes who you are solely responsible for is something that no amount of training you experience will prepare you for. It has been stressful, it has been exhausting and it has been tough at times. However, the children I have met over the year have made me realise that I honestly love what I do; even when they are being bratty, they are still your kids and you will discover that you will defend them to the end.
Keep your head above water, and keep swimming; it will fly by faster than you think. For now, raise a glass and celebrate everything you have already achieved; you deserve it.