Monday, 31 August 2015

5 ways to ease "first day nerves"

It seems that no matter how many years you've been teaching, you always experience some level of anxiety the day before the new year. Or new term. Or new week... (You may have seen the hashtag #sundayblues used by many teachers at the end of every weekend!)

I feel like this is particularly heightened for an NQT as you're jumping into what seems like unknown territory. However, this is what I do to calm my own nerves (which crop up A LOT, damn it), and I hope it helps you somewhat too.

1. Have a bath
This is an obvious one. Some people hate baths, but for me, there's nothing more relaxing than soaking amongst some bubbles with a bar of chocolate/glass of wine/cup of tea, watching a bit of Netflix or reading a book. A good way to calm jitters.

2. Listen to something calming
Personally, when I close my eyes and listen to the sound of rain (preferably real rain (although we've had enough of that recently) but I also have a rain sound machine and a few rain sound apps on my phone) I can physically feel myself calming down. I have no idea why, but it works. It may not be rain for you, but it could be the radio. I used to listen to plays at night time - concentrating on the story line forced me not to think about school as I fell asleep.

3. Look forward to something
I don't necessarily mean a specially planned weekend away (although that would be lovely!) - I'm talking on a much smaller scale. I tend to have a TV series on the go (at the moment, it's Grey's Anatomy - starting again from the beginning!) that I can look forward to watching each evening. I can always reassure myself that no matter how awful my day goes, no matter how nervous or worried I am now, there's a blanket, a cup of tea and a good programme waiting for me at the other end of the day. Every day! (Obviously this may be different for you - a good book, or even exercise. Personally, knowing I've planned to go for a run after school would feel me with more dread than reassurance - but each to their own!)

4. Play the "so what?" game with yourself
When @MissDlln tweeted asking for some tips about how to calm her nerves, it reminded me of some advice I received last year. When you're feeling nervous about something and you're not really sure why, ask yourself "so what?", answer your own question, and realise that nothing really has a bad enough ending to be that worried about. Of course you could force yourself down a negative route, but the point is to encourage some positivity. It goes a bit like this...

What if the kids don't listen to me?
So what? I'll follow the behaviour management policy.
What if they still refuse to follow instructions?
So what? I'll call a senior member of staff to deal with it.
What if they think I can't deal with my class because I've called them?
So what? I'm an NQT and I'm learning - they're not going to think bad of me for asking for help. After school I'll ask them how I should've dealt with the situation, although more than likely they will be happy to have helped.

Saying it out loud helps reaffirm things! Because really, you're worrying about nothing, and you will be fine.

5. Look at the big picture
You have trained for months, maybe even years, to be here now. This is what you've been looking forward to - having your own class in your own room. You wouldn't have passed your degree if you weren't capable. You wouldn't have got the job if the school thought you couldn't do it. You've had many placements doing this exact thing - you know you can do it. As soon as the children walk in, you will click into "teacher" mode and it will feel completely natural, as it always has done. Every other teacher has their own worries and will be busy doing their own thing - nobody will worry about the small mistakes you are worrying about making this year! Twitter is the best support network you could have, and if you have had a particularly bad day, there is no better place to vent about it or ask for advice than on there. Good luck and have fun - you will love it!

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Displays: what are they good for? (absolutely nothing?)

P.S. (Pre-script in this case, not post.) I wrote this whole blog post entitled, "Displays: what is really the point?", did a bit of research before I published it and found that David Didau (@learningspy) wrote a very similar one two years ago called, "What's the point of classroom displays?" which you can read here. So I adapted it a bit, and rather than regurgitating what David has said, this is more a showcase of what I have chosen to display on my walls this year. Or this term, at least. Please note that I do not think displays are "good for nothing" as said in the title (hence the question marks) - I just wanted to reference that song :)

When I was a student, I used to love doing displays for my mentors; it was a time to put on some music, relax and pull out my "artistic" side for an hour two. However, now, the idea of putting up displays makes me think of papercuts, a sore back, not being able to find the right size of bloody staple for the staple gun, putting a staple in too far so I can't pull it out, not putting it in far enough so a child could get their finger under it, running out of backing paper halfway through backing a board, only being able to find the most garish of backing paper/borders because apparently you were the last one to do your displays that term... you get the picture.

Our curriculum co-ordinator took a group of children on a "classroom display" learning walk a few months ago and asked their opinions on the displays around the school, particularly in their own classroom. The results were surprisingly negative, with one comment even saying that they "fade[d] into the background". Of course, being the reflective practitioner that I am (I almost feel as if I'm writing a supporting statement for a job all over again...), this really made me think about what exactly I'm putting up on my walls. 

Even though all the children asked said they "only looked once" at boards displaying children's work, even if it included their own, I do see the benefit. However, this year, I wanted to try putting something up on my all boards that the children will use as often as possible; I'll ask the children at the end of the term which they've found the most useful and adapt accordingly. An experiment, if you will :)

Please note - these horrendously lurid colours were the best of the worst left in the cupboard. I read somewhere that children work best in a calm environment, with the less distractions around them, the better, which totally goes against everything in any primary classroom you'll go into. If I was a professional blogger, I'd of course find the source of that little gem of noteworthy research, however, a) I'm not, b) I can't for the life of me remember where I read that, and c) I quite frankly can't be bothered to look.

Anyway, on to the displays...


I have been made KS2 SPAG co-ordinator this year, and this is one of my ideas to try and raise our spelling results. (Which I think is quite ridiculous, as I don't really believe you can teach spelling. You can either do it or you can't. But that's for another time.) Our school is open plan, and this display is on the wall that most of the children in years 5/6 walk through in my classroom. (By the way, for those that are wondering, spellings are taken from the Rising Stars spelling test scheme.)

 This is my reading corner. The display in the top right corner is called, "The imagination station..." (got a bit carried away there) and I'm hoping to put up pictures of the children doing "extreme reading" which will be their first bit of English homework :)

Close up of the Scrabble tiles on the radiator (not turned on!) - it annoyed me so much that there was no question mark that I nearly used a Sharpie on one of the other tiles to make my own.

 Not a display, just wanted to cover up a space. I printed/laminated/cut these last summer and never used them.

Again, not a display, but this is probably my most "looked-at" part of the classroom. Bar a few informative posters, most of them are just puns, and most of them are more for me than the kids. ("A dangling participle is something "up with which I will not put". - Winston Churchill" is my favourite!)


We started implementing the growth mindset language throughout the school last year and the children have really got on board with it. I had a huge board dedicated to it last year, but I opted for a slightly more subtle one this time. (I say subtle, I chose a gold border. That is subtle for a primary classroom.)

Some of you may have seen my "dictionary corner" display in my last classroom. I've adapted it a bit this time. Just need to add a few little bits on that left side because the assymetry is bothering me...
These are my synonym booklets hanging below the dictionary board.

This is missing the second half of the title - it should say, "Maths misconceptions". I just got SO bored of cutting out letters. That will have to be an INSET day job.
Some sneaky teacher has already written on it... the cheek!

I like having these reminders around (mainly for me).

Children use these a lot.

This is the view from the back of the classroom. My last classroom was incredibly small (it wasn't originally intended to be a classroom) so I'm excited to have a room with carpet space!

View from the side. (I'm standing in the walk-through corridor - it is an open plan classroom.)

Not really sure what I want to use this whiteboard for as it's at the back of the classroom. I'm thinking a working wall, but for now it's going to serve as a book recommendations wall. If you have any brilliant ideas, please let me know!

Please ignore the broom. Cleaners haven't been in...
I'm very lucky to have a little "well" off of my room with a set of computers (which can be used by any of the four classes in our team) and a desk for my TA. That room in the left is the UKS2 art storage cupboard.

Another view inside the well (TA desk on the right).

Now, one display I did really want to put up was one suggested by Andy Hind (@andyhind_ES4S - he's an educational consultant who's led some of the brilliant training I've been on) - a "reflection wall". This would consist of putting a particular LO of the week in the middle (on a whiteboard) with questions such as these around the edge: 
What helped you when something got tricky about learning to... (LO)?
What do you need more help with about learning to... (LO)?
How would you change this activity for another group/class who were learning to... (LO)?
... and so on.

Perhaps another time. Now, less time putting up pretty bits of paper, more time teaching those pesky children!

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Supportive schools - they do exist!

Whenever I read a blog post about NQTs and how to support them in your school, it seems to usually be followed by a barrage of comments from disgruntled (and rightly so) NQTs about how this is not the case in their school. I also know this to be true for many of my friends this year; for some of them, this lack of support has resulted in them leaving the profession - already! I also know of a few fellow Twitter teachers who have moved schools due to an unhappy start.

I am aware of this. However, I just wanted to throw some positivity out there. There are some brilliant schools for an NQT to work in. Mine is one of them. And here are a few characteristics of mine...

A supportive school is... that understands the excitement and passion that an NQT brings to the job that trains their NQT/s to be the best they can without loading on the pressure
...understands the need for a work/life balance (e.g. doesn't expect emails to be read at the weekend!) that shares the responsibility of supporting the NQT between more than just the mentor

...and more specifically... whose HT will come all the way down to your classroom to bring you a classroom fan, even though there is a SIO learning walk going on, because he saw how hot you and your children were! where your team leader will take the blame for your mistake because she knows how much you have on your plate at the time where your partner teacher will take the brunt of a parent's complaint for something you have chosen to do as a team where you can drop into anyone's classroom at 6pm on a Tuesday with no idea what to teach for maths tomorrow, and they will help you plan it whose HT will come out to see you at break-time duty to check if you're okay because you "didn't seem yourself this morning" whose DHT will encourage you to have more than one day off when you were ill in Autumn term because you need time to rest and recover and, don't worry, they've got everything covered for a supply whose HT will allow you two days out of school, paid and without having to swap NQT time, to attend an important event in your boyfriend's career where you will go on day-long courses in a week and still be given your NQT and PPA time because "you're very busy and you need it!" where your turbulent, but successful, NQT year is celebrated in front of the whole school with funny pictures, wine and flowers!

I could go on. The point is, not all schools are reluctant to take the time to nurture and develop their new teachers. I couldn't have wished for more support, empathy or compassion from any of the staff at my school this year. I can only hope that when I decide to move on, I am welcomed into a new team of teachers as warmly as I have been this time!

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)