New teachers: how was your first half term in the job?

For new teachers, that crucial first half term in the job is over. Time now to reflect on what went well and what didn't, says Colin Harris

Teacher stands by blackboard, with thought bubble emerging from her head

For thousands of new teachers across the country, that crucial first half term is over. Those feelings of anticipation, excitement and dread are now gone – replaced by the thought of their first impending Christmas holiday. And of teaching for the next 40 years. 

Lots to think about: what went well, what didn't, what still needs work. These are thoughts that will have dominated that first half term.

My own first half term may have been centuries ago, but I do still remember all the emotions that came with it. Did the children like me? What about the staff? Do I really have to do this every day? 

My first half term was dominated by the child who fell into the school pond headfirst when I took the class pond dipping. I still remember vividly the headteacher’s face, as I appeared with a child dripping wet from top to bottom. 

But I survived, and I learned quickly after that. 

Reflecting and reviewing

Talking to an NQT recently, I asked her to reflect and review the good and bad bits of the last few weeks. I'm sure her experiences will be echoed across the country. 

So, what went well? The children have been fantastic, she said. And, as a qualified teacher, rather than a trainee, she is able to build relationships that last for a few more weeks.

Parents’ evenings were a real buzz, as well as being an eye-opener. Parents can be very similar to their child, and this often explains so much. University training did little to prepare for these evenings, she said. But, though daunting, they were also useful.

Having her own classroom to set up – a physical space to reflect her own teaching – has been positive and exciting.

Minor disasters lurking around the corner

And what hasn’t gone so well? 

She said that she did struggle to get to grips with all the routines and approaches that everyone other than her seemed to know about. This is certainly something university cannot prepare you for.

Planning was also a nightmare. Planning and preparing for children you know very little about can be both time consuming and difficult.

Lesson observations also took on a whole new meaning, especially when her mentor would take over the lesson halfway through, without explaining why.

The number of meetings she was expected to turn up to was a shock, she said – especially as some seemed to have no relevance either to her or to her pupils.

And, of course – as I discovered on that pond dipping trip – there is always a minor disaster lurking around the corner. This is teaching, after all. 

For my NQT, it was when she decided to cook tortillas in the classroom to support her topic. Setting off the school fire alarm and evacuating the whole school was certainly not on the prepared planning sheet. 

But we all have our first-term disasters. What were yours? 

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

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