It’s 2016 and finally, I’m a teacher. 3 years of hard work and here I am… standing in awe at a blank canvas which is MY very own classroom. The daunting realisation that now is the time to put theory into practice. But I’m prepared, of course I am. I’ve sat in lecture after lecture; I’ve read books, journals and articles; I’ve completed three placements and was graded outstanding at the end of it. Get in! The confident start I’d dreamt of.

Fast forward four months. It’s January, 6pm and I’m the only teacher left. I’m sat, disheartened and deflated, still staring at the page of ‘development points’ I was given following my observation yesterday. The caretaker is stood patiently outside my door waiting for me to leave, just as he was the night before. “I can’t leave,” I thought, panicking. I scooped up the pile of papers that still needed laminating ready for the next day. But it’s fine because I’ve already planned my five differentiated activities (as told to) and updated my display boards for the third time this term, so there’s not much more to do. It’s now 11pm; my sheets are laminated, resources cut out and alarm is set for 05.30. I’m lying in bed with the same nagging self-doubt:

What if I’m not right for the job? Why are my lessons never good enough? How can I possibly improve ALL of those things now? Why did no-one warn me of these unrealistic expectations?

I would always question myself, but why would I not question others?

If only ‘Confident Tanya’ was still around to reassure you, just like your NQT friends tried to.

A letter to my NQT self.

Dear Tanya,

You are entering the most rewarding, exciting but challenging career and you should be SO excited. Your time at university has led you to this moment: you have built up a portfolio of knowledge, skills and strategies; you have observed and been observed; you have planned lessons and taught children… not too scary, eh?! Your NQT year will involve all of those things too; but, I am going to be honest and tell you that it will be difficult. On the difficult days, PLEASE remember, it is normal to feel worried. Please remember why you started in the first place and the excitement you felt walking into your class for the first time.  But, most importantly, please be confident – always.

Be confident in your own ability. You are qualified, you are capable but you are STILL LEARNING. This means you will still attend training days and you will still observe your fellow colleagues. This may be overwhelming at times; sitting in awe, watching, what appears to you as effortless, ‘perfect’ lessons. But remember that they are more experienced and have had years to develop a schema of knowledge. A schema built up of successes and failures, lessons learnt and unique experiences of their own. Don’t compare yourself to them; instead, try the good practice you observe in your own class, build up your own library of knowledge and know that one day, an NQT may be watching you teach, feeling the same.

Be confident in your own development. Everybody progresses at different rates! Yes, things won’t always go as planned and yes, you will be given ‘development points’ and constructive feedback. But always remember that you can’t develop everything simultaneously, despite what colleagues may say. You will progress naturally as time goes on, so prioritise the aspects which are vital for your classroom management. Commit to a never-ending cycle of self-reflection, learn from your mistakes and don’t let people put you down. It takes time to improve your practice, so please, be kind to yourself.

Be confident to take risks and divert away from ‘the expected.’ We often invest our time trying to deliver lessons in the ‘textbook’ way. In the way you were told to at university or, even by a more-traditional teacher you know. Although they often mean well, make your own judgement:

Is this approach suitable for MY class? Will this lesson structure have the desired impact I want it to? Does it have purpose or is it a ‘tick box’ activity? Think: Time vs. Impact?

Taking risks, by their very nature, will either: pay-off and be the best thing you do, OR simply not go to plan. But unless you try, how will you know?

Be confident to ask questions. I am finishing on what I feel is the best advice I can give. As Albert Einstein once said, “the important thing is to not stop questioning.” It is only your first year teaching so, of course, there will be countless questions unanswered. Please don’t doubt yourself in silence and feel as though you can’t raise your concerns or share your views (especially if something just ‘doesn’t feel right’). Undoubtedly, asking questions is the best way to learn. Just because you’re now the one stood, in charge, at the front of the class – it doesn’t mean you are alone.

Keep going and don’t give up.

Love from, Tanya x

5th year teaching. Senior leader. Happy. Supported. Appreciated.

‘Confident Tanya’ – I’m glad you won

Tanya Kempson

Personal Development Lead

PDBA Strategic Development Group Lead – Primary West

Caldmore Primary Academy