A Reader Comments on their NQT Year

November 30, 2012

This recent comment from “Captain Easychord”  on my How to Destroy NQTs post was interesting enough for me to think it was worth repeating “above the line”. Apologies if you have already read it.

I left teaching after my NQT year in 2004, feeling like I’d never be any good as a teacher. I left feeling demoralised and a failure. I’ve since gone back into teaching and now feel pretty confident about what I do. When I look back I wonder how I ever survived the year – the odds were totally stacked up against me. A few things spring to mind….

1. Being told by my NQT mentor (whose opinion I really respected) at the start of September not to go through the rules with my new classes, because they would get bored as a lot of teachers would do it. Awful, awful advice. I realised that when I shouted at my nightmare year 7s in October “You know what the rules are!”, and a nice clever one said to me “actually sir, you never told us.”

2. Going to my head of dept. on more than one occasion to tell him that I was REALLY struggling with behaviour. Asking for help, practically on bended knee. He did basically nothing. Apart from sit in with my worst classes when Ofsted came in, so they were exemplary. I remember the Ofsted inspector saying to me “Does he normally sit in on this class?” “Quite a lot” I lied. Why should I have lied!?

3. Having very little behaviour guidance in my PGCE, which was at a top university. I had loads of wonderful ideas about the pedagogy of history teaching, but I think behaviour was basically one two hour session over the whole year.

4. A humanities system which meant I had to teach RE and geography of which I knew nothing. I started in September with RE, standing in front of bemused year 8s, one page ahead of them in the Hinduism textbook (sometimes only one sentence ahead). Totally out of my depth. Also, the humanities system meant I had to plan and deliver 20 separate lessons a week, many in subjects I knew little of. Crippling workload.

5. Being given a year 7 tutor group. They looked to me to be in charge. I was still learning how to be in charge. I really struggled with them, and was faced with the prospect of four more years of them as my tutor group, with the feeling that I was failing them.

6. When I handed in my notice, no-one actually took the time to talk to me about WHY I was leaving. No-one seemed to have noticed that I spent most of the year on my knees, and maybe could do with a little help. A potentially good teacher (at least a hard working one) walked out of the job and no-one seemed to care.


One comment

  1. Wow, thanks for reposting, that means a lot to me! Your blog struck a chord with me and so I thought I’d share my experience.

    I’m not one of those people who has a natural ability to lead a class. I still maintain that learning classroom management was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But, it IS a skill you can learn, given enough time and experience. If you feel in charge then you are, but feeling in charge is so, so difficult when you start out. I still feel jealous sometimes of teachers next door who seem to maintain perfect control effortlessly, but I know that I have other strengths and skills that I bring to the job.

    Many PGCE and NQT mentors forget how instinctive their skills have become. I was often given advice (usually “you just need to be much firmer with them”) that sounded so simple on the surface but was impossible to put into practise, particularly when I expected to deliver fabulous, multi-faceted, differentiated, interactive lesson plans. Maybe NQTs should start by getting pupils to copy from textbooks for their first few weeks – one thing at a time!?

    I now teach in an SEN school, which I stumbled into by accident after a bit of supply work. SEN really suits my personality well – far better than mainstream. Supply teaching did me the world of good as a teacher. It made me realise how different the culture and atmosphere of schools can be. It also allowed me to make mistakes and learn my own style, knowing that if it went really badly, I could walk away and not have to face that class ever again.

    My biggest regret is jumping into the first job available as an NQT. I just assumed that the school would be right for me – it was a teaching job and I was a teacher! I actually think that some NQTs would really benefit from doing some time supply teaching before they commit to their first proper role. It’s important that NQTs how important it is to find a school that suits them.

    I really wonder how many people train to teach and then leave the profession because they fall into the wrong job, or because they just have too much piled on them in the NQT year? There’s this sad attitude in many schools of “If you can’t handle the heat…” and sometimes it even feels like a competition to see who can work the hardest and cope with most pressure. It drives good people out of the profession who have a lot to bring to the job, but maybe just need some support while they’re learning the many, many complications of the job.

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