'I lost my teaching mojo during my first half-term as an NQT. Now it's time to get it back'

TES Opinion

Rebecca Nobes, an NQT secondary MFL teacher and blogger at bex-trex2teaching.blogspot.co.uk, writes:

Over the last week or so, I have taken some time to reflect on how I'm feeling about teaching and where I see myself in the future. I'll be honest, if I had been asked over the last few weeks whether I loved my job, I'd have said no. If you'd have asked me whether I was enjoying it, I'd have said no. And if you'd have asked me whether I saw myself staying in teaching past my NQT year, I'd have almost certainly said no. I'd lost my teaching mojo; I needed a kickstart and another injection of enthusiasm. Like many NQTs, I have been struggling my way through the last two weeks of a long half-term and I wasn't able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My worry was never that I couldn't do it all, but more that I didn't have the motivation to want to do it. I came into teaching because it was something I wanted to try, something that I thought I might enjoy – not because it was all I'd ever wanted to do. I'd lost my enthusiasm for teaching and all I was seeing were the piles of marking, the report data to be entered, the detention slips to fill out – both in paper form and online – and the emails to field about various members of my form group.

As an NQT, it's very easy to get bogged down in everything that is expected of you and to not be able to see past it. I have been setting myself time limits in the evening and haven't allowed myself to work all weekend because I know that working myself into the ground isn't the way to go. Maybe it's because of this that I haven't been able to feel on top of things, but even if I worked all the hours possible, I'd still not be on top and, added to that, I'd feel awful. I can see how NQTs and more experienced teachers can run themselves into the ground with work, especially if teaching is all you can ever see yourself doing. You want to feel like you're doing a good job, that you're achieving something and succeeding. I'm gradually coming to the realisation that, as a teacher, that's not necessarily something I'm going to feel. There isn't the feeling that I can work all evening but have something to show for it; the hours of work I put in are just to get from day to day and maybe that's something I'll have to accept.

For me, the major problem with the workload is that I don't have time to plan the sorts of lessons that I can be proud of. I find most of the time that I am just getting by with planning lessons that are just OK so that I can get it all done. This has a knock-on effect; I don't enjoy teaching those lessons as much the ones where I had planned something a little different, something with a variety of activities and something that the kids enjoyed more. My classroom gives away the fact that I like to use lots of different resources and have things going on – my walls are covered with colourful displays and I like to experiment with different resources. Walking down the kids’ party aisle or going to a pound shop can be particularly dangerous for my wallet. Any trace of these things had disappeared from my lessons of late and I was resorting to textbook exercises and the like. This isn't the teacher I saw myself being, and – for my sake, as much as the students I teach – I am not willing to let this happen.

I recognise that Year 8 and 9 are my stumbling block and I need to find ways of enjoying these lessons more – this will probably start with being tougher on behaviour. I've been given support with one particular class, but I know I have a way to go with this. Some of this is having new behaviour policies to get my head round and the accompanying paperwork, which does nothing to help the situation. If anything, it makes setting detentions or removing students from class more of a hindrance than a help at times. In contrast to this, I know how much I enjoy teaching Year 7 and Years 10-13. I know that these are the lessons where I can really experiment with activities and that give me something to stick my teeth into.

During this half-term break, as well as resting, I am going to use the opportunity to have a real think about what is coming up in this next half-term and how I am going to balance the mediocre lessons with the ones that I can be more proud of.

So excuse me while I open my planner, spread my schemes of work across the desk and leaf through a textbook: I think it's time to get my teaching mojo back.

This blog post has been adapted, with permission, from an original post on Rebecca's blog.

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