When you qualify as a teacher it’s the best feeling ever: a mixture of achievement, relief that observations are complete, elation that you’ve actually got through quite possibly the most challenging year of your life and pure excitement at the thought of a lie in on a Monday morning (for a while at least).
However, I would argue that nothing can prepare you for that feeling you have walking into your school on your first day as an NQT! All of sudden you’re in charge and however ‘ready’ you feel at the end of your final school experience, it is petrifying. Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited to greet the children on that first day (yep, no training days for me); however, I had NEVER been a class teacher at the beginning of autumn term. Best piece of advice…talk to fellow NQTs. Every one of my PGCE cohort that I spoke to experienced something similar to this.
So what does a typical week look like for an NQT? Hectic! One thing that PGCE certainly prepares you for is workload, but the skill is to manage this workload and I am constantly learning how to do this.
Monday, for me, is the most important day of the week. It is my chance to ‘hook’ my children and this can determine the quality of learning for the week. I have found Mondays to be a day of discovery – that is discovering children’s abilities in new topics. I always try to explain to children what we are doing for the week. Even if my weekly plan goes pear-shaped, I find that this helps children to see a purpose to their learning. For example, one week we were looking at measurement in maths and, because the children knew they were going to make a cake at the end of the week, this proved so motivating. Monday also tends to be a focus for literacy and numeracy with just enough time for a large coffee over break time! I have PPA Monday afternoon and I always find this useful as plans often change depending on children’s understanding on a Monday morning. I always feel like the most organised teacher in the world after PPA.
Tuesday – I always begin by recapping Monday’s learning. For my class, retention is key. If someone has shown confidence on the Monday, I’ll try and use them as my helper in the recapping activities and the others in the class seem to react well to this. I’ll always chat to the other teachers about pupils who may have shown confidence or struggled in a particular area. I think especially as an NQT it is so important to have professional conversations with colleagues because they can reveal so much to you about your class that may explain misconceptions. Tuesday afternoons are chaotic – but so much fun! PE is a subject I love teaching because it has the potential to allow children who may not show confidence in class, to demonstrate their other talents. With PE, organisation is fundamental because without it, the lesson could fall apart. I once had the mistaken attitude that it was an easy subject because it does not necessarily require ‘marking.’ However, now it is one that I pay close attention to when planning. Tuesdays end with a staff meeting, which I always enjoy. It normally involves a learning and teaching workshop where we’ll discuss something that we’re going to implement in school. The purpose of these workshops is to develop us as reflective teachers and it certainly helps me do this.
Wednesday- By Wednesday gaps normally form within the class and differentiation really comes into play. I normally bring in my ‘chilli challenge’ on a Wednesday, which allows children who are comfortable with the topic to challenge themselves and for those who may be lacking confidence, to receive support. One vital lesson I learnt on PGCE was to really challenge the more able children in your class. I repeat – you must CHALLENGE them. This does not mean giving them the same work and then more work; this means allowing them to engage their higher order thinking skills. One way I like to do this in maths is by asking them to apply their learning by giving them a reasoning problem. If reading is a barrier in your class, don’t be scared to give them worded problems. I tend to audio record myself reading the problem if I think their reading ability will act as a barrier to them accessing the problem. Wednesday afternoons consist mainly of science and Welsh. I love teaching both subjects. If there is one piece of advice I can give anyone on PGCE it is to get as many opportunities as you can to teach Welsh. You can have so much fun, as can your pupils, by playing Welsh oracy games – even in year 6! In science we tend to do something practical each week. This doesn’t mean a weekly investigation, but simply contextualising learning for the pupils. Everyone is exhausted on a Wednesday afternoon.
Then it’s off to university for me for an evening of Master’s! No, really it’s not that bad.
Thursday – Thursday is often a day of progress, where you really see how far children have come since the beginning of the week. We always discuss our learning journey throughout the week, but I allocate some time for this particularly on a Thursday. I find it’s always good to give children confidence and for them to celebrate their achievements. My research interest for Master’s study is growth mindset and the impact this can have on children’s learning. I see a positive impact on my children’s learning by carrying out this task on a Thursday. Thursday morning is all about literacy and numeracy. If we have been doing a writing task in literacy, I will normally share a ‘good’ example of one of the children’s work. This does not always have to be the highest performing pupil. If a pupil has really tried their best and hit the criteria for that particular piece of writing, then it is important for them to feel good about their work. Thursday afternoon is normally topic related work. This term we have had a great techno-tastic topic in year 5/6 and so we’ve done coding and children used scratch to create computer games. The day ends with another staff meeting where we normally review practice as opposed to proposing new things. Again, another opportunity to reflect.
Friday- Everybody’s favourite day of the week! I only teach on a Friday morning and Friday afternoon is NQT time. I really try to make the most of Friday afternoons. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of Standards! I find it useful to print off the Professional teaching Standards and highlight where I can possibly evidence them. It is important to keep a file as evidence for your NQT year. I put things in the file that I think might be useful even if I don’t use them. Organisation is key and this extra time given to NQTs is so important.
I hope that this blog has given prospective teachers and those in Initial teacher education and insighet into teaching as an NQT. I am more than happy to offer advice, help or even just a friendly email to any ITE student that wishes to get in touch. Enjoy every minute of your course because it goes by so quickly. Make sure you make time for yourself too – I have always said that my social life did not suffer because of the PGCE. Doing what you love with your family and friends keeps you sane! You are about to enter the most rewarding profession ever – embrace it!