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Developing Confidence as an NQT

This week's guest blog comes from @Y3NQT who writes and tweets from the perspective of a primary NQT.  This post is based on a presentation she gave at our annual #NQTeachMeet18 in May 2018.

When we start our teacher training, our NQT years, we may, at times, lack confidence. This seems perfectly normal and acceptable to me. We’re doing something for the first time, surrounded by people who have been doing it for years and if you’re an NQT at a ‘normal age’ eg 20 something, not 40 something like me, then some of your colleagues may have been teaching as long as you’ve been alive.

In his book ‘The Confident Teacher’ Alex Quigley confessed that when he started teaching he ‘…felt like an imposter, carrying off a deceitful trick while no one was looking.’ I think we can all identify with this! He went on to say his confidence was not quickly won rather it was gruelling trek through long days facing fears and failures but refusing to give up.

I’d like to share with you 3 things I’ve learnt this year that have helped me to develop confidence – and I heard all of these at teach meets and conferences, so, if nothing else, let this post inspire you to get to some of these events! The three things are: to see myself as a leader, to focus on the positives and to be values led.

I heard Dr Jill Berry speak on ‘Every teacher is a leader of learning.’ As NQTs we may not feel like ‘leaders’ – in fact much of this year I’ve been painfully aware of my ‘rookie’ status, – but when we think about it we do lead. As Dr Berry explained, we lead by:

  • Leading support staff
  • Facilitate learning
  • Communicate vision
  • Building relationships

The brilliant Nina Jackson said ‘When we are classroom teachers we sometimes forget we are natural leaders in our own right. When it comes to discovery, questioning, exploration and growth, we manage the learning, the teaching, the pupils, ourselves and we lead others to pastures new.’

I was also privileged to hear the inspirational Susan Ritchie speak on ‘Creating Personal Impact’. One valuable thing I took away was the need to acknowledge and deal with our ‘Doom Loops’ – this is simply our negative ‘inner voice’ that tells us we’re not good enough, we’re letting our kids/colleagues down, we’re not learning quickly enough, that lesson was rubbish. Why did you even become a teacher?

Gary Toward in his book ‘The art of being a brilliant NQT’ encourages us to be deliberate and systematic in kicking out ‘mood-hoovering’ aspects of life and focusing on the positives and Susan Ritchie suggested we keep a log of these positives to refer back to when our ‘doom loop’ is playing on repeat. Some of the things we can include in this log are:

  • Our successes
  • Challenges we’ve overcome
  • Things we’ve contributed to

Another key thing for me to log is positive feedback from colleagues, kids, parents. The other 3 things are about our perception/take on situations, which is valid, but we are often our own worst critics, and, in all honesty, may not really believe the positive stuff we say to ourselves! But all the great things OTHERS say about us/ to us often resonate much more strongly and provide a great deal more encouragement and motivation

Finally, I heard Hannah Wilson at Primary Rocks quote Mary Myatt who said: ‘Values should be lived, not laminated.’

We should be values led.  Ross Morrison McGill says. ‘Values play a vital role in’ defining and establishing the ‘what why and how’ of our teaching. Hannah Wilson recommended that we decide on our non-negotiables – the values we consider to be vital to embed in our classrooms and then we stick to them.  My top 3 are:

  • Effort – We’re well into term 3 I think my class are getting a bit fed up of me constantly reminding them that I expect their best efforts, in all areas, all the time. I’ve chosen to focus on effort rather than results simply because everyone can try their best, not everyone will have the same level of success.
  • Respect – I explain to my class that it is vital we all treat one another with respect – this includes how I treat them as well as how they treat me and one another. This has provided a good foundation for managing behaviour positively.
  • Safety – Many of our students may come into school from environments, families and circumstances where they don’t feel safe, and it is vital that we create a sense of safety in school. Everyone has a part to play in this, not just the adults, but the other children too. So as a class we have talked about how to make one another feel safe and it’s something we revisit on a regular basis.

To grow in confidence: think of yourself as a leader, keep a deliberate focus on the positives, decide on your non-negotiable values and stick to them.

To find our more about our NQT induction programme, visit our NQT pages.