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Why this isn’t the worst year to be an NQT

The coronavirus pandemic meant that many NQT years were cut short, says Clarry Simpson, but the pause brought unexpected opportunities

Clarry Simpson

When does a child become an adult?

A simple Google search of the term "NQT" will show you how difficult the year can be. 

Countless articles on "how to survive your NQT year" make it sound more like an endurance test, than professional development.

I am currently in my NQT year, and, before lockdown, I had let myself develop an unhealthy work-life balance. I would spend hours at work prepping lessons and keeping on top of admin and my CPD. 

Then everything changed. We had just two days to say goodbye to students. I cried.

On top of everything else that was happening in the world, I was also sad for myself. I was doing well in my assessments and was on track to pass my NQT with flying colours.

This is the worst year to be a newly qualified teacher, I told myself. I was wrong.

Lockdown has been difficult for everyone, and I recognise that I am in the fortunate position of not having children or caring responsibilities. I don't have an underlying health condition to worry about. I have an outdoor space, a desk, good internet and a steady wage. 

This distance from school has meant that the rushing that characterised the start of my NQT year had to stop.

Instead, I have used this time to have the best NQT year possible. Here's how. 

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1. Working on the 'why' and 'how' of teaching

Online CPD has given me the opportunity to improve and reflect on my teaching practice.

I have been stunned by the amazing lectures on the ResearchEd YouTube channel, with experts such as Jo Facer and Oliver Caviglioli giving advice and taking questions from the thousands of teachers who tune in.

Future Learn courses – which focus on topics from subject knowledge to pastoral work – have given me the opportunity to learn from masters from top universities.

Seneca Learning has free CPD courses for teachers, and teach meets have given me the opportunity to learn more about the science of learning.

I have audited existing lessons and created new lessons that I now know will give my students the right balance of success and challenge rooted in up-to-date pedagogical research.

And the CPD related to my subject specialism, geography, has been first rate. The first-ever Geographical Association E-Conference gave me a fantastic opportunity to connect with colleagues, pick up excellent teaching resources and consider aspects of the subject that I hadn’t before.

The Royal Geographical Society teach meets and online lectures have also been brilliant in bringing new teachers together, strengthening the collaborative ethos that is so vital for teachers at the moment.

2. Preparing my subject knowledge for September

Previously, with a commute to factor in, I would usually arrive home at 7pm and collapse on the sofa for a few hours before dragging myself off to bed. This prevented me from reading anything academic about my subject.

Now that the world has been put on pause, I have picked up more books, made notes of pages I will use in my lessons, and built up subject knowledge in those areas.

The online learning resources on Seneca Learning are exceptional. Completing the A-level task has not only broadened my subject knowledge but also given me plenty of tasks to complete with my students. 

3. Building relationships

I had major concerns about what impact the lockdown would have on my students' emotional wellbeing.

But it has given me a chance to build my relationships with them. I am flooded with updates from them. I have a regularly weekly chat with my tutees and have sporadically called up my GCSE and key stage 3 students to check in. We don’t talk about school, but the brilliant things they have been doing. Our relationships are stronger and I am learning more and more about them as time goes on. 

And when the time comes that we are all together again, we will chat not just about homework, but the many skills they have developed over lockdown.

I'm proud to be part of a community that thrives on supporting and sharing best practice. This is the best year to be an NQT.

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Clarry Simpson

Clarry Simpson is a geography teacher at Brinsworth Academy in Rotherham

Find me on Twitter @clarry_s3

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