Feeling like a failure?

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Don't despair - it's just a phase you're bound to go through

After half a term, you might feel like the worst teacher in the world. Maybe you're fantasising about handing in your notice and calling it a day.


November is the hardest time for new teachers - so if you've been feeling disheartened, rest assured that you're not alone. Learning to teach is a gradual process that is bound to be marked by disasters and successes - it can never be done perfectly - and the more you know about it, the more you realise there is to know. That's what makes being a teacher a great job, though sometimes a depressing one.

If you're following your half-termly review of progress you should be clear about how your induction tutor thinks you're doing. Experienced teachers can be much more objective about your teaching than you, so take note of what your induction tutor says. Your tutor will have seen lots of NQTs, will know the normal run of things and be able to help you to sort out the most pressing issues.


Planning lessons often worries teachers when they are trying to fit in with the systems in a new school. Some worry that they're doing too little, others that they are being asked to do too much.

There is no easy solution to this problem, though there are a few fundamental principles you should bear in mind. Your planning shouldn't be judged by what's written on paper, but rather on the quality of learning that happens as a result.

You should not have to start with a blank sheet. Schemes of work should be in place in your school, and you should have access to last year's plans.

And you should not be expected to do more planning than experienced teachers because you're in your induction year - indeed, that is listed as an "unreasonable demand" in the Department for Education and Skills'

induction circular.

Many problems are rooted in poor planning. For instance, a lesson I observed recently had the learning objective, "To measure objects using centimetres." I envisaged the pupils measuring pencils, rubbers, books and so on, but in fact they only measured lines in their textbooks - and that is a lot easier than measuring real objects, especially as the lines did not require measurement of fractions of centimetres.

It wasn't a bad lesson - most children learned something and got better at measuring. But it wasn't a good lesson. It lacked challenge and some pupils were bored. Crucially, no one met the learning intention as pupils did not have a chance to measure objects. Either the objective or the activity should have been changed. The main problem was in the planning. By and large it is true that the better you plan, the better your lesson will go.


Many schools are not doing induction properly. Indeed, I am hearing of people who are not getting their 10 per cent reduced timetable and having "unreasonable demands" made on them. All teachers have rights as well as responsibilities, so here are the rules about what schools in England and Wales are required by law to give you:

* A 10 per cent lighter timetable than other class teachers in the school.

* A job that does not make unreasonable demands.

* Regular meetings with a school induction tutor.

* Objectives to help you meet the standards for qualified teacher status and induction following the transition point 2 discussion in the career entry and development profile.

* An individualised programme of support, monitoring and assessment.

* At least one observation of teaching each half-term with written feedback.

* Half-termly reviews of progress.

* An assessment meeting and report at the end of each term.

* Procedures to air grievances at school and local education authority levels.

Your headteacher, induction tutor and your "appropriate body" at the LEA have clear responsibilities. These are about making sure you have all the provision listed above, but the letter of the law is in the induction regulations. (See www.teachernet.gov.ukprofessionaldevelopmentnqtinductionguidance and the Teacher Training Agency booklets in the induction section at www.tta.gov.uk

Make sure you are fulfilling your responsibilities. Are you taking an active role in your induction, actively looking for help and making the most of all your professional development opportunities? Are you raising issues about any problems in your induction support, monitoring and assessment - first with your induction tutor, then the head, then with your local authority, and then the TTA? And if you are doing that, are you keeping dated records of the process?

* "What is all this paperwork that people are doing and trying to minimise? All I have to do are my daily lesson plans and assessments but that only takes a few minutes each day."


"All NQTs in my school have been asked to provide detailed lesson plans for every single lesson."

Two contributors to the TES online staffroom

* "I have 11 different teaching rooms. I have to carry books, textbooks, lesson plans and now even an overhead projector from one part of the school to the other. Some insensitive teachers always moan if I don't leave their room immaculate."

TES78, a secondary NQT

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