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I’ve just completed my first term teaching English as a secondary NQT in Newbury, Berkshire. Three years ago I left a management role and entered the classroom as an assistant in the English department of a local school, and I completed my Graduate Teacher Programme training last summer.
September arrived. I was armed with the most important advice an NQT could be given: learn to say ‘no’! That might sound like a negative approach, but as the New Year began I was feeling refreshed from my holidays and keen to do well. I would easily have said ‘yes’ to supervising after-school clubs, running a marathon or being the department’s chief photocopier.
I recalled conversations from branch meetings and ATL’s Conference; ‘NQTs come in and do all the things that we’re not supposed to do’. It was never a criticism of NQTs; rather, it was a concern that so many of us were never accurately informed of what we had a right to say no to.
Much as I wanted to get involved in my school, I also wanted to teach high-quality lessons and keep up with the workload of planning and marking. Without the fantastic advice of two active ATL members in my department and my branch I would have been left bewildered by terms like ‘directed time’ and had no idea about liability cover for lunch and break duties. Equally, it was my ATL representatives who helped agree and explain the guidelines for ‘drop-in observation’ — an idea that would turn the blood of many NQTs cold!
Thanks to the advice of my colleagues and ATL, I have survived the first term. I have planned and marked, written reports, supported my tutor group in house competitions and concerts, organised a trip, taught a class of 35, survived three snow days and managed to fight off the flu until the New Year. Not bad going! I’m glad I said ‘no’ a few times!