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Primary Education News
News A message for all NQTs: reflecting on your first year in teaching
One term left as an newly qualified teacher? Assistant head Danielle Egonu has some words of wisdom and encouragement for the final stretch
So you've passed the midway point of your first year as an NQT. The metaphorical onion has unveiled its layers and the reality of teaching has become apparent but you haven't run in the opposite direction yet. Well done.
It has probably become quite clear by now that teacher training does not fully prepare you for the trials of your first year which include snotty noses, sneezes in your face, PE changing and the need for a tub of anti-bacterial gel at your desk. You are not alone in this realisation, just ask any seasoned primary practitioner and they will smile with a glint of recognition in their eye as they recall the immense learning curve they experienced in their own first year.
No doubt you also realised very early on, that you were outnumbered by the little darlings you teach and therefore became very much aware that behaviour management strategies needed to become embedded in your day-to-day practice to prevent Daisy from dancing around the hall during assembly. For those of you tackling extreme behavioural needs that are very present in the modern primary classroom, consistency is key.
On those days when you are physically and mentally exhausted know that you are building the resilience needed for this profession. In the social economic climate we find ourselves in, you are working on the frontline with children who face abuse and poverty but have no voice to articulate their feelings. Take time to acknowledge that you can't solve all the world's evils but that the role you play in supporting a child through this process is integral and will have far reaching impact.
Furthermore and without prior warning, you have been inducted into the acronym club that is education. The terms SEN (special educational needs) and EAL (English as an additional language) among others, are batted about freely without any great detailed explanation and you find yourself repeating them to your ever suffering non-teacher friends and family. However, this is where pedagogy comes into play, all those textbooks about child development and research papers you scrutinised during your training, really do form the basis of teaching across the range in a diverse primary classroom.
SEN and EAL pupils force teachers to adapt their teaching and think outside of the box. It is a skill set that continues to evolve and takes time to develop throughout a primary teaching career. "The more you put in, the more you get out" really does apply here.
Research on the internet, seek out good practice to learn from and observe others as the continuous challenge in a primary setting is to be creative. Plan to the needs in your class and set clear expectations and standards for yourself and your students.
Remember to look after your inner self, who may have been somewhat battered and bruised by observation pressures, scrutiny, the persistent need to develop subject knowledge across the curriculum and establishing the elusive work-life balance. Don't forget to recognise your successes, reflect on your mistakes and develop a support network which will reassure you through your highs and lows.
You have undoubtedly realised that being a primary teacher isn't just about teaching the curriculum. At times you need to be a councillor, a mediator, a guardian, a comedian, a disciplinarian, a source of comfort and a motivator. This is why the first year of teaching is so distinctive in the challenges it provides, as inadvertently you discover so much more about yourself.
So to all NQTs: the end is nigh you have found your feet and have come this far, so now just push that little bit further. Remember being a teacher, for all its trials, truly is a fulfilling passion and as you encounter children who will face obstacles to learning, remember what is fundamentally important. Make every day count.
Danielle Egonu is an assistant headteacher and inclusion manager at a primary school in east London. She has worked in schools in the city for seven years in both primary and secondary sectors.