I’ve just finished my fourth full week as an NQT and there have already been ups and downs, some of which I’ve posted about on this blog. I thought I’d bring a few together to reflect on just how things have gone so far, what I can be proud of, and what I can do to get better.
Form Group: I love them. I wasn’t really expecting to, or really interested in having a form, but I really like these guys. They’re fun, they’re interesting, they take on board what I say and they respond well when I’m trying to make a serious point, give advice or give some direction. Within days of taking over a couple came to me with issues, concerns, or just for a chat, saying they felt they could trust me and things like that. I make a big deal about representing the form around the school and how I will be on their case for behavioural or other concerns if I feel they aren’t doing as they should – and as a result they are meeting some really strong expectations. It’s a relationship I really enjoy having and a positive, firm influence that I think some of them, boys especially, are reacting well to.
Y10 History: As an NQT I’ve only been given classes up to Y10, with the expectation of having exam classes and KS5 next year. As such, I sort of see my Y10 historians as my most important group, and I have them exactly where I wanted. Over the first 4 weeks I’ve developed a strong rapport with the group where there is a nice atmosphere in class, there are lots of contributions from all over the room, we can have fun and I can be myself, and they can also work hard, such as today when they just developed into silent, studious hard work for 25 minutes without me asking for it – they just fell into it. It’s a great balance, where the lessons are enjoyable and productive.
Statements: This is a new one, just from today – and my same Y10 historians. It was an idea brought to my attention by Mr Histoire. I asked them to rank a series of factors for something and gave them a few minutes to think about it and write it down on whiteboards. Once they held them up, I was just very blunt. “You think it’s X.” And I just stopped, and they took the baton and ran with it, explaining why, linking it to other factors and explaining why they thought it was more important, and so on. Then I went to another – “you disagree.” And then she did the same, explaining her disagreement, using examples and showing good, insightful analysis. Then I did the same with their bottom factors and included others around the class. After a couple of these, I didn’t need to say anything – they did it. When one girl said she felt the least important was Y, a voice from another table piped up in disagreement and explained why. I barely said a thing, never asked a question, but it was some of the most insightful, intelligent discussion of the term so far.
General Rapport: This goes for nearly all my classes. I am very pleased with the rapport I’ve developed with the majority of my classes. I get along with the students, and as a result I have many who comment on the classes going quickly, or how they like history now, etc. I’ve heard comments between students in corridors that I’m one of their favourite teachers, or students have asked me about things that happen in other classes after kids go away discussing it or mentioning it – jokes or comments, events, activities etc. Anything, really. It’s not all classes, but most I enjoy and can have fun in, and my relationships with most students are very good.
Differentiation: Last year I only ever had mixed ability groups. This year my Y9’s are setted and I’m finding it hard to adjust lessons or material based on the set that I am delivering to. My top set are wonderful but then there is a long tail and I have a couple of groups, small groups, that are wholly SEN and extremely limited, and I’m not yet comfortable or experienced enough to have the mental resource bank or ideas to know how to explain certain concepts to them, or provide access to what is difficult material – the start of WW1. I’ve had better success in very recent lessons, but broadly it’s not been great and developing access for the lower sets and those with SEN is a big priority.
This also goes for a couple of Y7 students in mixed ability groups who’s literacy is so low that providing more or less any written material is completely pointless.
Middle set Y9’s: I find this group difficult as they are not particularly able, nor are they ‘triers’ who are limited by other reasons. They give up very easily, have little independence and, to me, often show a lack of effort. But again, going to a previous point, this could largely be because my teaching or resources are pitched too high and I’m not giving them the correct access. I find this group my most difficult and it’s a focus to improve.
Lack of Consistency with Routines: Self inflicted wound here. With Y7’s I have them pretty well drilled on entering the room and certain routines, but with Y8 and 9 it gets haphazard depending on the group and I’ve not been firm enough or consistent enough to enforce good habits early on. As a result there’s a number of groups I’m still fighting with to develop the routines that should have happened 2-3 weeks ago, and this wastes a good 5 minutes at the start of every lesson, telling them to do things that they should already be doing without my input.
Conflict over Style: See previous post on this.
Ear Infection: Missed three days last week after I ended up in A&E having lost all hearing in my right ear. It’s not quite recovered but I’ve been in work this week catching up. It was a bit of a combination of things – tiredness, exhaustion, working too-long hours, travelling for a wedding, stress over the style thing – all came together as I pushed myself too hard and paid the price.
Work/Life Balance: Follows on from the last but generally I have Friday evenings and some of Saturday to myself but the rest of my life is devoted to planning and marking any of my 16 groups. It is tiresome, and I know it gets easier as I get better at the job and build up experience and resources and lesson plans etc, it is just difficult to have any sort of social or personal life when every evening I come home, eat and work for 3 more hours.