Confessions of a COVID NQT

Grant Tweeddale

Grant is a newly qualified PE teacher, teaching in Sheffield. He is a former sales manager who made a career change to pursue a dream career in teaching. Grant is passionate about increasing participation rates in PE and higjligting the cross curricular benefits PE provides. 

Follow @pe_grant

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As a Newly Qualified Teacher, I appreciate that there are hundreds of challenges that we NQTs face on a daily basis: New school, new students, new responsibilities, yet same old dreaded observations. Throw into the mix a global pandemic to cut short your training year, and it's much harder looking for that golden nugget of a job (but on the plus side I have mastered the art of interviewing in shorts, shirt and tie).

Phew! Having made it to the half-term finish line, and working towards the end of the first full term (as of writing), I am looking back on the past few months and I am experiencing a plethora of emotions.

There have been challenges that I expected, and some that I simply could not have foreseen or imagined. The need to support colleagues, families and students through the difficulties and realities of the current situation meant that, sometimes, workdays turned to worknights, and weeks merged into weekends. 

To be completely honest, I am exhausted. But despite it all, I have a lot to be thankful for these past few months that I think is worth reflecting on. Throughout my many reflections these are some of the main points I have learned in my first term as a NQT and I want to share them with you. 

Nail your routines early and reap the rewards later! 

This was my main task at the start of term. From lining up outside the classroom before a lesson, to the weekly raffle, setting up routines for the students was paramount to setting high expectations. All of the students have been off for six months and most - if not all - have had very little routine in that time! So, I made it imperative that as the students came into the classroom, I greet them, check their uniforms and pick out the students that might need to take a minute or two to calm down. Not only does this routine create a safe environment - it also cements the relationships that as a NQT I wanted to build quickly. 

I found that students reacted well to an established-yet-varied routine in the form of a codebreaker or puzzle starter as they entered. I have also found that students of all ability react well to praise for outstanding work. All the above helped to build student confidence and, in turn, my confidence as behaviour improved, the learning environment was positive, and the working relationships began to form. 

Me-time, more important than ever!

As the term progressed, my stress levels have gone through peaks and troughs. One thing that I have been trying to keep constant is having time away from school to relax and recuperate. Something I managed throughout my training year (to the dismay of some of my colleagues) was that I gave myself Saturdays and most Sundays off from schoolwork and emails, and spent that time with my wife and children. This year, I have also given myself mid-week Wednesday evenings off too.

As alluded to above, it is all about routines and prioritising time effectively. I have even managed to come into school early and do some planning or mark a set of books, which has given me more time at the end of the day to relax and enjoy a cheeky departmental beer on a Friday afternoon (pre-second lockdown)!

It is difficult some days to be so disciplined, but having hobbies outside of school and ensuring time for “me” means that when I am at school I feel more focused during the day.

Working from home

Relationships are more important than ever! 

Hopefully, you have realised the theme running through my reflections…. Relationships! Relationships are key to any NQT, but this year has thrown so many spanners in the works that having someone to talk to about the daily issues, such as those difficult groups, behaviour issues and - more importantly - where the spare jars of coffee are kept. My weekly mentor meetings are very helpful and a great way to share success, reflect, and also vent!

Your mentor is there not only to monitor and help with professional development, but also to check that you are coping and not feeling overwhelmed.

On the flipside, relationships with your students are more important now than ever! For some (like myself), the lockdown was a blessing: second child, finishing a stressful four-year-stretch to qualify as a teacher, and home-schooling our five-year-old took up plenty of time! But for others, the lockdown proved to be a prison that school was the only escape from. With this in mind, take the time to get to know students, what they like out of school, finding commonalities with them, and break down the barriers. 

In my first GCSE lesson, I spent 40 minutes chatting with my students, getting to know why they picked PE as a GCSE, what they wanted to achieve, and how we can be successful as a group. That 40 minutes has been the best 40 minutes I have had at my school, and has paid dividends on numerous occasions. Like most things in PE and sport, it is a team game and there is no I in team. 

A positive approach

At any time, I can choose to take off the rose-tinted glasses, and there have been days where I absolutely refused to even take them out of the case, never mind put them on (my long-suffering wife will vouch for this). 

However, I still think it is important to reflect on all the good that is still out there. This year is stressful, you will go through an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs, guilt trips, regrets and highflying achievements when students have that lightbulb moment.

But take time to reflect on all you have achieved and take wins when you can. 

Enjoy the rest of term and use this year to thrive not survive!

 Looking for more resources to support your teaching and learning? Check out the best education technology resources on our sister platform EdTech Impact.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"