As they prepared for the Christmas break, new teachers told us about their experiences of their first term in teaching.
We know how daunting it can be the first time you step into a classroom. Sweaty palms, shaky voice, dry throat… those first few days can feel like an eternity as you question whether you chose the right career, especially when pupils misbehave or a class lacks enthusiasm. But then you see glimmers of hope – a struggling student ‘gets it’, a class erupts in giggles at a silly joke you told, a parent offers a kind word of praise – and your optimism is renewed.
It can feel like a rollercoaster ride at the beginning of the year, but new teachers overwhelmingly agree that it is a ride worth sticking out as the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Here we look at NUT members’ candid reflections of the past few months in the life of a new teacher.
Teaching is an unpredictable profession and training can only prepare you for so much.
Zoe, a School Direct teacher in East Yorkshire, explained some of her initial wobbles.
“The start of the year was really hard. I felt nervous at first contacting parents, since I’m young, but it’s getting better.”
Bethan, an NQT at a primary school in Wales, shares that for her “the most surprising thing has been the workload”.
Naomi, an NQT supply teacher in Nottinghamshire, was equally surprised by the workload. “It’s incredible how long it takes to do the marking, which I didn’t expect.”
“At first it was challenging and emotionally draining,” says Hannah, an NQT in a London secondary school. “It was little things – I didn’t have a fob, I didn’t know my colleagues, I didn’t have the photocopier code and so on.”
Having someone to turn to with questions or concerns is crucial in those first few months and building a proper support network helps smooth out the bumps along the way.
“The other reception teacher has been amazing guiding me through everything,” explains Bethan. “My NQT mentor in the school has always been there when I’ve needed someone to speak to regarding observations and parents evenings.”
“As a supply teacher it can be difficult, since every school is completely different,” says Naomi. “Generally, schools have been supportive and head teachers have popped in to see how I’m doing. Some schools haven’t been very helpful though, for example, not showing me where the toilets or staffrooms are.”
We all know teaching can be challenging at times, but the consensus is that the rewards compensate for the difficult moments.
“One thing I have found rewarding is that teaching has presented me with the opportunity to keep learning every day,” shares Festus, an NQT at a London academy. “I work in a dynamic environment where no two days are the same. Each lesson comes with its own challenges which has pushed me to be more creative and think outside the box.”
Chris, an NQT at a sixth form in the Wirral, tells us: “I’ve loved the past few months, it’s been very interesting. I really like interacting with my students and having a positive influence in shaping their futures.”
For Bethan, the most rewarding part is watching pupils achieve a goal. “Seeing a child practising a certain letter or number over and over again and then they finally do it correctly makes you so proud. It helps you remember why you love your job.”
Festus shares his hopes for the next term: “I have spent this term getting to know my pupils and I look forward to building on that and forming positive relationships in an environment where they are appropriately stretched and challenged.”
“Working with a range of ages and abilities has given me a wealth of experience and confidence,” says Naomi. “I look forward to taking everything I have learned and applying it in my own class one day.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the pupils in my class grow more in the various areas of the curriculum,” Bethan says. “It’s been lovely seeing the children enjoy school life and there’s never a dull moment – every day they make me laugh.”
The NUT is here to support you every step of the way during your first year and there are many advantages of membership.
“Being an NUT member has been very beneficial to me in terms of CPD. I have attended three workshops which have helped me to improve my teaching strategies and promote behaviour for learning in my classroom,” says Festus.
“It is great being an NUT member in Wales – the NUT team have been very supportive and are always there if I need advice,” Bethan adds. “I have been very impressed by the amount of courses available and the ones I have attended have given me many ideas and tips to take back into the classroom.”
Training to teach this year? You will have received the NUT guide Finding your first job, which was posted to members before Christmas. If you are training to teach via School Direct we will send you more information soon.
If you know someone who hasn’t yet joined the Union please ask them to join. Membership is free whilst training to teach and just £1 for NQTs.