Thursday, 4 July 2013

Term 3 of my NQT year - an insight for future NQTs/ITTs

It seems like ages since I last had some time to sit down and write any sort of blog post. In fact, it's been since the start of May that I've had this luxury when I blogged about organising and hosting a TeachMeet at my current school. Since then, a whole host of things have taken place and needed doing that have taken priority over being able to take some time to write about all the things I have been using/doing in my classroom.

So, having finally found an hour or so to sit down and reflect on what has been an extremely busy 3rd (and final) term of my NQT year I thought it'd be good to give those that are about to start their initial teacher training or NQT year an insight into what they could experience towards the later end of their training years. Obviously nobody's experience will be the same as another's, and this year has been completely different to the end of my GTP year, but there are similar things that will crop up regardless of what school you train/work in.

The main difference in my NQT year from my GTP year has been the pressure of having a GCSE class to prepare for their examinations. Last year, I shared a bottom set Y11 group, all of whom got their C grades (bar 2 students), but this year I was solely responsible for a 2nd set Y10 class, a bottom set Y10 class  and a shared bottom set Y11 class. So, with this, came a lot of revision focused lessons, past paper practice, morning revision sessions, regular revision sessions after school and the general 'pressure' that surrounds you and your classes when trying to not only cover the content of the examinations, but also provide timely feedback so your students know where they are with the exam content and what they need to still work on.
The difference between the classes was massive in terms of their readiness for the examinations and my 2nd set Y10 class were fantastic in terms of the preparations they were making independent of our lessons. In the lead up to the examinations I had half the class (at least) stay behind after school once a week (at least) to go over past questions, topics they didn't understand and things they needed to clear up. I found that my class didn't seem to attend the department's revision sessions after school each week and so decided to set up a revision session after school specifically for them. I provided biscuits to entice the more reluctant students in the group to turn up and I was really pleased with the attendance at these sessions. I hope that the work and effort put in here will reflect in their grades come August when they open up their envelopes.
The other Y10 class were barely ready for the examinations and will do well to get a D grade on the examinations. However, some of them do stand a chance at this. They'll probably sit the same examinations in November or be put into a linear examination (currently they've been doing the Edexcel linked pair pilot [Methods] exams). This class have taken up a lot of time purely by having to constantly think of what I was going to try and teach them and what they'd actually respond well to. They were a difficult class to teach and took up a lot of time trying to differentiate activities accordingly and get the most out of them as possible.

Aside from the Y10 examinations, and preparation for these examinations, a lot of my time was spent sorting out my NQT year and all the elements of this. This included my NQT final assessment observation, the NQT moderation visit we had and the ongoing collection and notation of evidence for the standards. I had 3 (termly) assessments during my NQT year and the final assessment was to take place on a given day and I was told that my assessor would come in to any lesson on that day. Now, I was able to rule out 1 of the lessons as I knew they would be teaching at the same time (and cover was an issue that would not be added to), but the rest all had to be planned and prepared for in the same fashion I would normally, with an added element of 'Ooo...I'm being observed'!  On the day of the assessment I sent my assessor an e-mail to remind them of the lessons I would be teaching that day to which I had a reply that they'd be in to observe me P2 (Y7). So, this lesson I spent the entire time watching the class door awaiting their arrival...nothing happened! So, it got to P3 and still no sign, until halfway through the lesson my assessor turned up to observe the lesson. This, if anything, was better than if they had turned up P2 as the class I had P3, although it was one of my trickiest bottom set Y8 groups, were working fantastically well, were engaged throughout and was one of the most enjoyable lessons we'd had all year - I was a bit lucky in this respect! The lesson was graded 'outstanding' and that, apart from the official form filling etc, was that, for my NQT year.

The biggest time consumer outside of the classroom had to be the end of year reports and end of year assessments. Now, last year I had to do all these things, but as I had only 3-4 classes this didn't seem too much of a chore. I also didn't have a tutor group's reports to do as I shared a form with the Head of English and she was awesome in taking this responsibility. So this year came as a bit of a shock as I had 8 classes worth of reports to do...and my tutor group's comments.
Each of the reports took a good 3 and a half hours + to do if they were a class of 30 odd. My smaller classes (luckily I had a few of these) only took a couple of hours to do. The tutor comments for my form took up about 3 hours due to having to read through their comments from other subjects before writing my general comment about their report and also how they'd been in form time. In addition to the reports, there were also all the end of year assessments for my Y7-9 classes. These all took a while to mark and then plan effective feedback for, which therefore didn't leave much time for anything else.

In Term 3 there were then a lot of other more 'minor' things that took up time like:

organising Sports Day with the form group - this is a nightmare...avoiding clashes, making sure students weren't doing too many events, making sure all students were taking part, making sure the students knew what they were doing and at what times, getting students to do the least popular events etc

taking part in the fortnightly NQT sessions and those sessions provided externally that caused cover to be set up for the classes I'd miss on those days

for our Enrichment week (w/beg 15th Jul) I'm going to Spain with half of the Y8s and we had a meeting with parents to inform them about the trip and answer any questions

as part of our House duties we were asked to do the interviews for the new house captains after the Y11s left having completed their examinations

I was part of the teachers chosen in our department to run a Y6 --> Y7 induction session for 2 of the form groups entering the school in September

All of the above was in addition to the ongoing lesson planning, marking, assessments, meetings etc that you'd expect from any other teaching week.

Outside of school it's been a busy couple of months too, with the ongoing TES resource reviews, moving house and DJing at weddings and Leavers' Balls. All of this has had to squeeze into the weekly routines that I try to get in place and so it's no wonder that I've not been able to get on here and share my ideas etc.
However, there is now only 1 'teaching week' left at my current school, then it's our 'Enrichment Week' where I'm in Spain with Y8 and then...HELLO Summer!

It has definitely been a busy year, especially the final term of the year, and it has been as enjoyable as it has been hectic. Keeping on top of everything has been the main challenge, as well as trying to ensure that the quality of my lessons didn't suffer with the other duties/responsibilities needing fulfilling at the same time. The increase in the timetable time is the main thing to change in your NQt year and I'm assuming this will be one of the main differences next year when I'll have a 100% timetable as an NQT +1.

If I could say anything to myself prior to having started this year it would have been to do my reports as soon as they were available for writing. I managed to do this to a certain extent, but still found myself trying to get the tutor comments done with a day or so to spare. I'd also be a bit firmer at the start of the year with classes than I perhaps was this year. I don't think this had too much of a detrimental effect, but the classes could have been a bit sharper/tighter behaviour wise a bit sooner in the year. All of the experience I have gained from this year I will take to my 'new' school in September, which I am thoroughly looking forward to.

I'll be blogging about all of the lesson ideas/activities I have used over the past term in the next couple of weeks. So watch this space!

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