The excitement is starting to set in…

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So it’s less than a week before I start my post as an NQT and the excitement is starting to set in! I haven’t finished decorating my classroom, the names for the trays haven’t been stuck on, I haven’t finished my planning and when I really think about it- I haven’t actually got a clue what I’m going to do on the first day! But, I really can’t wait to start now. This is what my whole PGCE year was building up to.

I have always been a positive person and I think I’m taking this relaxed approach because I realise that teaching is hard enough in itself without putting added pressure on myself. I know it’s going to be long hours, I know the children will test my patience, there will never be enough time for anything- but I don’t mind. Plus, I’ve got three days of staff training in the first week to ease myself in- where I’ve been told everything will come together and I’ll be given help with the paper work.

The other NQT is terrified (which isn’t helping me- as stress seems to be contagious), but it appears that that is her natural way anyway. Before we left she was politely arguing with the receptionist about the size of her carpet in the classroom. Maybe I should be, but I’m not fussed/ OCD about stuff like that, and I’m just glad we will have each other to support and share advice.

The disappointment has gone over my contract- I know it’s standard procedure now to give one year contracts- and fingers crossed it will become a permanent one next year. I have my outfit for the first day all ready. I’ve polished my shoes, got my lunch ready and I think I’m just about ready to meet the parents (and children) next week! 

And starting, means I’m getting closer to pay day! Can. Not. Come. Quick. Enough.

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Contract disappointment.

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I had such a stress finding a job, constant rejection, numerous interviews, time off, new outfits etc., so much so that I said ‘I am not doing this again next year.’  I made a conscious decision to only apply for permanent contracts. I wanted a job that I could be settled in, become loyal to and work my way up. I know that people say you should move around schools for your own personal development and I used to think that too. But the more I’ve spoken to teachers, the more I am beginning to think that as long as you keep ideas fresh and have enthusiasm it can be a very positive for all if teachers stay long term in one place.

So fast forward to this morning when my contract finally comes through. Previously, I had only had a letter offering me the job, which just stated the starting date and salary, so I was a little shocked and a quite gutted really when today my contract came through as a one year temporary contract. 

It was the word temporary that got me. Maybe I wouldn’t be so bothered if it had just said 1 year. I know that 90% of schools give NQTs a 1 year contract to cover their backs and I understand this. Everyone who got jobs in my class did so with a 1 year contract. For me, it was just the fact that I had applied for a permanent job. It also makes me a little anxious about my plans for the future that may be a little delayed now. I have applied for a mortgage and I also wanted to start trying for children. And it wasn’t like i was going to take the mick and get pregnant straight away and have 9 months off- I know you can’t plan for babies and I would only take 10 wks off for financial reasons. But it’s still a little disappointing to know that my choice to start trying for a family has to be put on hold for 6 months at least.

However, I am a very positive person, and I can see that it isn’t really a bad thing to be honest. I get to try out the school before I’m locked into a permanent contract and if I love it, which I think I will, I can always approach the Head in January and explain I love the school and before I apply for any jobs is there any chance to make my job permanent. I also know that teachers don’t leave the school, so that sounds like they don’t just use NQTs for 1 year and then get rid. 

So I am going to be the best NQT there ever was from September. Paperwork will be on time, children will enjoy learning and I will get on with all members of staff and avoid staff room politics. 

Right, I really should start my medium term planning….

My Top Tips for getting your first NQT job

So you think that passing the QTS tests and surviving the PGCE year is the hardest thing about training to be a teacher. It’s not. Actually getting a job as a teacher is the biggest hurdle. I felt for a friend on my course who posted in our FB group last week. She had been to many interviews, but hadn’t gotten a job- and with the start of the six weeks holiday came the realisation that there were no more new jobs to get. So she has put teaching on the back burner and taken a job at a property law firm. 9grand and 9 months of sheer hell to not even use your PGCE. She couldn’t risk not getting regular supply work and was so short of money that she just had to take anything.

But first thing’s first. Don’t let that little antidote worry you- let’s start with the positives- THERE ARE JOBS OUT THERE! (yay!). During my course people (not on the course) would always be very encouraging, ‘Well, you’ll have to actually get a job when you finish. If you can.’ ‘There’s just no jobs out there.’ ‘Oh, very risky, making a career change during the recession.’ Well, actually no, it isn’t risky. Especially concerning Primary School teachers. The birth rate is nearly shooting through the roof and there is dire need of more and more primary schools. Schools are moving from 1 to 3 form entrys and the demand for ‘new blood’ is higher than ever. From a financial point of view NQTs and even teachers in their 2nd year of teaching on around £23k a year are more attractive than a teacher who has worked their way up to £35k a year. With budgets so tight, it makes sense to employ fresher talent. With fresher ideas and fresher enthusiasm. But that still doesn’t mean you automatically get the first job you apply for just because you’re an NQT. I lost out on two jobs because the school just decided to go with someone with more experience. Below, I’ve tried to condense a few key tips in helping you get your first NQT post. Even if you hate teaching by the time you complete your PGCE, at  least get your first year out the way so that you are officially a qualified teacher. Then the world if your oyster.

  1. Apply for everything: At first I was being quite fussy. I wanted a Catholic school, no EAL, in my local borough- or at least a maximum 15min car drive away. The thing is you can’t be fussy, waiting for that ‘perfect school.’ I did that with my placement school. I only wanted to work there. I loved the staff and the head teacher. I didn’t apply for other great jobs because I wanted that one school. I passed on countless opportunities. I went for the interview and didn’t get the job. If I had applied for other jobs, I would have had interview experience that would have helped me in my dream job or even gotten a job else where. Apply for any job that accepts NQTs (within reason). It’s all experience.

2. Sell yourself in your application: Us brits are terrible at this. We need to be more like the Americans, ‘I am THE best person for this job. You WANT to employ me.’ You do not have to be as big headed as that, but give the employers reason to call you for your interview. List your positives, what you can bring to the job, your strongest points and how your experience can be useful in the school.

3. Make each job application personal. Job applications are timely- they take forever! They are like mini essays and were the bane of my life during the course. (As if I didn’t have enough paper work as it was?!). But you need to make each one personal to the job you’re applying for. It’s honestly no good having a generic personal statement that you copy and paste to each job, Heads can tell. Put things personal to the school- if they have links to a football club mention how sporty you are. Impressed with their stage in the hall? tell them that. Mention what you liked about their OFSTED report. Make the Head realise that you’ve done your research. Also, if you are not getting interviews, there is obviously something not right about your application so work on changing a few things.

4. Do your research. In the interview they may ask you what you thought about their last OFSTED report or how you would continue the ethos of a school. If you’re not an Anglican but applying to an Anglican school, make sure you know a little bit of the religion. I didn’t do my research for a lesson observation. It was a school with 90% EAL so I made my lesson very simple. If I had done my research, I would have realised that the maths results were the highest in the country and the children were all maths geniuses….awkward times.

5. Invest in interview attire. During the christmas sales look for interview outfits. A smart dark grey or navy suit for males (black is just too sombre) and a nice suit or expensive trousers and blazers for the girls. Once the interviews start coming in from Febuary, you don’t want to be rushing around the shops for interview clothes. One man on my course had to rush to get a suit the night before his interview, to be faced with two other interviewees wearing the same suit the next day. You have to be comfortable in what you wear too. I am not really a suit person, so I wore a smart shift dress with a black blazer.

6. Plan your route. Make sure you know where you are going before the day. Have a practice run to the school. Sat Navs are not always reliable and turning up late to an interview is an instant failure. Also allow plenty of time, stress will be a major hinderance, so arrive extra early, it will give you valuable time to relax, go through interview questions and calm nerves.

DURING THE INTERVIEW:

Pause and think before answering the question. When you are asked a question, don’t just answer straight away. I know it’s hard, especially when you’re nervous to just ramble on and want to answer as quickly as possible, but this can make you actually forget what the question was in the first place! Pausing before answering questions was the biggest tip I could give you. It allows you to compose yourself and shows that you are really thinking about the question.

* Talk/ give eye contact to everyone in the room. I’ve been to interviews with 7 people in the room (yes it was a Catholic school and one person was the priest and another was a nun). Make sure you give eye contact to everyone and answer questions to everyone in the room, not just the person who asked you the question.

* Always have a question at the end. They will ask you if you have any questions at the end. Make sure you do! It shows you have thought about the interview and you are interested in the school. My fail safe question was always ‘what support do you give to NQTs’.

* Be nice to the receptionist who signs you in. Head teachers are sometimes extremely close to the receptionists and will ask their opinions on the interviewees, a good impression on the receptionist will stand you in good stead.

* Let your personality shine through. No one wants a teacher who is as dull as dishwater. Make sure you are animated, enthusiastic and have lots of energy in the interview. Do not be negative about anything if you had the worst PGCE year every- do not say a bad word about it. Negativity is the worse thing to be during the interview.

* Talk positively about the school. Make sure you mention how much you like the school (even if you don’t).

* Thank the panel. At the end of the interview, make sure you shake everyone’s hands, thank them for their time and leave confidently.

Be yourself and GOOD LUCK!

Problems with the new girl already….?

I went into school for the first time today with the one of the other NQTs and I really liked her, we spoke lots without any awkward silences and it was great to have another person there. It wasn’t until I came home and were telling my mum and sister about my day that they both had the same reaction, ‘Ooooh, I’d be careful around her’, ‘I can’t stand people like that.’ etc.

Basically, there were a few things that happened today that I didn’t even think about until it was brought to my attention and now I don’t know if I’m being influenced by my family, being too relaxed about things or being a little too petty.

So the first thing was we needed laminating pouches. We are both in doing displays for our classroom and need to laminate a lot of things as we are both starting from scratch. She is in KS2 and I’m in KS1 but our classrooms are quite close. The Year 6 teacher was in so new NQT girl (let’s call her Nat) asked her for laminating pouches, I said ‘Oh I need some too please.’ The year 6 teacher came back with two brand new packs of 200 pouches and said that’s all she could get hold of until Sept. Cue Nat taking them off her and immediately stashing the 400 pouches in her desk drawer. I asked if I could have some and she handed me a few. The first thing my mum said was ‘didn’t she give you a pack of 200? You should have asked for a pack.’ I didn’t think anything of it, I got everything I wanted laminated today- but still need to do a lot more.

Next her classroom already has lots of generic displays, e.g., Birthday wall, days of the week/ months etc. My teacher has changed to another local school so took all her generic displays with her. I didn’t want to do a normal balloon or written months for my birthday wall so searched the web to do a big sun flower. The flower says Class 1x birthdays and each leave coming off the stalk is a different month and the children’s names are on lady birds which are stuck on the leaves. I really liked it because it’s original and makes a great display. After I had completed the display, Nat came into my classroom was was like ‘Oh my God- that’s fab. I’m going to do that. Write down where you go all your resources from.’ I said I couldn’t remember. So she said, ‘That’s alright, I’ll just google it.’ I reminded that she already had a birthday wall up and not to go through any more trouble, but she said it wasn’t very ‘birthday-e’. When I left she was printing off a sun flower head.

I also made a welcome sign, which she saw and said ‘Oh, I never thought to do one that jazzy. Did you make it yourself? I’ll have to do one like that.’

And lastly each class has a house point system. I spent absolutely ages making my own designs for the four houses and Sod’s Law my computer was down, so I had to print off Nat’s computer. Again, she saw my charts up on the computer and asked if I would print a set out for her. This did rattle me as I had spent so long making them, but honestly, what do you do when someone asks you that on the spot? ‘No sorry, it took me all Sunday night.’ (?!)Image

I hadn’t thought anything of all this because I was so busy today, but I’m worried she might be one of those people who will steal your ideas and pass them off as her own. I know these are only petty things and i’m actually embarrassed writing it down her as a professional teacher, but I know if you’re not too careful these things can escalate. 

So for now, I’m going to watch my back, try not to show her any displays in my classroom and wait until she’s gone to put any new displays up

The dreaded QTS tests…

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QTS tests, even the word now sends shivers down my spine. It was the one thing that kept me awake a night, the one thing that I could see as a potential threat to me obtaining my QTS. Now, for me, I may be in the minority here, but I disagree with the QTS tests. Yes, I think there should be standards that certain teachers have to meet. But for me I don’t see why an Art teacher, PE teacher and even a primary school teacher have to be able to work out if there are 375 pupils in a school and 2/5s have free school dinners, how many do not have school dinners? Write your answer as a decimal in 9 seconds in their head (?!). They are not realistic and I don’t think they really measure how intelligent you are, they measure how well you cope in timed exams.

To be honest, I am not going to lie, for me the maths tests were horrendous. Not because they were difficult, in fact they were much easier than the online practice ones. What was horrible was the absolute pressure that you are put under. I couldn’t even write, my hands were shaking. I completely froze and on the mental arithmetic, it got to question 5 and I had only answered one question.

I hate maths. Utterly despise the subject. I teach KS1 because of this reason, I scrapped a C at GCSE and that was with the help of a tutor and every single after school maths support group. It isn’t my strongest point and after high school I rejoiced that I wouldn’t have to take another maths test again- ever. That was until I started this course. Everyone know is really lucky, you take the tests before you start- which is a God send. For us, there was always the fear that we had paid 9 grand for a course that we could potentially fail if we didn’t pass the skills test.

Moving onto the Literacy skills test, I booked this one straight away and found it more difficult than the on line ones, but if you are an English speaker, you will pass first time. I had loads of time left over and it’s great that you can go back to the beginning (not the spelling part though) and re check your work. I had enough time to do this comfortably. Spellings were not too bad, you can listen to the word how many times you want. Tip learn how to spell the two different versions of the word stationary.

Going back to the maths, I worked bloody hard. Every night I came home and took a practice test, I bought the QTS numeracy skills test book, which was great and I learnt all my percentages and fractions until I knew them instantly. 1/4=0.25=25%. Also know your time tables off by heart! That is the key to passing the test. 

But to be fair, it can’t be all that bad because I, the absolute hater of maths, passed first time. If I can do it- anyone can! 

PGCE interview tips

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Before my PGCE interview, I surfed the net looking for honest, but simple tips on the interview process. I had been out of education for five years, had never had a formal interview and just did not have a clue what to expect. 

First things first, it is actually not as bad as the build up in your head. From the moment I got my PGCE interview date I was having sleepless nights, constantly worrying that I would mess up, get tongue tied or forget how to speak. I was literally shaking on the day and knew that I had to pull myself together. However, once the day was over I felt a sense of ‘is that it?’ So below I’ve written a set of bullet points where I try to cover all basis on the interview process.

  • All universities have different processes for their interviews. For mine the process lasted all day, 10am- 4pm and consisted of a formal 1:1 interview, a written essay on ‘the teacher I want to be’ and a 2min presentation on a relevant educational issue in front of eight more interviewees followed by a discussion. On paper it looked like a lot, but the secret was to break it down.
  • If asked to write an essay on the day, don’t stress. This was the part I was most worried about as it was timed, but to be honest, the universities are not looking for the next Pulitzer Prize, they just want to know that you have a good standard of written English. And to be honest, I doubt they read every single essay in full- there just isn’t the time.
  • Don’t think that you have to over power everyone in any group interviews. Let other people talk and share their ideas. No one likes a person that can’t listen to others. It doesn’t come across well.
  • Dress like you’re going for an interview. I wore a black dress, tights, and heeled court shoes with a leopard print cardigan to show off a bit of my personality. The majority of the males were in suits and it made them look very smart and professional. Denim is always a no no, so are clothes that are too tight/ short/ revealing/ loud. Really do dress to impress. Even if you feel over dressed compared to the others, in the interview the panel will remember the effort you have made and it shows how serious you are taking the interview process.
  • Be nice to the other interviewees. Yes, it is competitive but that doesn’t mean you should see everyone as a threat. Four people in my interview panel ended up on my course in my class. There was no awkwardness and set the year off nicely as we had been so supportive to each other during the interview.
  • Read up on education before your interview. Get the TES supplement from WHSmith, download The Guardian app, which has a great education section. You need to know all the governmental proposals as you will more than likely be asked about how you think it will affect your career.
  • Learn all the educational terms; EAL, IEP, SEN, etc. I know it sounds obvious to some of us, but a friend who recently applied for the course asked me what she should do a presentation on. When I suggested the issue of EAL learners she asked what that was (?!). Not nothing about English as an additional language learners would have been a definite fail at the interview process.
  • Ask personal questions during interview. When I was having my 1:1 interview I was asked ‘where do you stand on mixed ability groupings?’ after I had given my answer, I asked the interviewers what their personal opinion was. They were genuinely taken aback but were then really excited to give their own opinion. They were bantering between each other and my interview over ran because they were enjoying the discussion.
  • Don’t let nerves mess you up. It doesn’t matter if you fluff over your words or if you cannot answer a question. Be honest. You are not a teacher yet, you are training to be one and will learn all the answers on the course. It is better to explain that, than stumble along with an answer that doesn’t make sense.
  • Try and do your QTS tests before the interview. It will stand you in good stead. The uni would much prefer to take someone who is guaranteed to start the course than take someone who hasn’t passed the test and there is a risk that they may not do before the start of the course.
  • Lastly, try and enjoy the day. You will learn so much from other people at the interview process and remember that even if you get rejected, it doesn’t mean a definite no. Wait until July and ring the uni and ask if anyone has dropped out and if you can go on the waiting list. A girl on my course was rejected, but rang the uni once the course had started and managed to get a place as someone had dropped out.