Dear NQTs, 2020 is Not a Write Off
By Katharine Airstone-Thompson, NQT, Mathematics Teacher
Dear NQTs (2020/2021),
What a training year this has been. I started off in September bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to tackle the world of education. Great progress was made by us all during the first 6 months and we finally began to feel like we were finding our feet and gaining confidence in our teaching ability. Then, school closures occurred leading to an abrupt ending of any in-class experiences we could gain. The lockdown has lead to many schools providing online provisions in order to allow students to study from home. It has been a challenging task to undertake but, as ever, the teaching community and workforce took on this challenge to the best of their ability and made it to the end of the weirdest academic year to date. However, the challenge has not ended. With the announcement that schools will resume at full capacity in September, I think it’s safe to say the challenge has only just begun. With schools applying different opening strategies such as a staggered start to the end of the day or teachers moving to the location of the bubbles for each year group, the new academic year will be just as strange as the last. It is important to note that the NQT year is a hard year for anyone starting their career, however, it is clear that this will be a particularly tough start for the NQTs of 2020/2021. After talking to many of my colleagues and edu-twitter NQTs, worries about September are a common theme across the board. Everyone has their own personal and professional worries but there are 3 main worries that seem to fill up my feed on a daily basis.
“I don’t have an NQT post yet?! Help!”
One of the concerns I see regularly are the NQTs who are yet to find a school in which they can undertake their induction year. To those NQTs, my advice would be to trust that the right school will come along eventually. I have seen many teachers who have had similar starts to their career, and they have taken on maternity cover, general cover work or postponed their induction year to the following academic year. Do not believe that not having a post in September will hinder your career. If anything, I believe, if you take a different role within the education sector you will have added another “string to your bow” as you will have experienced the sector as a teacher and in another capacity. Use this year to complete CPD, training and gain insights into schools that ordinary teachers would not be able to experience.
“Will more experienced teachers consider me to be underqualified?”
I am saddened that this is a conversation my fellow NQTs have to have. The simple answer is no. Teaching is a supportive and collaborative career in which (most) teachers are willing to help each other grow, improve and adapt to new scenarios. Yes, we do not have as much experience in the classroom, but we have all managed to pass our NQT year whilst in the midst of a global pandemic and I think that says a lot about our characters, willingness to adapt and perseverance. Your school will provide you with extra support, both in your departments and from SLT. Additionally, it is important to remember that no one will expect you to go into your schools in September and know exactly what to do now. It will be new to everyone which, for me is a comforting thought because I will not be on my own.
“By September I won’t have taught in a classroom for 6 months, will I remember how to teach?”
This is a worry I had at the beginning of lockdown. Will I forget all the skills and techniques I have learnt throughout the year? The short answer again is no. I have been told by many teachers that teaching is like riding a bike. If you have a break you will remember when you get going again. Yes, the start may be shaky and we may make mistakes to start with but eventually it will feel natural again. Additionally, during lockdown, I have taken part in a lot of CPD both considering pedagogical approaches and subject knowledge. I personally feel I have more ideas and knowledge of evidence to back them up than I did in March. This has given me a new motivation to try new and relevant approaches in my classes in September.
I hope that this blog has demystified some of the worries of the NQTs of 2020/2021. It will be tough, it will be different, but we are the COVID-19 cohort and if we were able to make it through the last few months we will be able to tackle anything that comes our way next year.