A reflection on my NQT year…

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There are loads of blog posts out at the moment with teachers giving hints and tips on what they think NQTs should be doing in their first year.  Although this is, in some ways, useful it  is easy for people that have experienced this nerve – racking year to now say what they think new teachers should be doing. In this blog I’m going to reflect on my own year and a couple of things I have learnt in that time…

I started off my NQT year fairly new to Twitter. I found Twitter useful as it gave me ideas for things that I could do in my own classroom and got me thinking differently about aspects of education. However, on reflection, it is easy to be sucked into the world of Twitter.  I like to follow people who have similiar views to my own. Just like any profession,  teaching leads to people having debates and differing points of view. This can be beneficial and it has certainly helped me to develop my own practice, as I have read up on ideas and challenged views that I feel don’t benefit pupils. I now feel I  have more of a grasp on these differing views than I had before. However as an NQT,  getting ready to start in August 2016, ‘Edutwitter’ was pretty intimidating to me. Everyone seemed to know what they were talking about and I felt a bit out of my depth.  I would often read the debates people were having and feel like I knew nothing about education and this used to really worry me. However although a lot of the debates are useful for thinking and challenging, it is important to remember that much of what is said on Twitter stays on Twitter. The ‘trad’ and ‘prog’ debate, for me, is completely ridiculous as our practice  should always be adapted to suit the children in our classroom. The individuals. The humans. There is no ‘one way’ and I think this is often lost in the heat of some debates…

This leads me to my next point of reflection and that is building relationships with pupils. I started the year with a very ‘assertive discipline’ approach. I had high expectations for pupils and I quickly established boundaries.  Although this worked well to an extent I felt that something was missing. I didn’t have a connection with any of my classes. I was enjoying what I was  doing,  but the persona that I was portraying was stopping me from building relationships with the pupils in my classes.

August and September were a blur for me. I wasn’t seeing the pupils in my classes as individuals but was instead treating them as a class. This did work, to an extent,  as I was warm and approachable whilst still having my expectations and boundaries in place. However, there was always a pupil who did not respond well to this approach. When they did misbehave or not follow instructions I would go through the procedures but it often ended up with the pupil being sent out of the room. For me, personally, I viewed this as a failure on my part. I felt that I wasn’t doing everything that I could possibly do for that pupil. I felt that I was missing something. After observing some teachers and doing some reading of my own I realised that what I was missing was the relationship with the pupil.

In a way I knew a lot about the pupil in question. I knew that they had a chaotic home life and would often leave a class or be sent out. However what I didn’t know was anything about them as a human. I hadn’t taken the time to really get to know what they liked and disliked or even just to have a conversation with them at the start of class. I quickly learnt that this was where I was going wrong.

Little things started to make a big difference. Rather than being on the defence  as soon as they entered the class I would smile and ask them about something they had told me yesterday – even if that was just checking to see how they got on with their science experiment. I would take notice of things they were doing that wouldn’t be a big deal for most pupils but for them, to notice their positive actions, was a big deal. I soon realised that this pupil, who thought had no interest in school or learning,  was more at home in school than they were anywhere else. From changing my own actions,  my relationship with this pupil completely changed for the better.  Having them in class was a pleasure and I soon realised they had a sense of humour and enjoyed aspects of the course.

Although I agree that boundaries and expectations are important, seeing children as the humans they are is even more important. We don’t all have the same home life and just like adults can be impacted by daily obstacles, so can children. I have learnt that having a calm conversation can make all the difference; and this is backed up by  body language and tone of voice.

I have learnt a lot over the past year and I know I will keep learning as the years go on. For me, the most important lesson was taking the time to get to know the pupils. School is often the place where they feel the most safe and have the most trust.  Taking the time to build relationships not only made me feel like a better teacher but it also made me enjoy my job even more.

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