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Should I give up already?

Discussion in 'NQTs and new teachers' started by Xsxs22, Sep 11, 2020.

  1. Xsxs22

    Xsxs22 New commenter

    Hi all,

    So from what I've read here previously, people here are usually kind and supportive and right now I don't know where else to go for advice.

    I am an nqt (secondary English) at a school in a deprived area and already I am beginning to feel I am simply useless at this and am doing the kids and the school more harm by staying than I would be by leaving early on.

    Last week was okay as due to the situation regarding Covid-19, many year groups did not come back into school until Monday and I only had to take my year 7 lessons and a few periods with pre-planned work with my form. However, this week has been an utter disaster. I cannot think of one lesson I have taken that has gone remotely well this week. I am thankful that senior staff have not been in and out of rooms as much as they often are as I would honestly have been mortified if anyone saw anything I've been trying to do this week. I have some very tough classes, a year 8 class of very low attainers with a lot of high priority SEND students, and another year 9 class which includes students who are notoriously badly behaved and many students other staff have commented they don't feel would have been taught in a mainstream school in years gone by due to the complexity of their specific learning, social, emotional and physical needs. Several of the students in the class have reading ages of below 7 years. I did encounter lower ability students and students with SEN in my training year but I feel these classes present with a whole new level of challenge regarding both behaviour and T&L and I honestly have no idea how to handle it. I feel I've forgotten everything I know; how to manage behaviour, how to pitch a lesson effectively, how to keep a suitable pace in my lessons, how to plan for differentiation.

    I know not finishing my training properly due to COVID will not have helped but I don't feel any support is in place to account for the fact that in any other circumstances, I wouldn't have been able to qualify having lost so much time and have simply been thrown in the deep end with some massive challenges. I am trying hard but the kids haven't understood or made any progress in my lessons and some of them haven't done any work at all. They have been rude to me and clearly don't enjoy or want to be in my lessons. I would feel okay if I had at least some faint idea of how to plan lessons for a better week next week and felt I at least had some strategies in place to try and turn this around in the coming days but I feel totally lost. I am out of my depth and a useless teacher.

    I have asked colleagues in the department for their advice but all I getting is 'well I found them fine' (regarding the Y8 class) or pitying looks. Almost all of the department are new apart from two members of staff which I don't think is helping. The head and second in department are both new to the school.

    Does any one have any advice? Is it time to accept I'm just no good at this? I feel I just can't adapt my teaching effectively at all and everything I do is rubbish. I want to be a good teacher :(
  2. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I'm sorry to hear you're having a tough time.

    Have you arranged weekly meetings with your mentor? Induction is a statutory requirement - meetings are meant to be regular, and support is meant to be forthcoming. Try to be vocal in asking for help in areas where you need it, e.g. could you arrange to observe other teachers teaching your tricky classes, and have a meeting with the SEND lead? Or do you have regular TAs who know the students well, that you could get info from? Is there a spreadsheet or database with the details of the SEN students on, i.e. their capabilities?

    For planning lessons, give them shorter tasks that are achievable, and don't worry about preparing them for assessments at this point - just focus on getting a routine in class, and managing behaviour. Have a starter task ready for when they come in. For weaker students, or those with a short attention span, and low reading age, give them short extracts for any analysis and writing tasks. Maybe use an audio book if you're reading a novel, or do 'popcorn reading', where one student reads at least a paragraph, then says the name of someone else to continue reading - I've found even naughty and weak students enjoy that, but only at KS3, and it needs rules e.g. don't say the name of someone you know really won't want to do it. For writing, make/find scaffolds, templates, 'fill in the gap' style, or crosswords, word searches etc. Look on TES resources. For creative writing, use image prompts, as this is what they'll encounter in the GCSE language exam.

    What texts or topics are you teaching for each year group? Maybe post here, or in the English forum (I'm also an English teacher, BTW).

    Students always behave better for established teachers, so don't listen when people say they have no problem with that class. Make sure you understand the behaviour policy, and use it consistently. Children who are weaker, and more immature, have a thing about fairness when it comes to discipline - so try to be fair.

    You are not alone in feeling useless - I didn't feel vaguely competent until the end of my disastrous NQT year. You aren't meant to be amazing at this point.
  3. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    It can be very hard just to settle in a new school even as experienced teacher. You understand that the school is in a deprived area and the pupils have had an unprecedented disruption to their education. On reflection it was always going to be challenging!

    Some good advice has been give already as to what to try.
    Try and see what works for your colleagues, even in other departments.
    agathamorse and SundaeTrifle like this.
  4. JJ83

    JJ83 Occasional commenter

    I am assuming you are only one week in - YOU HAVE GOT THIS!!!!
    Be consistent and fair in EVERY MINUTE of every lesson and you will be fine, most pupils you will build a relationship with you will have a small percentage you just cannot gel with at all which is tough but it happens to US ALL!!
    Pupils have been out of lessons for 6 months so they will be finding it very strange to be back in a routine with new faces and personalities as well - stick with it for now
    Keep asking for support - no the BFL system inside out and use it consistently in lessons
    SPeak to other teachers outside of your team who teach the same pupils they may have some wonderful nuggets which may help you
    Never doubt yourself you are undoubtedly doing a great job
    agathamorse and Yoda- like this.
  5. Xsxs22

    Xsxs22 New commenter

    Thank you all for the kind advice. I did always know it was going to be hard. I knew the school was tough and I know teaching is tough full stop. I just didn't anticipate I'd be given pretty much all of the really tough classes. I spoke to my mentor yesterday and he agreed that I've been given a heavy timetable and a high percentage of challenging classes, but it is what it is and I suppose if I can stick this out I'll finish the year a better teacher for it.

    My mentor and I have organised a weekly meeting time now which has made me feel better. I explained the problems I have been having and we are going to be doing a learning walk next week to allow me to observe the classes I teach with other teachers. I don't have any TAs in either of the classes though I feel with several students with EHCPs in both of the classes I mentioned, I should have some support at least some of the time. I am hoping this can be arranged down the line but I am told the school don't really have enough support staff to account for the number of pupils that need it in the school, which is obviously difficult. I did try to speak to the SENCO but I ended up with more of a telling off for not knowing what to do as 'its part of my job and I should know' rather than advice :(

    I've begun planning for next week now and implemented some of the tips suggested here, e.g. beginning the lesson with short, doable tasks. I've noticed a lot of the students in the year 8 class seem to like drawing, so I'm thinking of getting them to draw a comic strip of the story we are reading at the moment to show their understanding. I've also started working on a placemat to scaffold the writing of one paragraph for Q2 of lang paper 1 for the year 9 class which I'm hoping they will respond well to. I'll just have to see how next week goes now.

    Thank you everyone for your kindness. I am feeling a bit more positive now. If anyone has anymore suggestions they'd be greatly appreciated.
  6. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    It sounds like you've worked hard and taken some positive steps to improve things this week, so well done for that.

    Let's give the SENCO the benefit of the doubt, and assume their rudeness was down to them being stressed by the new term, lack of TAs, and ongoing pandemic. Just know that what they said was wrong, though.

    Focus now on getting your classes into a routine, and getting to grips with the behaviour policy. Once that's underway, make sure you know what's coming up in their first assessment, and make sure they're ready for it.

    I assume there's some kind of system for noting negative and positive comments - make sure you use the positive comments, for example if someone gives a really good answer, or works really well as a team, tell them this in the classroom, and follow it up with a positive written comment. Some schools do postcards or text messages as rewards, so find out how your school rewards good work, and use it.

    The comic strip idea is a good one; perhaps they can use it later to help plot the story (i.e. the things they decided to draw would be, to them, the key parts of the story), or identify imagery. Maybe they could select key quotes to go along with what they draw.

    What about writing? 50% of the lang GCSE is writing, so time spent writing in lessons in never wasted. I always like to link transactional tasks to the texts I teach, e.g. write a letter to advise one of the characters, or a speech to persuade, an article to explain xyz, a piece of travel writing on the setting, etc. And I like creative writing, based on images, especially seasonal ones (it's nearly Halloween!). I differentiate by challenging students to include something according to their ability, e.g. imagery (simile, metaphor, personification), or rhetorical devices (alliteration, repetition, juxtaposition).

    Take care.
    agathamorse and Yoda- like this.
  7. thetapdancingteach

    thetapdancingteach New commenter

    I was you this time last year!!
    Even as I type that it seems a little false, given everything that's going on in the world right now, but I can soooo relate. I'm also an English teacher, and last year was my NQT year.

    I had a horrible year 9 class full of badly behaved boys (when I mentioned their names to other teachers they all grimaced, and couldn't quite believe I had them all in one class- some kind of sick lottery I imagine!) I got given 2 bottom set year 10 classes, and a mixed year 7 with some kids with reading ages of 16, some with reading ages of 5... There were whole weeks at a time when all I could do was thank my lucky stars nobody had come along the corridor for a 'pop in' and that my classroom was the last on the row. I hated every single second of it up to Christmas, and honestly last Christmas was the worst one of my life. My mental health had never been so low.

    The only thing that got me through was knowing that even if I'd quit in December, I'd still have had to have stayed until Easter, and then it would've felt like a waste doing all that to have gained essentially nothing. I decided I would leave at the end of the summer term with my NQT year completed and never look back. As it is, Covid then happened and I'm still here :confused::confused:
    Still hate it, can't quite believe I'm still here doing this- and believe me, some of my lessons this week have been an ABSOLUTE joke. Thank god nobody's prowling about!! (At least not regularly) For example- we watched a plane crash documentary in my year 10 lesson today, which should have been on poetry.

    The best advice I can give is stick it through to the end of the year, and get your NQT done. You didn't go through the PGCE just to end up with nothing to show for it. My mum always told me that qualifications are like a 'golden ticket' and that's how I saw last year. I've made a lot of changes in my life, and when I leave teaching (I think) I'll be leaving for good. But you never know. And it's reassuring to know that that initial year is done.

    Ask for help when you need it- I wish I had. Like I say, the sympathy I get now when people find out about that year 9 class is overwhelming, but last year I struggled through it, feeling unable to say anything in case I got in trouble for not being able to mange their behaviour better. Do what you need to do to get through and nothing more. Take the advice, take the help, and in July, take your NQT year off into a better future.

    With that said, you might find it gets easier? Things definitely eased up for me in the spring term (or what we did of it!) and you might actually find yourself enjoying it. I know plenty of people who trained with me who found that.

    Take care of yourself, and don't suffer in silence!! Feel free to message me as well!
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. Sam983

    Sam983 New commenter

    This has helped me also. I am an NQT and due to me testing positive for COVID I’ve only just started last week.

    the school has super high expectations due it it wanting to be outstanding and as my Pgce year only lasting 5 months there is no support just expectations to be perfect immediately. I’m really not sure what to do next. I dont know what the expectations are as I wasn’t included in the emails due to admin error I only find out when I’ve done something wrong. The worst part is I absolutely love teaching but it’s all the paper pushing and management which is the worst part.

    is it worth doing supply? Or looking for a new role or will it be the same regardless of the school I’m in?

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