Improving on my NQT year

It’s really quite alarming to find I’m only 7 weeks away from the end of my first full year as a teacher. It’s been tough and tiring, but my overwhelming feeling is one of success. I’m not quite at the finish line – I have another observation, my final one of the year, and my NQT report and sign-off meeting has to be done. At that point I’ll be fully qualified. With that in mind, I find it eye-opening to sit and thinking how much I’ve already changed since the start of the PGCE back in September 2014.

And while I think I am still improving, and I know I am better than I was in September, I still feel daunted by the total tonnage of what I don’t know. The experiences I’m yet to have. Life without the PGCE/NQT safety net, performance management, OFSTED, exam results, targets and so on. The professional life which has yet to really begin while I remain cocooned in this… gestation.

My thoughts have turned to next year, and what I need to do to improve. Reflecting on how things have gone, considering lessons, marking books and so on, I need to improve:

  • Routines. As a naturally relaxed person, I unwittingly allowed an overly relaxed demeanour to influence the start of my lessons. The first few minutes are a general hubbub and while I hold a strong rapport with my classes and classroom management is no concern, it’s still lost time. What makes me want to focus on it is the fact that my new school has 55 minute lessons – losing the start of every single one will have an impact.
  • Teaching for memory. My head of department and NQT mentor has said to me this year that I needn’t worry about what they remember ‘the first time around’. Everyone forgets things, just get the basics in and the rest can be topped up by revision. The more the year has gone on, the more I dislike this sentiment, and I’m convinced of the need to go slower but embed properly as we go along. The more I’ve read from people like David Didau, Willingham, Make it Stick, Heather Fearn, Lee Donaghy etc., the more I am convinced that I’m not alone – plenty of teachers out there are making it stick, for the most part, the first time around.
  • Modelling. I’ve done more and more of this as the year has gone on and, especially with Y7 and Y8, I am noticing benefits. The modelling chapter from the brilliant Making Every Lesson Count book by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby should be on every training course going, and has given me impetus to model in more constructive ways. The idea of shared construction of a piece of writing is one I haven’t yet done, nor have I yet written out answers and explained my thinking and development as I go along so they can see what ‘experts’ do and learn from it. I have used model answers, good and bad, got them to analyse and explain and improve and apply to their own etc.,  and I am seeing the benefit, but in this area I think I can improve more, and that it can have a big impact on literacy and extended writing.

Those are my 3 focus areas, I think. Next year will be a challenge on its own – new school, shorter lessons, teaching to 2 different GCSE specs and being responsible now for my own Y11 class, and all that comes with it. Hopefully by developing those particular areas, the benefits will be clearly seen.

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