I, teacher

Whatever doesn’t get you sacked…only makes you stronger.

There may be some (many) NQTs out there who found the Autumn terms tough. Even the most naturally gifted teacher or bright-eyed bushy-tailed young Buck can find the reality of being an actual full time teacher really hard. That’s partly because it is. Teaching is an incredibly hard job and it’s only in your first proper term that you realise how sheltered you were from the day-in day-out pressures of the job whilst you were training. But it’s also because you haven’t been doing it for that long. So before you spend the final night of your holidays not sleeping as you worry about whether you will be able to jump back onto the merry-go-round or worry that you are just not cut out for this profession read this. Here I dig deep into my memory archives and share with you some of the most incompetent parts of my NQT year. Why? Because I guarantee you have not done anything this bad and it turned out alright for me so you will be fine.

When I graduated and became a teacher they had literally just introduced those English, Maths and ICT tests you had to do in order to get your qualified teaching status. Now as I am not a great auditory learner I didn’t quite get the full message during the lecture where they explained it. All I came away from it thinking was: ‘I’ve got three years to do them’.

So I happily applied for a job, got the interview and got the job. I taught happily for about two months before the Head called me into her office where the Chair of Governors was also waiting. She had received a call from the council saying that there was an unqualified teacher employed as a qualified teacher working in the school. Now, it was a small school so she only had four people to really choose from: the deputy, the SENCO, the Early Years leader and the NQT (I’m pretty sure I was the only one she bothered bringing into her office). What she now had to do was to decide whether I was committing fraud on purpose or just an idiot. Thankfully it didn’t take me too long to convince them of the latter but it was a rather intense meeting where I was facing the very real possibility of losing my job. I apologised, had my pay docked until I had paid back the difference to the local authority and promptly took the tests (and passed). I carried on teaching there for four years.

After I was a proper qualified teacher (by then I even had the certificate to prove it) I settled into the rhythms of teaching. One morning I woke up and I looked up at my skylight and thought: ’Gosh, it’s incredibly light out there.’ At that exact moment I heard the flat buzzer go off – who on earth could that be so early? I stumbled out of bed to answer the buzzer and as I opened my bedroom door I saw that my flatmate had beaten me to it. The voice at the other end was asking if I was in, my flatmate replied that of course I wasn’t in because I was at work….no I wasn’t the voice replied. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 9:50am. By this point I was beginning to work out why it was so light in my bedroom and the voice was explaining to my house mate that she was the Deputy Head, I wasn’t in work so if I was in fact here I should put some trousers on and meet her downstairs quickly.

Again I had to explain to my Head that I was simply an idiot who had slept through his alarm. I practically had to give a blood test and urine test to prove to everyone else that I wasn’t hung-over. They amusingly presented me with an alarm clock the next day and I had to bribe my class with watching a video on Friday afternoon if they vowed not to tell their parents. I carried on teaching there for four years.

I took my class to a local bookshop (for some reason? I actually can’t remember-perhaps an author was there). I had asked one of the parents to come with us and it was she who informed me on the way back that some of the children had taken some gift cards from the store. I asked them to empty their pockets and after I had counted them all up I told the children that collectively they had stolen £450 from the store. I hadn’t done a proper telling off before so I went to town on them. There were tears, I may have mentioned criminal records and I got the parents in and demanded that the children write apology letters to the manager. Afterwards, I inspected the gift cards and saw that they weren’t actually vouchers but promo cards – never mind I thought trying to sound convincing, in principle they stole and I was right to tell them off. I rang the store manager who didn’t seem to mind saying that they get taken all the time and are worthless and there was no need for me to return them. Finally my Head called me in as the parent volunteer had spoken to her and raised the point that I hadn’t sent out any letters about the trip and therefore hadn’t got any parent’s permission. ‘I know it’s a local visit,’ she said, ‘But you still have to tell the parents you’re taking their child on a bloody trip!’ I carried on teaching there for four years.

So there are just three appalling examples of my ineptness during my first year of teaching – I haven’t even mentioned my teaching which when I look back now was pretty appalling. I spent my first year as a teacher caught between feeling elated that I was doing this job followed by daily waves of panic, thinking I was out of my depth. Why have I written this?  Because if there are any new or newish teachers out there who are feeling out of their depth or worried that they have made mistakes that will haunt them forever; you can now relax because you’re not THIS much of an idiot. So get a good night’s sleep and take on Term 3 with confidence and gusto; just for goodness sake…set you alarm.

11 thoughts on “I, teacher

  1. Jill Berry January 5, 2014 / 6:45 pm

    Don’t you find that even as a head you’ll have a day where you think, ‘I’m actually quite good at this’ immediately followed by a day when you think, ‘I am barely getting away with this and someone is going to find me out…’ I certainly did!

    Many thanks for this. I always enjoy your posts.

    • theprimaryhead January 5, 2014 / 7:08 pm

      Every day! I truly think that when you stop worrying it’s time to move on.

      • Jill Berry January 5, 2014 / 7:11 pm

        Agreed. Those (teachers and school leaders) that worry me most are those who appear to have no self-doubt/humility.

  2. supportingmaths January 5, 2014 / 9:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. We need more of a culture of sharing our failures as well as our successes as teachers.

  3. headleigh January 5, 2014 / 10:24 pm

    My ‘finest’ example of stupidity as a young teacher is as follows. Working in the South East as a PE teacher, I was keen to give it my all. I organised a day trip to Alton Towers (400 mile round trip) with me driving the school’s 45 seater, antiquated coach. The trip was for Years 7 and 8. as I remember, and planned for a Sunday. It proved extremely popular with the children and was swiftly fully booked with 3 accompanying staff. Unfortunately, the staff members let me down one by one, leaving me in a difficult situation. In my youthful stupidity, I drove the children to Alton Towers and back again. They collected and bought me a cuddly toy and 20 Bensons for my troubles! Needless to say, I received a mighty bollocking the following day but at least the kids had a good day and were safely returned. As this was 1985, there were no EV policies in place. As a primary headteacher in 2014, there would be more than a mild rebuke for anyone guilty of such foolishness!

  4. secretteacher6 January 6, 2014 / 8:35 pm

    Reblogged this on Secret Teacher and commented:
    If you are an NQT, new or newish to the profession, or indeed if you are struggling, take solace from the fact we have all been there and come out the other end!

  5. mrshbookworm January 13, 2014 / 7:36 pm

    Fantastic post!! I look back at the silly mistakes I made as an NQT and cringe… but it’s just how we learn!

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