Advice to my NQT self a year on.

helping hand icon

Hindsight really is a beautiful thing. Last year I wish I had the power to travel into the future to talk to my future self.

My future self would have given great advice to my stressed out NQT self.

1. Don’t come into school at 7.15am every morning. What’s the point? The work will always get done regardless and it just isn’t healthy staying in your work environment for up to 11 hrs a day.

2. The children are the main thing. Not having perfectly neat lesson plans or organised files. Make sure the children are learning in fun, engaging lessons. So what you didn’t differentiate 5 different sets of resources? They children can talk about what they have learnt and enjoyed their learning.

3. Don’t be a walk over. You can say no. Make sure you stand up for yourself and people know that you are not a walk over.

4. Don’t worry about lesson observations- you only get one observation a year and your mentor does not want you to fail. Unless you are absolutely diabolical, your mentor will do everything to make sure you pass. The time, effort and paper work for a failing NQT is too much stress ;)

5. Be nice. Talk to everyone. Talk to the cleaner and talk to the deputies. Talk to that TA who moans all the time and wears funny clothes- she’s actually best friends with the deputy and is more influential than you think.

6. Don’t ever give your real negative opinion. Let other people bitch in the staff room, but don’t get involved in office politics. You’re still not a permanent member of staff and the ‘likeability factor’ goes a long way.

7. Be positive. No one wants to be around mood suckers. Start your day smiling; the children will pick up on it and be better behaved and people will want to be around you. Plus, it will make yourself feel better. All you need is one positive thought to set your day up the right way.

8. Socialise. Make sure you go to any pub trips after work, no matter how tired you are. Get your face out there. Teaching is a hell of a lot harder if you haven’t got people to talk to at work. Go to the staff room at lunch, even if it’s just for 15mins, have that time away from your classroom to refresh and have an adult conversation. You will get the best ideas and advice sat in the staff room.

9. Treat yourself with your first pay packet. You won’t be able to do it for a long time after that. The feeling of your first pay packet will be amazing after earning nothing while you studied.

10. Develop a great relationship with your TA. TAs are loyal to the death if they support you, they will defend you and give you the heads up on what not to do and who to talk to, who not to talk to etc. They are a wealth of knowledge and can make your job so much easier if you get on well with them.

and most importantly. It. Does. Get. Better. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Honestly, you won’t always feel this stressed. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll feel stressed, but not as stressed as you’re feeling now. It gets easier. You get quicker at lesson planning, you’re behaviour management will improve. You’ll even tell people that you like your job.

No, seriously, you will.

Loosing a friend at work hits you hard when you’re a teacher.

woman-walking-away-alone

I have lots of friends. I am lucky enough to still be in contact with the group of girls I went to high school with. I have uni friends, friends from my PGCE and lots of family members that I can call friends too. However, none of them ‘get me’ like my friends at my school. Even my other teacher friends at different schools will never truly understand what I am going through because they are not in my school.

Your work colleagues really are your guardian angels when you are a teacher. No one, and I really mean no one will ever understand/ comprehend/ agree or help you like your other teacher friends. The teachers and most of the other staff at my school are great- they really are the reason why people stay at such a challenging school and last year I was lucky enough to make a very close friend during my NQT year and then she decided to leave. Selfish.

Joking aside, it was absolutely fantastic to have such a close friend during such a stressful time as my NQT year. I had an ally, someone who always agreed with me, laughed with me, moaned with me, bitched with me and at times cried with me. We both started at the same time as NQTs and she really was the teacher that I trusted the most in school, the one that I could turn to, the one that was always up for a drink in the pub after work, the one that I would always sit with in the staff room. We were our own clique, people always said our names as a pair, we were the work couple.

She told me she was leaving during the Christmas holidays, so I always knew I would be on my own the following year, which was good, because I made a conscious, deliberate effort to get close to another teacher who had started around the same time as us and I would go to social events at work knowing I would need these people in a few months.

Because of the intense nature of the last month, bad lesson observations, terrible stress, utter exhaustion, it never sunk in when she was saying goodbye to everyone and we went for our ‘last summer’, however, it has hit me hard this new academic year. Sometimes I do have to sit on my own in the staff room while I wait for more people I know to enter, if I have a bad day I sometimes can’t find anyone who truly understands, when my pay wasn’t increased I had no one else to discuss the situation with and although I didn’t want to admit it, and still don’t, I miss her. I miss my teacher friend.

I have been incredibly lucky, though, the other girl who started around the same time as me last year has become my new replaced friend. She was my second closest friend this year, but has now become my number one. She is the only one I trust 100% in school and we meet up in each other’s classroom at the end of each day. I honestly can’t imagine what work would be like if I didn’t have a close friend.

Teaching is the one job where you need to have a close friend at work, it makes the stress just a little bit better and I’m thankful that I have one.

Finally…I’m back.

Hello-Im-back

I am back- I have soooooooooooo many posts to post, so much has happened, but I will take my time in updating you. The reason I have been away is that I have had some developments/ news in my personal life that has changed things quite dramatically (I will post about it in detail at a later date).

But to give you all a quick update here goes:

  • After three months (and two pay packets) my school have agreed to my pay rise M2 (hardly the lottery, but very much needed/ appreciated). The only good thing about not being given a pay rise straight away is that in January, when everyone is always skint, I will get my pay back dated. This is great because I haven’t had a chance to save anything at all since starting back in September. I had spoke to the headmistress in the holidays and she said I would automatically go up as I had passed my NQT year, but as it was going onto the third month on the same pay, I was getting worried, but luckily I got it all written in a formal agreement this week, which was great.
  • We still haven’t had OFSTED, they were due in April, which means that they are highly likely to be visiting school before Christmas.
  • I have completely relaxed this year, I regularly get into school at 8am- 8am?! I used to break out in cold sweats if I wasn’t at my desk before 7.20am.
  • I have had my first lesson observation (after my disastrous final observation), it was attended by the Deputy, my mentor and a subject leader and…. it was good! Great feedback and I am no longer on the forefront of everyone’s mind as a ’cause for concern.’

Anyway, a lot has changed in school. I am more confident in my abilities this year, I know what does and doesn’t need stressing over and I love my school. There are still issues with the TA I had a run in with last year and some of her clique, but as they are TAs it doesn’t seem to bother me as it would do if they were teachers. Thankfully the teachers are all fab and professional. I am still getting on with the headmistress, I am no longer scared of her and actually have ‘normal’ conversations with her about ‘normal’ stuff.

Overall, not a bad start to the new school year, luckily.

More Drama…

I haven’t posted for a while because I decided to REALLY switch off from work. 12 hrs after we finished I jumped on a plane and was on a beach sipping cocktails and totally forgetting about work. The plane tucked down and 24hrs later I was flying over to the Emerald Isle to spend two weeks with family, and again, really forget about work. \

I have done nothing.

Yes, I have though about work, I have thought about displays, planning etc., but not too much and I have certainly not started to do anything. I decided I would leave it until the last two weeks and just take my time and not get too stressed. My health is too important. 

Cue this morning.

I arrive back home after a bumpy Ryan Air flight from Dublin to see my new contract. The first thing I notice is PERMANENT TEACHER. I am ecstatic! This means I can’t get sacked, I will be entitled to maternity pay when the time comes, it will be so easy to buy a new car on finance. I have stability. Then comes the absolute sting in the tail. The crushing devastation and an actual loss of breath. They (my school) are keeping me on the same pay. M1. The NQT pittance that does not cover my hours of 7.15am- 5.45pm. The pittance that I struggled to survive on, but thought it would be only a few more months before I moved up the pay scale. Is this legal? After much research, I have discovered that yes, thanks to Mr Gove’s wonderful legacy, yes, it is. And there is nothing I can do about it. 

As it’s the weekend, I can’t speak to my union until Monday, but after not wanting to ‘rock the boat’, over these past difficult months, I will most certainly be ringing them on Monday.

The thing is not progressing people on the pay scale is the absolute WORSE thing that a school can do to get a teacher to maintain a positive attitude, keep up morale, want to get good results and quite importantly remain loyal to the school. 

In the 10minutes that I read over my contact. I can no longer seeing myself getting into school for 7.15am anymore, I do not want to continue with the free arts and crafts after school club that I set up off my own back, my enthusiasm for my displays that I have been planning has all disappeared and a general sense of giving up has set in. How have I worked, cried, stressed and slept like a dog for the past school year to not be rewarded or shown ANY appreciation? 

I am fuming. I am fuming that they did not tell me this to my face. If I had known this would have been the case I would have looked for a new job starting in September. I am fuming that I will be on the same wage yet I am now a subject leader (more work) and I am working more (no more NQT time). I am fuming that the school is not trying to encourage my potential and make me want to excel. Why excel when you feel unappreciated? The fact that they have given me a permanent contract is great on one hand, but then keeping me on the same wage is absolutely disgusting. I have had no appraisal- I thought there had to be some kind of verbal reasoning as to why you are kept on the same wage? I also thought that there was no automatic pay progression anymore, but an NQT has to move up regardless.

Fuming. Fuming. Disheartened. And fuming. I can’t help thinking that my final failed observation has cost be two grand.

I will let you know the outcome after I have contacted my Union on Monday.

Overwhelming response to my last post.

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to the over whelming response that I have had since I posted last night about failing my final NQT observation. I have read through every single comment and got so much advise. It is great/ upsetting to hear that I am not alone. some of you have had horrendous times and as a whole my NQT year has been tough, but not soul destroying (until yesterday) and I have genuinely enjoyed my year. Yes, I am pleased that I have passed my year, but as one blogger posted, it’s a shame that an NQT goes through so much stress only to dread year two and be put under more intense pressure.

I have had 24hrs to think about what has happened and unfortunately, I am still not fully over the ‘blow’ and I found myself quite down and unenthusiastic today in school. When I was teaching I almost had a ‘what is the point?’, it has really knocked my confidence but most importantly my drive. At the moment (and I hope this will change) I feel like it has dampened my spirit and they have dimmed a little bit of my light. My mum rang me at lunch time and when I answered the phone she commented on how ‘disheartened’ I felt. She too said get the union involved, but I agree with Toby when he said getting the union involved would ‘mark my card’, my card has already been marked somewhat because of me speaking up to the TA who was belittling me. (She just so happens to be best friends with the teacher who did my observation. Petty coincidence? Friends sticking up for each other? Getting their own back? Maybe. But I don’t want to start going down the paranoid route).

I have reflected and spoke to lots of people regarding yesterday. The facts are, I have never had an ‘outstanding’ observation this year, although I have had good, positive ones, and until my final observation, I was making progress. I have only had negative observations when my mentor observes with another higher level member of staff. I personally don’t respect my mentor as a teacher, I have seen her teach and it was one of the most shockingly bad lessons I have seen in my life. At the end of it she said ‘sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I’ve not taught RE for ages…’ Anyway, it seems to me that she just goes with whatever someone else says. It is annoying that to save her own back she has put the blame on me. I am also kicking myself because she offered to look at my planning for the lesson and I said it was ok (HUGE mistake) as in the slating she said ‘I mean, you don’t even want advice, I offer to look at your planning but you refused.’ I didn’t refuse, I just said I would have liked to try myself and see how it goes, so now she is scott free on the responsibility front on that account. I still think my lesson was not a fail. The children were engaged, loved the lesson and learnt something. I don’t agree with the intense planning scrutiny and observations that are to come, but I have come to realise that it is all a game and if it means three months of hell to get them off my back after Christmas, then so be it.

As the eternal optimist I will now state the positives:

*The first, most important one is that I PASSED. I have passed my NQT year. I survived. My salary will increase and I don’t need to go into the new academic year with unfinished business, so to speak.

*I am still in year 2 next year with the same TA. We work together well, she is extremely supportive (my school rock), and I have all my planning and will have a better idea of what to do.

*My headmistress has been so supportive, to be honest. I went to see her this morning. She told me that she had heard about my bad lesson observation (that’s just great, isn’t it?), but she is going to have a meeting with me tomorrow afternoon to go through how she is going to help me come September. (A bit embarrassed about this- but pleased with the support). As my TA said, she wouldn’t be putting all this in place if she didn’t want to invest in me.

*My children have made progress and moved up the appropriate APS points. Not everyone is on track, but they have made great progress and a few have made huge jumps.

*’What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ All this pressure next year will make me the strongest teacher I can be. I will be a ‘better teacher for it.’

I know it will be hard work. I know it will be tough. I know that there is no chance of trying to get that elusive work/ life balance come September. But the positive thing is, I’m ready. I’m expecting it. And I am going to prepare for battle in the summer holidays.

I can and I will do it!

Wow…. failed final observation.

The thing about the NQT year is, you just get used to things, you feel like you’re getting the hang of things, slowly getting a work life balance and then WOOOOSH! The rug is literally pulled from under you. This happened today.

With only two weeks left to the half term, I had my last observation. I have my class for next year, I’m excited to still be working with my TA who I love and my class next year is a brand new one with all new mod cons. I just had to get through my last observation. And I failed. Well to put it bluntly by my mentor, ‘that lesson was a bit wobbly…. no, actually, it would have failed.’
‘Can I do it again?’
‘No, I’ve just told Miss X (Headmistress) how… how it needs more work and you’re going to be observed weekly from September. And we’ll need to see all your short term planning by Monday mornings. But the good news is that you’ve passed.’

I asked her why/ how/ what? Panic rising inside me, but more than anything, just a really big feeling of sh*tness. It feels sh*t to be told that you’re just not good enough. It feels low to be told ‘you’re just not where you should be.’ And there’s only so many times you can hear ‘if Ofsted saw that… if Ofsted looked at that….if Ofsted were here today.’ You know what? Ofsted can p*ss off.

My results are good. They speak for themselves. I had all children making progress, only four didn’t pass their SATS. I am in school at 7.30am every morning and leave at 6pm. I work at weekends. I plan for 5 sets of differentiated work per lesson, I have numerous interventions in place, I try to be ‘sparkly’ and ‘shiny’ for each lesson and I mark books on time and do displays. I have had no sleep properly since September, I have had no real social life (or sex life, to put it bluntly) since last summer. And to then be told that I’m just not ‘getting there’ and that this change can only come from me, it’s what i ‘have to work on’ is just devastating. I. Don’t. know. What. Else. I. Am. Supposed. To. Do.

Maybe, just maybe I am not a very good teacher? I need to face the facts that, in all honesty, maybe I’m just not a good teacher and that I will most likely always ‘require improvement’. I’ve seen the outstanding teachers at my school- and I don’t want to be them. One is going through a divorce with her husband of 2 years because she is never there for him and doesn’t have time for anything that isn’t school related and another one looks like she is ill, has had a mental breakdown and resents her job. That’s what I’m really scared of- that thus job will break me. It will batter all confidence and enthusiasm out of me until I am one of ‘those’ teachers who hate thier jobs and the children and the curriculum and the lessons and the life!

Phew. It actually feels good to get it off my chest. I am going to have a hot bath, get a really nice out fit ready to wear to work and have a good night’s sleep, not thinking about anything. And yes, I cried in school today, but I think crying for the first time in July with two weeks to go during my NQT year is outstanding.

Last observation this week…. why am I so nervous?

Image

Well, to say my NQT year has zoomed by, that would be an understatement. One minute it was September and I was full of enthusiastic energy, then it was December where I was questioning my abilities and sanity, fast forward to Easter, where things were looking up and now I’m here; three weeks to go. And one final observation.

I am nervous. Very nervous. This is my last chance to prove that I am a good teacher with elements of outstanding. If only it could be that easy. I have been told that my lesson this week must be ‘sparkly’, and have lots of ‘sprinkles’. Yes seriously. I have been told to do a Science lesson that is sparkly and has sprinkles. My face must have shown what i was thinking as my mentor said ‘don’t ask me what a sparkly lesson is… but you know…. make it big and lively’. All this was said with large accompanying hand movements. 

So now it’s a Sunday afternoon and I have 4 days to go and my mind is a blank. I haven’t got a clue. But one thing I am sure of, is that I will get my good with outstanding if it bloody kills me, because I have to. I cannot deal with the stress of being ‘RI’ (requires improvement), my self esteem has taken such a battering this term, that I have to finish the year on a high. I’ve been there on both sides of the scale. I’ve had a nearly inadequate observation and i’ve had a nearly outstanding, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out which one doesn’t cause sleepless nights.

So, yes, I will go out all singing and all dancing, I will create a lesson that is false, not a true reflection of how I normally teach and go way over the top with what little energy I have left and I will show my mentor what sparkly means. All teacher’s find that they have to become West End performers to jump through the hoops that this current government is setting for them.

Gosh, it’s all so fake and artificial. 

Welcome to education under Michael Gove.