I began my teacher training with a secure future in mind. I couldn’t help but picture myself being paid to inspire a love of literature in some of our younger generations. I'm the same as many graduates attracted to the profession because of the promise that there are always jobs in education.
Sadly, that hasn't been my experience. My first interview was in February. In my mind, it went terribly and that hit my confidence hard. I withdrew my application in the car as I travelled home. I reasoned that it was a little too early in my training and that there would be other opportunities. But Easter came and went, followed by the half term. Vacancies were sparse and competition was tough. In June, I qualified as an unemployed NQT.
The day that I received my QTS certificate, I cried. I felt like a failure, not a success. Most of my cohort had found jobs and I had been left behind. They were excited about their future; I was depressed and frustrated.
I've since found that I'm far from alone. At the time of the NQT Annual Survey 2017, commissioned by the Department for Education, around 15 per cent of NQTs who qualified that year were not working in a teaching role in September 2018. This had increased from 10 per cent the year before. This includes those who chose a different direction, yes, but it also sheds some light on those who, like me, were dreaming of a classroom and instead have found themselves in a benefits office with no idea what to do next.
But not being in a teaching role yet hasn't meant that my development has had to stop. Here are five ways in which I've kept up – and improved – my teaching practice. I hope it can help others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Put a pin in your duvet days
Sometimes, in an upsetting situation, you'll want to take time to hide away from the world. But while you're under your duvet, you can spend time creating multiple classroom display Pinterest boards to help inspire you. And you shouldn't forget to celebrate everything that you achieved last year. Teacher training is one of the most difficult things you will ever do, and you did it. That's worth remembering.
Relax and recharge
Regardless of which route you took, there is one thing that is common to all of them: you will have been busy. You can now take a step back and celebrate your success by doing the things that you enjoy but haven’t had time for. Read the books that have gathered dust, take out your old fishing rod and most importantly, relax.
Build your subject knowledge
Breathe in some dust at a museum; soak in the culture at a theatre, take to the beach and play with rocks. These practical experiences will be invaluable when you are standing in front of a class.
Did you struggle with a particular aspect of pedagogy during your training? There are conferences and courses for everything in education – and many of them are free. Look on your union’s website or give them a call. Your local branch may also cover some expenses you incur, including travel and overnight stays where required.
Exam boards occasionally run training sessions or examiner hubs, where you can expand your knowledge of their curriculum and network with other educators.
Finally, you could sign up with agencies for supply and take advantage of the free CPD that most offer. This can include anything from safeguarding training and interview techniques to team teach and behaviour management courses.
Many schools will welcome volunteers to help with activities, trips and a whole plethora of extracurricular clubs. In return, you will gain valuable classroom experience. It’s win-win.
Whatever you decide to do, one thing is a must: frame that QTS certificate and look at it with pride. You’re a teacher – you did it! The rest is just a job.
Tracy Huntley is a secondary English teacher in East Yorkshire. She tweets @MrsH_edu
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