Friday, 5 December 2014

Help me, Twitter!

How do I help this child? (Year 5, came to me as a level 1c writer.)

This is his work, heavily assisted by an adult, in September this year:

Obviously all words were dictated to and spelt for him. That is half an hour's worth of work.

This is a piece of completely independent work he did today.

Yes, the spelling is awful (I have a suspicion he may be dyslexic, but I'm not expert). But he can read his own writing (which he couldn't in September). His stamina is also improving, and is starting to understand paragraphs. His handwriting has improved massively. He isn't always consistent with capital letters but does use them when he is reminded (I wanted this to be independent though so I left him to it).

For me, there is clear progression here. But I'm really struggling to be able to say he's working towards a 1b:

Do you think he's far off? What can I do to help him? I've tried so many things. Maybe I'm just being hard on myself because he clearly has improved since September. He is enjoying writing now, too, which he didn't before.

Any ideas??

(P.S. I do know it's not all about levels. I hate data. But you know what it's like...)

Find me on Twitter @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Can I sleep for a week yet?


I've only had two inset days (albeit days lasting until 6.30pm) and one teaching day but I feel exhausted.

I couldn't sleep last night. I was so nervous today, but when I asked myself, "Why exactly are you nervous?", I couldn't answer! However, it's true what they (the oh-so-elusive "they"!) say - the nerves completely fell away as soon as the kids walked in. They are a lovely bunch, and I know I've been very lucky with this - some of my fellow Tweeting NQTs are having quite the opposite experience!

It surprised me how - and I know this won't last for long - well behaved they were. Putting everything down as soon as I asked, working in silence even though I didn't ask ("you can talk amongst yourself, guys!" *tumbleweed...*) and being extremely polite. I think it's because they still need to gel as a class (the classes change every year) and get used to me, so I'm prepared to be up against a bit more next week.

Also, my throat HURTS. I talked non-stop all morning and afternoon. Reading our first class story really strained my voice. I know I need to preserve it, we had vocal training at uni too (who has the time for bloody voice exercises?!), but apparently I had just so much to say! I forgot to bring any water with me; luckily my LOVELY mentor and fellow 5/6 teacher gave me (good god I love her) her water bottle to keep for the day. What would I do without people like that? God send, I tell you.

Another thing that made me smile - my head popped in a few times today, but he came to chat with me after school about how my day went and was almost more excited for me than I was for myself that I finally had my own class! He also passed on some lovely feedback my TA gave him about me when he bumped into her that morning - that really gave me a boost.

I'm panicking about tomorrow now. It's the first time we split for maths and literacy (that's about another 40 new names) and I have THREE additional adults in for maths! Agghhhhhh pressure!

Sorry this blog post has been a bit of a verbal-diarrhoea jobby. I see these more like diary entries that I can look back on and cringe when I'm much more experienced ;)

Find me on Twitter @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

T minus 7 days...

D-day is looming...

I jest, I jest, but that's what it feels like!

I was going to write a post on preparing your classroom over summer, but Millie (@MissDtheNQT on Twitter) has done a stellar job of that already on her blog - go and check it out here.

So, instead, I'd like to write a list of acknowledgements - I have had a LOT of help this summer in setting up my classroom and helping me mentally prepare for the term ahead, and I would like to mention them here:

Twinkl, oh Twinkl, where would primary school display boards be without you? I have taken our relationship one step further by upgrading to Platinum, and I haven't regretted it since.

My laminator
You may take an unearthly amount of time to warm up (come on green light, hurry up, where are you?), but I'll put that down to your grand cost of about £15 - nobody likes to be cheap. You have laminated hundreds of sheets, sometimes two at once when I'm not concentrating, and not let me down once. We'll forget about that time you swallowed up my sheet of Twinkl synonyms for the word 'sad' and spat it out all wrinkled and ruined - everyone makes mistakes.

My arms
You know I'm lazy. You know I refuse to do more than one trip from the car, even when I have 16 bags, 3 boxes and a tower of drawers to carry in. But you summoned the strength from somewhere, and have endured the weight of those 8 bags on each arm, full of school supplies, long enough to make it into my classroom. On more than one occasion, as well. Thank you.

And on a serious note...

To all the NQTs with whom I've had a conversation and have put my mind a little more at ease - thank you. To all the experienced teachers who've convinced me (even if they're lying for my own sake!) they feel just as nervous and anxious at the end of every summer and it's not weird to be consumed with thoughts of school - thank you.
To Katie Hopkins, and fellow teacher-bashers (especially omnipresent throughout the summer)... well, if teaching is such an easy job, why don't you do it? Your ignorance has continued to entertain me throughout my long and stress-free holiday ;)

My mum
A fellow teacher with many years of experience - thank you for all your original ideas for my classroom displays and organisation, thank you for your continued moral support and  encouragement (MUM I CAN'T DOOOOOOO THIS!!!), and thank you for cutting out hundreds of laminated letters and backing display boards despite not having done so for 25+ years!

The countdown begins! Any tips on how to clear my mind of anything school-related are GREATLY welcomed...

Find me on Twitter @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Friday, 20 June 2014

"Please just give me a job!" Part 2: The application form

So many things can go wrong at this stage - I have so many friends who I know are brilliant teachers, but they didn't get shortlisted for interview because their application forms didn't meet the mark. I feel like I have a lot of advice to offer from 1. personal experience (albeit only a little) and 2. the countless years' of experience from friends and relatives who are teachers, deputies, heads and governors themselves. I applied to six schools and was shortlisted every time, so I feel my application technique (if there is such a thing) is considerably strong, thanks to these tips!

*** Four things to remember when writing an application form ***
(Did those asterisks jazz it up as appropriately as I had intended?)

1. Change the structure of your personal statement accordingly
Once you've spent the arduous hours planning and writing your personal statement, it seems like an ordeal to rearrange it for each school to which you apply - but I promise it is worth it. Not all job adverts do, but most come with either a job or person specification, or both. If you write your personal statement to match each criterion in the order it is listed, it makes it much easier for the school to compare you against their specification; they will also know you have gone to the effort to look it up and demonstrate how you fit their school specifically.

For example, the specification may be under different headings, such as 'Qualifications', 'Experience', 'Personal Qualities' etc. You could, therefore, arrange your personal statement under each of these headings too. 

Each heading will have more specific criteria, such as 'The candidate should have recent and relevant knowledge of the new curriculum', or, 'The candidate should be able to work both independently and as part of a team'. As each specification is laid out, make sure each of your statements correlate to it: 'I have recent and relevant knowledge of the new curriculum - in my most recent teaching practice, I taught the Stone Age to my Year 3 class as part of...' or, 'I am an independent worker; I am self-motivated and am always challenging myself. However, I also work well in a team. I have recently worked with colleagues to coordinate a trip to...' etc.

2. Talk about your personal experience - relate everything back to something
I'm sure I could have used less words to communicate what I mean here. But I touched on it above - don't just say 'I work well in a team'; write about a specific situation which demonstrates your skills of collaboration and cooperation. Sometimes, especially as an NQT, it is almost impossible to back up some points; for example, communication with parents, or long-term assssment. In this case, write about any relevant experiences you've had (outside school, perhaps?) and describe your willingness to learn more in that area.

3. Personalise your statement
If you don't mention the school name at ALL, they will almost definitely assume it's a standard statement that you've sent to every school to which you've applied. This may be true, but don't make it so obvious! Something as simple as beginning or ending your statement with 'I'd love to work at XXXXX School because' will already make you stand out. Go the extra mile by including something to show you've done your research. 'Personally, I particular agree with your school value [list specific school value] because I believe [explain why that particular value/rule is important to you.' Schools really do appreciate the extra effort. 

4. Proof read, proof read, PROOF READ
I can't stress this point enough. I've heard of heads who throw application forms away as soon as they spot a spelling or grammar mistake - why would you want someone teaching your children who can't write to a high standard themselves? Get at LEAST two other people to look it over. If you're an NQT, somebody at uni should look at it for you. Also, read it out loud to someone, or get someone to read it to you - it's often easier to hear if flows well this way.

Here are some tips from other people:

It does feel weird bigging yourself up - NOBODY likes doing it (it's not a particularly British thing to do!) - but it is important to show yourself off. Find the right balance between "I'm willing to work hard, you don't want to miss out on me" and "I'm so awesome even if you don't pick me I'll get a job elsewhere so I don't really care".

Good luck!

View "Please just give me a job!" Part 1: Choosing the right school here:

Find me on Twitter at @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Making mistakes

Of these, I have made many. I thought I had it all sorted within the first few days - where the children were meant to be and when, where I was meant to be and when, all the different codes (car park, school entrance, photocopier, computer log in), where everything was... etc. Little did I know, my brain was so full of all those things that some of it was falling out.

Last week, I forgot to collect the children in from break - I was so busy faffing around preparing for the next lesson, 15 minutes felt like 15 seconds. Five minutes after I was meant to collect them, one of the Year 6s ran in: "Miss, you forgot about us!" A number of expletives nearly passed my lips.

My first day back after half term, and I was told we had class photos throughout the morning, therefore disturbing lessons. The assembly was also cancelled, so I had an unexpectedly large amount of time with my class for which I hadn't planned anything. The result? Reading our class book for THIRTY MINUTES. My poor throat was not pleased. Boy, do I hate the sound of my own voice.

I can't tell you the number of times I have been into my colleagues' classrooms to 1. admit to a mistake I have made, 2. apologise for it and 3. ask them how to rectify it; whether it be not noticing that one child has managed to last a whole lesson without doing ANY work - how did I miss that?! (see Exhibit A in 'The dreaded phone call' blog post) or telling off a child for something I later found out they hadn't done - oops?

I'm trying to tell myself it's a learning curve - with every mistake I make, I learn from it and won't make it again. But isn't it unfair on these children that I am making my mistakes on them? As a colleague said - the children make mistakes every day. Why can't we?

Find me on Twitter @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Friday, 30 May 2014

"Please just give me a job!" Part 1: Choosing the right school

Job hunting was a big deal for me; I get extremely anxious and put a lot of pressure on myself. I started looking for jobs for September in January - that may seem early but I wanted to 'get it out of the way' (so to speak) so I could concentrate on my university work. (Some of my friends are still finding jobs now, though (May) - remember a school only requires half a term's notice so jobs could be available for September right up until June!) Being part of a university course of around 40 people also looking for jobs turned into what seemed like a competition - the more "MISS XXX GOT A JOB!" statuses that went up on Facebook, the more pressure I felt to get one myself. However, I knew this wasn't a process to be rushed - I thought it important to find the right school for me.

I learnt (or 'learned' for those outside the UK!) a lot along the way when job searching that I hope will benefit others soon to be in the same position. I am also surrounded by relatives and friends that are part of the exciting world that is teaching: head teachers, deputy head teachers, governors etc. - so a lot of this advice comes from them!

How to find the right school for you

(Please note that a lot of this will probably only be applicable for primary school teachers.)

When choosing schools to visit, ask yourself the following questions (all of which can most likely be answered by browsing the school's website - it is important to check this before  you visit. A lot of your questions will be answered there - you may decide it's not the school for you and therefore avoid wasting your own, and the school's, time by arranging a look around):

Do I want to work in a primary, infant or junior school?
Obviously this depends on your preferred Key Stage, and whether or not you'd like to try different ages after your first year.

Do I prefer open or closed plan?
I had two teaching practices in open planned schools and realised it definitely wasn't for me - mostly due to noise levels.

Do I want to work in a village school or a town/city school?
Personal preference - I've taught in both and found they had very different atmospheres.

What was the school's last Ofsted result?
Unless it's a failing school, I don't think this matters. I've done some intense research on Ofsted, and realised that if a school receives a Grade 3, it does not mean the teaching is poor. (A lot of Ofsted's results are based on data - for example, if a school has a high percentage of SEN, the data is unlikely to be as good as a school with a lower percentage of SEN. That doesn't mean the teaching is any worse though - in fact, the teaching could be much better, but you are working with a very different set of children. However, this is another story completely...) Just as 'outstanding schools' won't be the only ones looking for 'outstanding' teachers - schools considered 'requires improvement' will want 'outstanding' teachers to help them to improve (supposing they actually do need improving. Who knows these days). As far as I am aware, failing schools (schools receiving a Grade 4) are not allowed to hire NQTs - however, when I was searching for a job, I found a failing school that were advertising specifically for NQTs. Hmm...

Do I want to work in a small or big school?
In a one form entry school, there is a lot more independent planning, meaning a huge work load for an NQT. I know that many one form entry schools plan in teams (e.g. upper KS2, lower KS2 etc.) but there is still only a limited amount of team planning that can go on. However, if you are a conscientious and independent worker, this might work better for you than working in a three form entry school and having to use everyone else's plans.

What facilities does the school have?
An ICT suite? A piano? A swimming pool? Obviously this is personal choice - if you are a music specialist, you might be put off working in a school if it doesn't have a dedicated music room or sufficient music equipment.

What is the school's reputation?
Luckily, I teach locally, so I knew what the general opinion of the school was. This is clearly circumstantial - if you are applying to a school a fair distance away, you are unlikely to be able to find this out. It does help though - I've known a school to have a stellar website (which is obviously your only port of call when considering the quality of a school if you don't live nearby) only to find out that the local teachers and parents regularly gossiped about the head teacher who had a less than respectable history as a school leader!

Do I want to work in a mainstream school, an academy or a free school?
There might be another type now. There's so many these days I can't keep up. I chose a mainstream school, purely because I don't agree with the current government's idealistic view of academies.

Do I want to work in a mixed year group?
Until I started training, I was completely unaware that some schools have mixed years of 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6,  or sometimes even 2/3, 4/5 etc. I've done two placements in mixed year groups, and again, found it didn't quite work for me.

What are the after school clubs?
You might find you can offer something that the school doesn't already, e.g. a football club.

Does the school match my values?
I never really understood what people meant by this when they were telling me what to consider - "make sure that school matches your values when you look around it!" - until the day I looked around a school and noticed a spelling mistake on every single copy of the 'Golden Rules', affixed onto any available wall space. The misused apostrophe on the whiteboard of the Year 6 classroom didn't exactly help the situation. Needless to say, I didn't apply to that school.

Okay, so you've looked at the school's website, everything seems suited to you, so you should apply now, right? Wrong - visit the school. If at all possible, visit during the daytime, to see the school in action. My friend is moving over summer, so had to look for a job that was an hour away from her current location - she still managed to organise a visit. I know it can be difficult, but it is so important - from the school's side, as well. Each time I went to interview (three times), the head teacher remembered me from the visit - it creates the impression that you actually want to work at their school, and not that you just want a job at any school (which might well be the case, but don't let them know that). A head teacher that I know said she could remember from the applications who had visited the school and who hadn't, and that unless they had a viable reason not to, it already tainted her opinion of the candidates who hadn't bothered to arrange a look around the school. If visiting the school really isn't a feasible option, ask if you can organise a phone call with the head teacher (another friend did this - the head was really impressed!) to ask them questions about the school.

Visiting the school

When you go for your school visit, you don't need to dress smartly - but don't go too casual. They will remember you if you stand out for the wrong reasons! During most of my school visits (I visited 10 schools, applied to five and got interviews for all five - little pat on the back there), the head teacher took the time to show me round - or, if they weren't available, the deputy head took us round instead. However, on a couple of occasions, the secretary gave me the tour - I didn't really like this. I know head teachers are very busy, but as the head of my current school said on my visit, he felt it was important to meet the prospective candidates and really get to know the people who might be working at his school; he believed recruitment was very important. Although the school visit was at the end of the day, we were shown round by both the head and the deputy head for about 45 minutes, and were then taken into the head's office so they could both answer any questions we had. I held a lot more respect for this school (and am working there now - yay!) than the schools that presented me with a five minute whip-round with the secretary - I felt like I was a burden then. It is important that the schools impress you as well, not just the other way round!

You may be shown round on your own, or in a group. It is important to ask questions and show interest - especially if you're in a group. In my successful interview, my head told me that he remembered me from my visit for the questions I asked! (Now I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing?!) As you are shown round the school, questions will come to you naturally, but here are a few in case you're stuck:

Do you use a particular phonics scheme?
How are the TAs allocated?
How many assemblies do you have a week?
Do you have any specialist teachers? (Usually music or PE  that take the class whilst you have PPA)
Do you stream for the core subjects?
Those are a few general questions, but it will differ for every school.

I hope you found this useful! My next post will be about applying to schools (another little brag here: I got interviews from all five of my applications and was told by one school that I had the best application form out of all 26 they'd received, so hopefully I'll have a few helpful things to share!).

View "Please just give me a job!" Part 2: The application form here: 

View "Please just give me a job!" Part 3: The interview here:

Find me on Twitter at @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Monday, 26 May 2014

Mr. Gove may have a point...

Michael Gove:
"The evidence shows that the best teacher training is led by teachers... The classroom is the best place for teachers to learn as well as teach."
(Source here)

As much as I truly hate to agree with such a poisonous character... Gove may be onto something here.

My experience of university based ITT

Don't get me wrong, there are many things I enjoyed about university. Obviously the social side - but the freedom as well; let's face it, you don't really have many responsibilities whilst you're there, which is exactly what I needed from the ages of 18 - 21. I knew I wanted to teach from the outset, so my only option was to opt for a Bachelor of Education; wasting three years on a degree I wasn't particularly interested in to then complete a PGCE didn't appeal to me - I wanted to do what I loved (or at least predicted I'd love) right from the start. University was my only choice - but if I had had (side note - isn't it great how the English language makes those repeated words perfectly acceptable to use; see here for an ingenious use of the repeated word) a choice between a PGCE or GTP (which was on offer at the time), in hindsight, I would have chosen the school-based training. Here's why:

You can't teach someone to teach.

This is, of course, my personal opinion. I believe you are born to teach; you are born with the natural ability to stand in front of a group of children, engage them, communicate with them, and make them understand something. This, then, renders lectures useless. I would say that my lectures were pretty fairly balanced between subject knowledge and pedagogy. However, there are two issues with this: 1) If you really don't yet understand level 4 maths skills, should you really be at university? and 2) Is the pedagogy of science really that different to the pedagogy of literacy? Surely if you can teach one subject, you can teach another - it is all about differentiating and communicating knowledge and skills, despite the subject matter at hand. In all honesty, PE was the only subject-specific lecture from which I gained anything - different ideas and activities for all the different sports for all different age groups. My PE folder is a complete gem which I will never discard; I can't say the same for the others (in fact, they have all already been binned  recycled).

Other general lectures (you know the sort - theory based) also seemed to fall flat. Vygotsky, Piaget, Montessori... who cares? I haven't got a long experience of teaching, but in my four placements and in my job so far, I have never once thought, "Oh wow, right now I'm recognising the student's prior knowledge, identifying myself as the More Knowledgeable Other, finding out where we need to get to and therefore working in the Zone of Proximal Development. Thanks, Lev Vygotsky, where would I be without you?!" My inner monologue goes more like this... "That's what he knows. That's what he needs to go. Let's fill in the gaps." Surely that is just common sense. I have had to apply this in my sports coaching ever since I was a teenager - and I certainly hadn't heard of Vygotsky then.

University, in its attempt to keep up with government initiatives, ends up falling behind by the time they are implemented. When I started, it was all about phonics. Phonics, phonics, phonics. I'm an expert now. But now, it's not such a big deal. In fact, everything seemed to be about the entry levels - phonics, FUNdamentals or basic mathematical skills, like counting. Not once did we cover the SPAG test, how to use figurative language, how to solve linear equations, how to identify methods an author had used to convey a certain emotion - all skills needed by high ability upper KS2 children, particularly evident in the Level 6 SATs. Now, I know what you're thinking - I'm contradicting myself here - we shouldn't have to be taught subject knowledge. But we ARE. Or at least, I was. So if this is going to happen, the content should be useful. Luckily, I am particularly interested in English and Maths (and have A-levels in both) and am capable of teaching both to a Level 6 standard, which I did do this year in a different school. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of my peers at university; if challenging the more able children is so important, isn't this the sort of subject knowledge teachers should be taught? I know of so many local schools that have had to use secondary school teachers to teach their Level 6 groups because their own Year 6 teachers aren't capable. Primary school teachers are capable of this; many just aren't taught it.

As you can tell from my previous blog posts, my first two days of "proper teaching" have taught me more than many years of university training has.

Things university does not teach you (in my experience)
  1. How to deal with parents
  2. How to handle parents' evenings
  3. How to write reports
  4. How to deal with bad behaviour (I don't mean mild disruptions. I mean throwing chairs, physical fights and verbal abuse - all of which I had to face in my final placement)
  5. How to deal with "challenging" colleagues
  6. How to plan long term
  7. How to work with a TA
  8. How to identify SEN
If you're luckily, you will pick some of this up on the way - whether it's just common sense, or through your placements. However, I've found that, as a student, you are usually quite shielded in your placements. In tandem with the points above:
  1. Parents tend not to come to you as you are not their child's "real" teacher
  2. You would never lead the parents' evenings as you won't have taught the children for long enough
  3. Same as above for the reports
  4. Students are never usually left to deal with behaviour that bad (unfortunately I was)
  5. You only usually ever work with your mentor
  6. You only have to plan for a maximum of about 8 - 10 weeks
  7. (Placements are actually quite good for this, so this point is irrelevant)
  8. The "real" teacher tends to deal with this

For me, ALL of my learning took place in the classroom. The advice and guidance from those four class teachers that mentored me throughout each of my placements - particularly the last two - have been invaluable. Yes, it is good that a university based ITT course organises multiple teaching experiences for you across a long period of time - but for me, the time between each experience - the time spent in the lecture theatre - was useless, irrelevant, unavailing, futile, and any other word that means there was no point to it.

In that case, I am in complete agreement with Gove's above quote. But please allow me to emphasise - this is only my personal opinion. Many of my peers wrote endless notes in all our lectures that I'm sure they would say were very useful. I have just found that learning on the job was the best way to go about it - it is only when you are shoved in front of 32 pairs of eyes staring at you (two of those pairs being your mentor and the TA at the back of the room) that you learn to think on your feet and learn from your mistakes, just in time for when the learning behind those 30 pairs of eyes is completely your responsibility.

Find me on Twitter at @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The dreaded phone call

... Nope, not Ofsted. Not yet, anyway! I mean the one home - ringing parents to report an "inappropriate incident" that happened at school. And that's what I had to do on my second day! (More to come later)

Thursday was interesting. You see, so far, my mornings tend to run without TOO many bumps (year 5 maths and literacy) bar a handful of characters that seem to take up a lot of my time. However, I'm finding my afternoons a lot more testing. This is when my Year 6s return for foundation subjects. As another teacher agreed, they seem to "kick back" in the afternoon - especially the brighter ones.

Anyway, the main lesson I have learnt from these last two days is:


This is something I didn't think necessary with 10 and 11 year olds. However...

Exhibit A

During a maths lesson on day 1, I circulated the class during the activity and *genuinely* thought I had seen everyone. However, this one child (we'll call him Jack) has a tendency to disappear from the classroom to "get a drink" or "go to the loo" (I found him loitering by the sinks after 5 minutes of not returning to the classroom). So you see, I must have inadvertently missed him. The next day, I was looking through their maths work and couldn't find anything in Jack's book - not even a date or title (I'd even walked around the room making sure every child had underlined this before we moved on - how had I missed Jack?!). I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt, and when he came in in the morning, I asked him to find the work for me. This is how the conversation went.

Me: Jack, could I borrow you for a sec?
Jack: *reluctantly drags his body over to my desk*
Me: Could you show me your maths work from yesterday? I was marking the books but couldn't find yours.
Jack: *flicks through book and stares and the empty page. Flicks forwards and backwards* oh. I can't find it.
Me: No, you can't find it Jack, because it's not there. How do you think we should solve this?
Jack: I don't know.
Me: Oh, you don't? I do. I think you should spend your break time completely be work you so rudely decided not to complete, or even start, yesterday.

I'm beating myself up though. Because I should have checked in the lesson! He did nothing! For a whole bloody hour!

Exhibit B

The class were doing some research in an for some work they were to complete the following day. (I won't go into details because this situation could probably be quite easily identified!) As a class, we brainstormed (can we use that term anymore? Thought showered? Spider diagrammed?) the different topics we could research. Once again, I circulated the class, fairly confident I had checked up on everyone. It wasn't until I sent the class home that I read through their notes (thank god I had decided to do his because their other teacher was in the next day to finish the work with them) and found that two Year 6 children had researched something rather inappropriate - in a way, it was actually relevant to what they should have been researching, but obvious that they wouldn't have been allowed to. I went to speak to a colleague about what I should do, when my team leader walked in. As I repeated the story to her, the head teacher walked in! Nightmare! I had to tell him what happened too, but they all were very supportive and recommended I ring the parents. One of the teachers wrote me a whole script of what to say and sat with me as I did it - I was shaking! One thing I can say about my experience so far is that I have been tremendously supported by my team. (Still no contact with my mentor - is that odd?)

Half-term off! I'm waking up naturally at about 8am now, though. Why, body clock, why?!

Find me on Twitter at @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

I survived!

The first day, that is. For some reason I feel a massive sense or achievement - is that a bit sad? Here are the things I learnt from today (typical teacher - turning everything into a learning opportunity):

1. Plan more than you need
The afternoon really dragged - I was watching the clock intently willing the minutes to go past, purely because halfway through I realised I hadn't planned enough for the children to do and I knew I'd have a lot of time filling (read: wasting) to do.

2. Learn the fire drill procedures
A stale but important point. Luckily I'd been warned yesterday, but we had a fire drill today and there were a lot of little details of things I wouldn't know how to do if I hadn't found out.

3. Don't talk until it's silent
If they think you don't care if they're listening or not, they never will. 

4. Ask your TA about good/bad children combinations
Obviously only applicable if a) you have a TA and b) the TA knows the children well. I paired the children together today without knowledge of their relationships and found myself dealing with a few arguments and boisterous duos.

5. Find a book to read them - and be engaging with it!
I'm talking silly voices, actions and pulling faces - the kind of stuff my friends would cringe at. Who knew Year 6s would love being read to just as much as the little ones? It's a great time filler when you have a spare 10 minutes. Also, the type of age-appropriate books you'd be reading (I'm reading Anthony Horowitz to Year 5/6) will most likely contain the type of language you'd like them to use in their writing.

6. Have a list of maths and literacy games in your mind - or on your note board!
Obviously great as starters, but also for those spare few minutes before the bell... If you have any! (Clearly I need to plan more)

7. Don't rely on the laptop - have a back up plan
Sod's law, the laptop decided to freeze this afternoon - and I was relying on it for two activities! I had to think on my feet, but would have been better if I had some alternative things planned (hence the time filling/wasting as mentioned above).

8. Get to know the kids
An obvious one. I ended up having a 10 minute conversation today about Minecraft and a gaming YouTuber. Neither of which I knew anything about (I'm a good blagger). They will soon know that you actually do care about them.

So that's eight lessons learnt in day one! If this carries on, by the end of this term I'll have 112 under my belt! (8 x 14 = 112, right? My brain is frazzled)

I got in at 9pm today - went to my second job straight after school at 6.30! It's now 10pm and I still need to plan. I should probably get off this blog but it's just so cathartic...

Find me on Twitter at @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The calm before the storm

Please ignore the rushed and possibly haphazard tone of this post - I am eager to write about today but also am aware of the amount of prep I have to do for tomorrow!

Today was better; a much more structured day. I have now learnt all the names of my Year 5/6 class (although I will only have them for registration and afternoons), but have still got the names of my maths group (lower set year 5) and literacy group (mixed ability year 5) to remember. I have no idea how I'm keeping all this new information in my brain.

Only a few more noteworthy things - I found out I'll be teaching sex ed to the Year 5 girls after half term, so attended the parents' meeting after school today about it. We watched that delightful video (circa 1980?!) about friendship, which suddenly then switches to two cartoon figures (of different ethnicities - that's the diversity box ticked) nakedly gyrating with a detailed VoiceOver ("sperm, testicles, penis, vagina") and then goes back to "friendship". Talk about jumping in the deep end!

And to end on a sour note (sorry), the only thing that has stayed with me all day is a cleaner telling me that I look "about 12". How would they like it if I turned around and said "well you look about 85!" At least children have no real awareness of age!

Find me on Twitter at @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Monday, 19 May 2014

First impressions

As I sat in the staffroom, opening perhaps the 6th Snapchat on my iPhone of a pair of legs sunbathing in the glorious midday heat, I became incredibly angry with myself for accepting this part-time work before summer. I could have lived a few more months in denial of responsibility and 6.30am starts, but no.

Today was overwhelming. Extremely overwhelming.

I haven't even taught yet! I've got a couple of days' reconnaissance before I start teaching on Wednesday (two days a week until summer). It probably didn't help that it was extremely hot today, or that the pupils participated in an off-site sports event, or that the Year 6 have just had SATs - but the kids were all over the place. It was a typical "big fish, little pond" scenario for most of the Year 6s, clearly ready for the secondary school move. There were gobby girls and attention-seeking boys. To be honest, I didn't much notice the others because I was so caught up in my fear of standing up in front of these animals (well they are animals, aren't they?!) I even got - "Miss, are you new? I should probably warn ya - I'm a bit of a troublemaker, I am." He was not far wrong.

After finally arriving home (I'm still working as a part-time sports coach so I will go there after school) I looked at the plan I'd laid out for Wednesday with the other class teacher (who would then be out the school). I had a million and one questions - little, insignificant things - Do they have a lining up order? What does that bell mean? What's the photocopier code? Where are the atlases? Is there a register monitor? Who's that member of staff? What do I do if a child feels sick? Are they allowed to have their water bottles out? Do they have to write the learning objective down all the time? (Just writing these down makes me feel sick...)

The idea of four lessons in a row with three different sets of children and a thousand worries for each lesson (admittedly, a result of my overthinking) - well, I'm ashamed to admit that I cried when I got home. As my mum said: "teaching is teaching! Take one lesson at a time. You've trained for four years to do this, it's what you've always wanted and now you've finally got it!"

I'm just so overwhelmed.

Find me on Twitter @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

"Oh I just can't wait to be... teaching!"

(Don't you just love the Lion King?)

I could have extended my last post into about 50 different worries - but I am trying to consciously focus on the positives, of which I know there will be many! Here is what I am looking forward to:

1. The holidays

13 luxurious weeks of paid holiday a year, during which there is absolutely no work to be done!

. The hours
9am - 3pm, five days a week? Come at me, bro!

... Okay, so I'm obviously kidding. I almost made myself angry writing that.

10 things I'm excited for
(god damn you dangling prep! I wish my inner grammar Nazi wouldn't be on my case all the time) 

1. Seeing my name in school

On the website (it's already there!), on plans, initials on the noticeboard, in newsletters... is that really  sad??

2. When a child from another class calls my name

You mean a student who I don't actually teach knows who I am? Look how established I am in this school, I may as well apply for headship already.

3. Hearing, "Oh, NOW I get it!"

I've actually taught them something. I CAN do this!

4. Nice comments from parents

It's got to happen at some point, right?

5. Good observation feedback

As above!

6. Making it to the first holiday without...

... crying (okay, I know that one will happen), embarrassing myself (also probably likely) or crawling into a small hole with no hope of reappearing.

7. Our autumn term production

It's a musical. It's been chosen. It's been ordered. I've been roped into playing the piano for all of it ('roped' makes it sound like I don't want to - I had to be cool and pretend I was doing them a favour, right? I can't wait!) and I'm so excited.

8. Christmas at school

Glitter. Glitter? GLITTER!

9. Enraptured silence

That moment (usually when you go off on a tangent) when every single pair of eyes is staring at you, lapping up your every word.

10. General merriment

If I can make a class of low-ability Year 5s as excited about improper fractions as I am (no joke, I love maths), I'll know I've really made it.

Find me on Twitter at @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)

New - and Quietly Terrified!

So, now I'm an NQT. When exactly did this happen? Was university just a dream? No, actually, I'm pretty sure the last few months of slogging away at two (TWO!) dissertations whilst trying to find a job was more like a nightmare. But now I'm here. And in my excitement of being offered a job (in Year 5/6,  my favourite age group), I have agreed to work part-time before summer (if you watch closely, you'll be able to see the last few months of my freedom drifting away...) - and now I'm bricking it.

10 things I am terrified about
(please ignore the dangling preposition. '10 things about which I am terrified' didn't quite have the same ring to it. Creative license, anyone?)

1. I am still a child.
Yes, I am 22, but I still feel about 15. And my face agrees with me - I could easily sit amongst a class of Year 9s and nothing would look amiss. My height doesn't exactly help - in fact a handful of my class, particularly the Year 6 boys, could probably quite easily use me as an armrest.

2. Bad behaviour
I'm a terrible culprit for laughing at silly behaviour - I must perfect the 'why-on-earth-would-you-think-that's-funny?' teacher glare. However, in terms of more serious forms of disruption, I consider myself equipped with a vast array of behaviour management strategies, mostly thanks to the HORRENDOUS behaviour (and I mean, 'cry-in-the-corridor-during-a-lesson-whilst-the-TA-watches-the-kids' type of horrendous) of the children from my fourth year placement (I imagine a more detailed story will follow in another blogpost). However, that was five months ago - what if I have forgotten everything? If I ask a child to do something and they say, "no", what will I do?

3. Assemblies
I have to stand in front of 240 children and expect them to all find me interesting enough to listen to what I have to say? In fact, it's not even the children that really bother me - it's the other adults, standing at the side, judging me...

4. TAs
What if the TA doesn't like that I'm so young? What if they've been at the school for ages and don't like that I'm taking over the class? What if they don't do what I ask them to do? What if they override my authority in front of the children? What if they think I'm a rubbish teacher?

5. Staff meetings
Whether it's planning with another teacher, your team or a whole staff meeting - this time you're actually expected to contribute. Being a student in all these situations was dandy - you didn't have to contribute your ideas, because nobody really cared - after all, you were going to be gone in a few weeks. But now your opinion actually matters... what if I say something stupid?

6. Actually teaching
My favourite part of teaching is being in front of the kids - that all comes naturally. But how am I going to make them progress? Am I actually capable of teaching 30 brains enough skills and knowledge to move them up those two golden sub-levels in one year? Can I really teach them all something new in every lesson? God help me.

7. Ofsted
Our school is due an Ofsted inspection any minute - so if it's not whilst I'm part-timing before summer, then it will be during my first term as a full-time teacher in the autumn. I AM SO EXCITED (sense the tone). I think the best part is that a headteacher I know (who has also trained as an Ofsted inspector) has informed me that, as an NQT, I will almost definitely be observed and asked a number of questions following my observation. I have already experienced Ofsted twice, the second time being particularly petrifying (think crying teachers, evil inspectors and a headteacher who had lost all hope) so, quite honestly, the prospect of an impending Ofsted fills me with sheer terror.

8. Relationships
With the children (what if they don't like me?) and with the staff (what if they don't like me?). One of my mentors once told me (re: working with children), "You are not there to be their friend - they already have lots of friends. You are their teacher." However, another mentor said, "They need to know that you like them - you have to be their friend as well as their teacher." My aim is to be strict - but fair - and fun. I want the children to be able to enjoy themselves with me, to be able to be a bit silly, but to know the boundaries. If I am too friendly, will they take me seriously if I have to tell them off? If I'm too strict, will they be able to relax enough to enjoy my lessons? What about the other teachers - will I get on with them? I want there to be someone who, at the end of the day, I can go to their classroom and say "I could have slapped X today, he was a right pain in the arse" or "I taught the worst lesson of my life today" without them thinking me a bad person.

9. Parents
See point 1 - will they be happy with such a visibly young person teaching their children? What if they disagree with something I do? What if I say the wrong thing?

10. Work/life balance
Is there such a thing?

As you can clearly see, I'm an over-thinker. I worry about anything and everything that could go wrong. Does that make me a good or a bad teacher? I think I need to find a healthy middle-ground.

Don't get me wrong, I can't WAIT to get started. I will soon be posting a list of things I am excited about - after all, I am about to enter into the best job in the world.

Find me on Twitter at @Miss_RQT (previously @MissNQT)