An A to Z for the NQT

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
After nearly a year of teaching, Fay Maguire has a lexicon of advice for newcomers.

When I started my first teaching post in September, I found it useful to keep a diary of my experiences - events and occurrences with which others joining the profession might identify . . .

A is for Am I doing it right? Teaching practice was a nightmare due to the stress of constant observation and assessments. Doing a real teaching job turned out to be the opposite, but with such a lack of supervision you do sometimes wonder if you are on the right track.

B is for Budget. School is run according to budget restraints rather than the true educational needs of the child - this isn't the school's fault, but a basic lack in government thinking. This can be really depressing.

C is for Cleaners. It never ceases to amaze me how a filthy school at 3.30pm is transformed into a shining example of a job well done within a couple of hours.

D is for Dinner ladies. At first I found dinner ladies quite scary: they could certainly shout a lot louder than me. They put up with a lot from the children in their care and should be fully supported by the school.

E is for Extra-curricular activity. From the start, you will be expected to help at discos, fund raising events, trips, shows and the like - as well as organising your own activities. It's all experience.

F is for that Friday feeling. There is an altogether different atmosphere in school as teachers start to wind down a bit and the head is heard whistling.

G is for Glitter. A no-no. My room ended up an inch deep in the stuff when I made the fatal error of allowing it to be used to make Christmas cards.

H is for Holidays. Many people think teachers spend their holidays soaking up the sun or skiing somewhere. I have so far found it's a time for catching up, rather than a break.

I is for Instant hatred. Just as young people are capable of making and breaking friendships in an instant, so they are apparently able just as quickly to decide you are worthy only of the most supreme contempt. The trick is not to take it personally.

J is for Joy. I have found one of the most satisfying things about teaching is the freedom one has to try out new things, learn from your mistakes and feeling great when you do it better the next time round.

K is for Keep a sense of humour. It's never worth getting that upset.

L is for Lack of relevance. Possibly my teacher training course was alone in providing me with little useful preparation for the real thing, but I think not. Roll on reforms.

M is for Mentor. I have valued the guidance and support my mentor has provided and I think the most important piece of advice he has given is listed under K.

N is for No day is the same. This is one of the things I most enjoy about teaching.

O is for OFSTED - enough said. Except that the stress and misery the system creates does more harm than good.

P is for Parents. I have met some wonderful parents who seem to have no obvious links with the little horrors they have produced and some truly awful parents who have been very lucky to have created such talented and well-adjusted children.

Q is for Que ser , ser . It's easy to get over stressed in this job and teachers often don't seem to take their personal well-being seriously enough.

R is for Resources. I was lucky that the last incumbent left a great variety of resources, filed and ready to use. An organised system helped me find my feet. I should try to continue that way.

S is for Some classes will, some won't. It takes a while to get used to the fact that a task will work beautifully with one Year 8 class, for example, then fail miserably with the next group in the same year.

T is for Trips. Some usually horrendous children become almost human out of the school environment.

U is for Undivided attention. I felt physically sick before doing my first assembly, and had nightmares about everyone standing up and walking out as I was speaking. But it didn't happen and in the end I enjoyed having the whole school listening to my words of wisdom!

V is for Variety. Even the most conscientious child had a low boredom threshold, which I have found to be the biggest reason for class disruption. Consequently every lesson has to be thoroughly planned.

W is for World in a classroom. You'll find shirkers and triers, pleasant liars, the sexually advanced, the permanently entranced, the lazy, the hazy, the slightly crazy, the extremely bright, the intellectually light . . . every class is its own microcosm of society.

X is for X-ray vision. You have to have eyes attached to just about every part of your anatomy to anticipate and deal with classroom antics.

Y is for You never stop learning. Reading back my diary entries shows me how much I have learned - and how much I have still to learn.

Z is for Zizz. Getting enough sleep becomes important and rarely happens. But life could be worse.

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