Too young to teach? What one NQT wants to say to parents
A big brown envelope arrived through my letterbox in July. It contained a certificate stating that I was now officially a teacher. My dedication and perseverance throughout the rollercoaster of my PGCE had paid off and, thanks to a gruelling round of interviews, I was fortunate to have my first job lined up at a primary school in Croydon starting in September.
I was thrilled – but I know that many parents who hand over their children to an NQT can be less so. I have stood at the door of the classroom and seen their nerves. 'She's barely out of school herself,' was a phrase I often overheard during my teaching practise.
But as an NQT I have a great deal on my side.
I've always been passionate about working with children and, while this is my first paid teaching role, have had experience volunteering at a high school for girls in Uganda and my local village nursery. I also have many months of 'real' teaching practise under my belt. There were a lot of emotional goodbyes and meaningful presents at the end of my teaching placement and this demonstrates the impact that I can have as a teacher. I worked in a Year 1 class consisting of glitter, infinite hugs and “so and so won’t play with me", and then had my own Year 5 class where the children demonstrated real independence and intelligence (and attitude!) and both groups of children fared very well.
Yes, I learnt a great deal but I have no concerns that the children did too.
One of my most memorable moments was with my Year 5 class – who were, at times, hard to please – when we carried out a science experiment to demonstrate friction. All it involved was jelly, oil and chopsticks but the dedication that children showed when they were transferring oily jelly to another container under a time limit was inspirational. I am determined to bring that joy of learning to my new class this September.
Note to parents: I realise that leaving your child with me is daunting but I do care about each and every one of them. I'm dedicated and hard working. Oh, and my maternal instinct appears to have kicked in to the max!
As an NQT I am also a sponge.
All NQTs are. The new National Curriculum was being implemented as I started my training and I have been able to teach it with fresh eyes. I am flexible and do not have a set way of teaching; I can be moulded to fit in with the needs of the children. Teaching our future generation is demanding; I had to teach what an algorithm was to my Year 1 class (something they could hardly pronounce!) and could easily bring the concept to life by talking about iPads and Google. I have grown up in the technology boom and feel more than qualifed to bring this aspect of modern learning to life.
I also believe that bringing a little bit of 'old school' magic to teaching is vital.
One of the highlights of my teaching PGCE placement year was getting together with all the other NQTs to organise a ball for the children. We sent every child an invite from Prince Charming and one little girl wrote back saying, 'I would love to come to your ball and dance with you forever and ever and ever...' The energy of a group of fresh-faced new teachers created a really special event that was so successful that it will hopefully become an annual event for the school.
Many of my fellow PGCE graduates share my passion for teaching but the statistics are against us: 40% of students drop out of their PGCE course and 4 in 10 newly qualified teachers don’t make it past their first year. So far I have beaten the first statistic and I am absolutely determined to trounce the second.
So what do I want to say to parents who are nervous about handing their most precious possession over to me, the NQT?
- I WILL get it right! I am going to do everything I can to make sure I do.
- I’ve probably spent the majority of my summer holiday getting the classroom ready. I'm new but I care deeply.
- I am nervous too! Meeting parents is a nerve-wracking prospect... Help?!
- I may not have years of hands-on teaching to my name but I do know every child and every class is unique. Your child is special to me.
I hope this gives parents a little bit of an insight into a teacher’s mind, one that feels excited, nervous and determined, right at the very start of her teaching journey.