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Anxieties, worries, stressing, resources, ideas, lessons. Moments of upset and moments of learning brilliance.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Acronym to acronym: Ten things to remember from PGCE to NQT.

As next week approaches, I am filled with an immense sense of trepidation. I am fearful for so much that as I type my stomach is tangling itself into knots. I am terribly excited too, but I feel like it is hard to truly feel that excitement whilst the cloud of doom hangs over me. 

"What cloud of doom!?" I hear you cry in response to my terrifying opening. The cloud of doom is a long list of questions and fears buzzing around my brain every second I turn myself to school work. Planning to do, new classes to know, names to learn (not only students, teachers too!), routines to grasp, policies to understand, teachers to impress, pupils to teach. It literally terrifies me. And yet, it has been my dream for the past ten years, so I mentally slap myself for being stupid and try to turn my mind to planning... 

I decided that last year was the best and yet most difficult year of my educational life. So in a sense I want to constantly ensure that I learnt from it, and I mean really learnt from it - not just filled a folder (or two) full of paperwork and evidence to tick boxes (read as: standards). I want to really think about what I have learnt in the past year and how I am going to really use what I have learnt from last year to this year. 

Rule 1: Silence is golden.
This is of course rule 1, because I really need to remember it. I remember reading this in every book I read before my PGCE started, and hearing it from a lecturer, and my mentor mentioning it... and it just seemed so obvious. But - it needs to be absolute. Do not talk unless the entire class are listening. That includes little Connor who never shuts up for anyone. I need to remember this for next year - during the PGCE you float into a class for eight weeks never to be seen again - this will not happen anymore

Rule 2: You can not do everything. Deal with it. 
I'm not sure how specific this is to me, but I learnt last year that from the minute the PGCE started I would never have "nothing to do". What is that anyway? What I need to learn (still) is that it is okay to leave something half done if there is time to finish it the next day. Even writing that sentence I'm not sure I agree with it just yet... 

Rule 3: It is okay that you haven't reinvented the wheel. You can't. It is already there - see. A wheel. 
Everyone said it. Did I listen? No. I still made my own resources. I still wrote my own lesson plans. I still did everything on my own: a constant resource-making-lesson-plan-writing-never-sleeping machine. Oh right, I didn't sleep, because I had to do everything myself. Then when it dawned on me that I could be up all night planning amazing lessons but not have the energy to teach them, it clicked. It is okay to magpie. In fact, it is sensible to do so. 

Rule 4: Never forget what it was like in school.
This is an odd one, and perhaps one that isn't as mentioned/obvious as the first three. Whenever I do anything, I think about the mixed up ball of angst and hormones and downright moodiness I was at 13. And I remember that even though I went to an outstanding school, I still had lessons where I was bored and learnt nothing. I remember the teachers that did interesting things, and fun things, but most of all I remember the teachers who really cared about me. I want to make sure my pupils know I feel the same way. 

Rule 5: Be yourself. 
Don't try and be their old teacher. Don't try and be their old colleague. Don't try and be what you think they want you to be. Don't try and be what you think you want to be. Just be the best you can be, and the person you actually are will do just fine. Even if you don't like yourself most of the time, it is unlikely anyone else will dislike you for being you. And if they do, stuff them :)

Rule 6: There is no such thing as perfection. 
This one is still a slight issue in my mind, but all the same it is time I faced the fact that I am a perfectionist. And that realistically it needs to stop. It is good to want the best out of everything I do, but perhaps not good to spend 40 minutes stressing over the box that doesn't look quite right on the worksheet and Word won't let me move it. Because by the end of tomorrow it won't matter, and the kids won't even notice, and if they do - so what? It is only a box. 

Rule 7: Make a note of everything. Make a note that I should make a note... 
Sometimes, my memory is not the best. Sometimes, I have the best intentions to finish something and then something slightly more urgent pops up and is completed, but the first something has completely erased from my mind as if the thought had never crossed my mind anyway. I need to use my love of post-it notes and make a note of everything - no matter how trivial. 

Rule 8: Marking is just as (if not more) important as planning.
So get on top of it. Write the planning timetable you planned on doing and stick to it for as long as possible. Use everything you have read in blogs and on twitter; do it in chunks, turn the books round, mark in order to plan, make pupils reflect on the marking, give them DIRT time, make them progress, be a good teacher. It all makes sense now... 

Rule 9: Those terrible lessons are better than those amazing ones. 
Now I know this makes no sense at all, but come on. Remember those wonderful year 9s who started to test you? And after the lesson (despite them being your favourite group) you never wanted to see them again? Remember discussing with your mentor how important it was to reinforce expectations and show them that you are in charge? Remember doing that and having an incredible last few weeks with them? I would never have learnt any of that had I not had the terrible lesson in the first place. And in a sense, I would not have been able to carry out the creative and wacky ideas I had later on with them if there had not been that dreadful "what are they doing" moment which pushed me into really telling them that I was not happy and forcing them to question their behaviour. I learnt more from the horrible lessons than the amazing ones. But of course, I need to remember the amazing ones. They will keep me more sane than the terrible ones.. 

Rule 10: Make time for everything else. You are not only a teacher, you are also a wife, daughter and a friend. 
I sometimes rage at myself for how little time I spent with friends and family last year. It is a wonder they are all still around. They have probably got used to my face - actually seeing my face - over summer. I don't want to deprive them of that joy again. All modesty aside, my friends and family knew last year was hard, and know this one will be too, but that is not an excuse to take their understanding for granted. They still all need to know they are important. Especially that husband - he would do anything for me, so it is time to make him know I would do the same. If that means lesson 3 with year 9 not being 100% perfect, than perhaps that lesson someone else wrote will be enough. (It will, it really will. And they won't even notice. But he will).

I will perhaps have a check on these rules at half term (if I have made it...) and see how I am going. Final rule: Sort out the body clock before Sunday, or you are really stuffed. It is 4am and you aren't even tired. Why aren't you concerned? 

Thanks for reading. 


  1. Thank you for this. I start as an NQT next week and I am, frankly, terrified. Terrified because I haven't technically planned anything, as my year-group partner has been away and she is the one with ALL the knowledge. It has calmed me knowing that it's ok if I cut some corners, magpie some ideas and not try to perfect everything. Like he fact I haven't had the time to prepare for the last six weeks, I might not have weeks and weeks to prepare every single lesson, but it'll (hopefully) work out. I'll book mark this for the year ahead.

    1. Everyone has told me that it is only worth planning one week as it will change anyway. Plus we survived the PGCE planning day-to-day (well I did anyway...) so if it happens again, it won't be the worst thing...

  2. A great list of reflections and reminders here. I'm glad I've stumbled across your blog :) I too blog and reflect on my teaching - I find it keeps me sane!

    I've just completed my NQT year so if there's anything I can help with just ask... @mrprcollins

    1. Many thanks - now heading over to your blog for a read!

  3. Really enjoyed this post - wish I'd have read it before starting my NQT year a few years ago. It's amazing how much good advice I agreed with, yet ignored at the very start of my career (reinventing the wheel and making time for everything else particularly!). It is a powerful moment when you realise that, even if you worked flat-out for 24 hours a day, you will never be on top of everything - and that it is OK to sometimes just leave it. Nobody will die, the world will still turn and it might just be good for you.

    I have recently written a couple of blogs remembering my NQT year here:

    Keep writing about your NQT year, I look forward to reading!