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My first teaching year - by Shannon Harris (NQT)

To be a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) is an exciting but daunting prospect in equal measure! As she comes to the end of her first year, Shannon Harris has taken the time to share a few thoughts about her experiences of teaching a year 1 class in a busy infant school. She also has some sage advice about the keeping that all-important work/life balance.

Posted on Wednesday 19th July 2017

As I am writing this, I am in my final week as a Newly Qualified Teacher. Thinking back I can only explain my NQT year as a roller-coaster journey but it was well worth the ride. My NQT year has been filled with many highs and lows. Looking back now, I am happy with the progress I’ve made and am looking forward to starting again with my new class in September.

This year I have taught in year one. It’s a wonderful year to teach as the children’s excitement and imagination lets you run wild and you can have so much fun with them. I trained through a School Direct route. Personally, my NQT year has been significantly less stressful than my training year due to the expectations of planning and assignments. During your NQT year be willing to take risks! It’s a chance to be in control of your class and run it how you would like. During my training year I went through a period of self-doubt and was ready to quit. Not only did I have an amazing mentor who gave me the support I needed, my course leader said that in a week, some lessons will be outstanding, most will be good and a few will fall flat. As long as it’s only a few, you’re doing a brilliant job. And he was so right! I’ve learnt that you can plan pages and pages and in your eyes it’s the most amazing lesson ever but if the children aren’t ready to learn about it, then it won’t happen. Be willing to change your ideas and work to the needs of the children. At first, I was so worried that I would be picked up on for not following the plan but a good teacher is able to adapt to the needs of the children. We recently had OFSTED (terrifying, I know!) and the lesson that was observed was nothing like I had planned. I had however recognised that the children weren’t yet ready to move on so we spent more time focussing on that area. The children were engaged with the task and were developing their learning. Had I raced ahead, I would have created so many misconceptions. So don’t be afraid to not follow the plan, you’ll soon know your children and their needs so you’ll be able to adapt within lessons to get the desired outcome.

NQT my first year

I trained in year three so working in year one has been a huge shock to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching year one though and love just how creative you can be. It’s not every year group that you can place dinosaur eggs in the school and tell them a dinosaur has been there and get to see their little faces light up. Teaching year one isn’t quite what I expected, the expectations on the children are tough and they’re still so young. It’s hard to find the balance between work and play sometimes. I think the hardest part of the job is not being able to protect the children from the world around them. Unfortunately, some children are taken into care and you can’t stop that from happening but whilst they’re in school you can be their consistency and create a safe place they can learn and enjoy being in.

I have been blessed with amazing colleagues who look out for each other. I know this is not the case for everyone but it has really helped to have all staff members willing to help and answer any question (no matter how silly).

My class this year have been tough, they’ve reduced me to tears, stressed me beyond belief but most importantly made me the proudest person on planet Earth. Looking back now and seeing the progress they have made and the people they are becoming makes me very humble to be a part of their life.

Teaching can take over your life. It feels like every minute of the day you’re worrying about something that needs doing, you can arrive to school early and leave late and still never catch up – truthfully you’ll never catch up! Until early this year, I was arriving at school at 07:30 and leaving at 18:00 every day. I would then continue to work when I got home. I was exhausted, demotivated and beginning to lose my passion for teaching. Unfortunately, I lost a close family member of mine earlier this year. It opened my eyes to how precious life is. Yes, teaching is hard and long hours but you must find time for yourself. It is your decision as to whether you really need to make all those resources or if that work needs to be done now. I’ve cut down on little jobs like that and I am leaving earlier which means I can go the gym and meet my friends for a coffee. I am much happier because of this.

It’s hard to find the balance but ensure you look after yourself. You’re the most precious tool in the classroom.

My advice for any NQT reading this is to have fun and look after yourself. Teaching is the toughest and the most emotionally draining career but the rewards you get from it are far greater than the pitfalls. Working with children is amazing, they can reduce you to tears and make your face hurt from laughing so much. It’s a privilege to be a small part of their lives.

With thanks to Shannon Harris at St. James Infant School for writing this blog post.

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