My NQT life: A worm, new words and cracking the whip

Steve Midgeley has worked abroad as a teacher for years, so his NQT training should be easy, right? Not quite...

Nqt wellbeing worm

"What you say, Da?" My infant daughter stirs from her backseat reverie.

"I said, that's the school where Daddy is going to teach," I repeat, pointing. "Nice, isn't it?" 

Showing off to a child. It's the weekend before I start my PGCE year and we're driving past the local school where most of my training will take place.

"Ooh, it's nice!" she coos. 

She's enthusiastic about everything, even things she doesn't fully understand. She's two. It's why I love children. 

I’m coming into this training with three years' experience in a nearby private nursery and six years of teaching English to all ages in various parts of Asia, so I feel equipped and more than ready to begin this final formal stage on my path to becoming a qualified teacher. 

This Monday will be my first training session, alongside the 10 other trainees I will share the experience with. I'm hugely looking forward to it. 

I remind myself that have been teaching for most of my adult life (schools in China do not require formal qualifications of their native English teachers), I love nurturing minds, I love children, I have an array of experience, techniques and tricks at hand with which to captivate a roomful of bright and eager brains. I am ready. Surely.

Four weeks later...

My head is buzzing. Terms such as “phoneme” and “split digraphs” whizz around my brain. I actually startle myself awake in the middle of the night thinking of them. 

The training sessions so far have been...varied; from fun, informal tasters of what would constitute a good art or music class to languorous lectures that may as well have been punctuated by cracks on a desk with a riding crop. 

The national curriculum has practically been shoved down our throats. 

"Get yourself a copy of this," we’re told by trainers who slap the hefty volume across one palm. "It is the teachers' Bible."  

It is not exactly light reading.

We have been drilled on the importance of grammar, maths, science, phonics, early years provision. Was I looking forward to this? I was. Am I enjoying it? I still am.

Aside from the occasionally dry, academic training sessions, the vast majority have been useful and well delivered, with plenty of practical advice and shared experience from teachers who clearly love their jobs and are ready to help us with whatever we need. 

Better together

Our group has started to bond, through our increased sweating, gulping and collar-tugging. One thing that has become apparent over the first few weeks of the course is that support will be useful.

Regular venting on our WhatsApp group often starts with something like, “I hope I'm not being thick, but…” allowing the rest of us a feeling of relief: if indeed we are being thick, then at least we're not being thick alone.

I feel lucky to be sharing this experience with such intelligent, passionate individuals. I'm glad that we have each other to fall back on when we feel that we're being bashed around the head with sacks full of terminology, a heavy-duty curriculum and enough phonics to, as one of us put it, “suck the fun out of learning”.

Excitingly, we have also begun the first part of our on-the-job training, and spent a good deal of the last couple of weeks in our respective classrooms, getting to know our first cohort of children.

Once the bell goes and they come skipping through the doors, the purpose of it all becomes clear and the coming year feels like it will slip by in an instant.

There are smiles and questions and fascination. The limitless nature of young minds is constantly on display. One girl ran up to me in the playground, for example, screaming with excitement about a worm she'd dug up. 

As an adult, I wish I could remember the joy and wonder found in such simplicity. But as a teacher, I get to revisit it. I’m starting to understand why people say this is the best job in the world. And we haven't really even begun.

Stevie Midgley is a trainee teacher with the Ilkley All Saints' Teacher Training Partnership in Yorkshire. He has previously taught in Thailand and worked in a pre-school setting in England

For World Teachers' Day 2019, Tes is having a new teacher takeover – every piece published on our website on 5 October will be by a new or early career teacher. Find the rest of the articles at our World Teachers' Day hub

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