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Miserable NQT year

(33 Posts)
VeganMarshmallows Sun 25-Sep-16 19:08:15

I'm currently training to teach through the Teach First route (secondary Maths) - completed my first year of teaching/PGCE last year. Unusually, I loved it. The school is challenging but supportive, my timetable was reasonable and I loved being a teacher. For what it's worth, I was generally a good teacher and always received positive feedback, and was graded 'Outstanding' by my PGCE university.

Now, three weeks into the new term and my NQT year and I am so miserable. Although outwardly I'm coping, I am completely exhausted and I cry every evening. The increase in my timetable has been a huge shock to the system (and I'm still 'only' on an NQT timetable) and I can't see my workload becoming more manageable. Part of me wants to leave at the end of this year and go and do something for more money and less stress, except, I do still love the actual teaching and can't imagine doing anything else.

Could really do with some handholding and some stories that this will actually get better.

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Longlost10 Sun 25-Sep-16 19:13:53

Most of us love the "actual teaching" which is why we went into it. Unfortunately it is a very tiny part of the job, and the rest is shit, which is why we leave. I can't agree with the advice I'm always hearing given to NQTs "carry on, you will get used to it". Frankly, absolutely no body in the world should be "getting used" to the levels of overwork, stress and personal abuse many teachers are just expected to such up on a daily basis.

Get out before you are sucked into the pit.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 19:15:24

The NQT year is shit.

However, I've been teaching 11 years and I'm exhausted at the moment too! You don't know your classes, marking is starting to pile up, the summer holiday suddenly seems a long time ago and it's ages till the next one.

What subject do you teach? What are the main causes of workload? Planning? Marking? Where can you take shortcuts?

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 19:17:44

Ah, I missed the bit where you said maths.

Are you signed up to Twitter? Does your school have a mymaths login? Do you know the main websites like resourceaholic?

VeganMarshmallows Sun 25-Sep-16 19:28:14

Longlost that's exactly how I'm feeling at the moment! I don't feel like anyone should have to work the hours that seem to be expected of teachers right now.

noble I think my main issue is marking - I can generally plan fairly quickly now (definitely far quicker than last year!) but marking and photocopying tests onto green paper and giving all pupils individualised feedback and ensuring they are responding to it is taking up huge amounts of time.
I've also been roped into teaching Statistics this year, which means more marking and also no SoW to refer to.

I use all the main sites for resources and most homework is set via MyMaths - did create a Twitter account a while back but never got around to using it. Who would you recommend following?

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jpeg28 Sun 25-Sep-16 19:30:47

I felt like that when I was an NQT! Also this time of year is just so so hard! I teach maths too... it's a tough time for everyone working in schools I think.
What's your mentor like? Could you turn to them for help? Maybe they can help with the workload. I would focus as much as you can on learning about your students and planning... this is possibly controversial... but marking can wait!!
Hope it gets better for you!

VeganMarshmallows Sun 25-Sep-16 19:42:34

jpeg thank-you! My mentor did his own NQT year at my school over thirty years ago, and has never left. He is very open about finding the changing goalposts completely ridiculous and also says that the workload is unsustainable. So, while he empathises, he's not done much in the way of helping.

And god I wish marking could wait. Unfortunately, my HoD is a bit of a bully and he is doing a marking scrutiny tomorrow. It's absolutely not an option to not have it done.

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noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 19:44:39

giving all pupils individualised feedback and ensuring they are responding to it is taking up huge amounts of time.

It will take huge amounts of time, how often are you actually expected to do it? At my school, once every three weeks for each class.
Also, does the feedback actually have to be individualised? Could you go through the answers to homework in class, then give follow-up questions (if you struggled with Q10 do this, if you struggled with Q13 do this, if you got them all right, try the extension). If they're supposed to do this in a different colour it will be easy to show that they are responding to feedback and you save time writing in books.

Why is there no SOW for statistics? Exam boards produce SOW, e.g. Here's one for AQA statistics:

Twitter: follow Just_maths, hegartymaths, mathsjem, solvemymaths, corbettmaths, suffolkmaths, tesmaths for starters and have a look at who they follow

jpeg28 Sun 25-Sep-16 19:50:36

Great advice from noble... other sites I love...

Mathsbox (£60 per year, great little activities on everything and amazing 5 or 10 question starters you can project on the board)
Mr carter maths (free and great for differentiated questions you can project on the board)
Inquiry maths (free)
Nrich and underground maths
Mathspad (not free but not expensive)

For stats kangaroo maths have a SOW which we are sort of using at the moment along side our own, it's the first year we have offered it so are sort of winging it!

My HOD doesn't agree with marking!! Ha ha... but I'm second in maths and I do! I try to focus on verbal feedback in lessons as much as possible and jot bits down in their books as I go, then mark books properly once every six weeks.

Talk to your mentor and hopefully they will help... it does get easier!!

VeganMarshmallows Sun 25-Sep-16 20:07:54

Thank-you both so much!

I'm expected to mark all books (which is seven classes this year) every two weeks. This involves sticking a marking sticker in their books which indicates their subgrade and their Attitude to Learning, and giving them feedback questions of some description. I know that other teachers have used the approach you described, noble , but SMT would only count that as peer/self-assessment, and so it doesn't count for one of my marking cycles. I mark in green, and then pupils have to respond in red.

The issue with statistics is that it takes the form of once-weekly lessons, and is only taught to our very lowest-attaining pupils. In itself, this is challenging. Moreover, the year 11 class that I'm teaching it too were taught by a member of staff who didn't really record what had been taught at all (when asked, he commented that they'd mainly revised mean, median, mode and range). Consequently, I've not got enough time to teach a SoW as presented by an exam board - I feel like it's just going to be a mad rush figuring out what they've never been taught and trying to teach the class (who do not want to be there!) the course in under 30 lessons.

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noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:16:33

This involves sticking a marking sticker in their books which indicates their subgrade and their Attitude to Learning, and giving them feedback questions of some description

Oh dear god this is insane. Subgrade is bollocks, if this comes from your HOD then he doesn't know what he's doing. I suspect that expecting this sort of marking on a two week cycle also comes from someone who only has a couple of classes.
I can't see any reason why the feedback questions have to be written by you in their books. If you are writing the same things over and over, then I would mass produce a worksheet of questions, then either stick it in with the relevant questions ticked, or write the numbers of the relevant questions then hand out the worksheet in class for them to get the questions from.
Expecting a maths teacher to tick and cross otherwise 'it doesn't count' is such a waste of time.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:19:18

I feel like it's just going to be a mad rush figuring out what they've never been taught

Give them a paper to do, in test conditions. Instead of trying to figure out what they've been taught, test them to see what they can do. And that gives you a breather lesson! (You will have to mark the papers though, but that will be easier than the fannying about with response marking you're doing for other classes)

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:21:35

Also I'd be asking pointed questions like 'How am I supposed to give a sub grade for an exam that hasn't been sat yet?' 'What sub grade do you think this piece of work is at? Compared to this piece? How do you tell?' Until they realise that they're asking for shite.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 25-Sep-16 20:25:54

In my old school we marked every 6-8 learning hours, which for core subjects was about once a fortnight, but crucially, we did not mark everything. We marked one appropriate piece of work: a WWW statement (just a statement, not an essay) and a task to get them to improve or extend their work. A set of books took less than an hour. We had a spreadsheet we could use so we could select from a list of tasks, although generally I preferred to write it myself. If you have to mark everything, that is crazy (and I think in Maths most things can be, and in fact should be, self marked before they leave the lesson) and yes, subgrades is absolute madness.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 25-Sep-16 20:26:47

And I agree with noble giraffe re the stats too. Find the gaps and teach them.

VeganMarshmallows Sun 25-Sep-16 20:29:54

noble honestly, thankyou so much. Just hearing someone else articulate a lot of what I've been thinking is immensely reassuring.
The subgrading/levelling policy is one that is enforced by the SMT - unfortunately, due to my HoD being the sort of person that he is, whenever we try to ask those sorts of questions he will shout at us and tell us not to be difficult.

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RevealTheHiddenBeach Sun 25-Sep-16 20:31:39

There's a big difference in how you feel at the end of a year and the start of a new one. I think teaching is a bit like childbirth (so I've heard) - we always forget quite how awful the start of a year is, else we would never go back!

You've had some awesome maths-related advice from other posters, I would add to hang in there and be kind to yourself - it's only 3 weeks in. I'm expecting to feel in control by half term, and until then it's just head above water!

MypocketsarelikeNarnia Sun 25-Sep-16 20:37:47

Being an NQT is shit. And I think teach first is hard because generally you're a lovely bunch of bright people who like being good at stuff and as a teacher you HAVE to let some bits be a bit shit sometimes.

It does get better. Next year you will have this year's work and experience to fall back on and so on and so on.

Is your hod likely to respond better to you asking for his very important and experienced help? Sounds like your mentor is a bit of a waste of space as a mentor...

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:40:31

Is there any way you can feed back how you're feeling with the unrealistic workload expectations to Teach First? I know that they're trying desperately to reduce their drop-out rate! They might have some advice (or tell the school to drop the crap).

VeganMarshmallows Sun 25-Sep-16 20:41:06

TheFallen thanks! Will give my year 11s a past paper tomorrow and see how they get on. Unfortunately - due to them being the sort of class they are, I think there could be way too many gaps and not enough time to fill them!

Reveal I will definitely work on that; last year I was really good at being kind to myself and this year I've been so initially overwhelmed I've sort of forgotten all about the importance of this.

Can I ask: when you do mark work, do you give it any form of level or grade? And how often is this done? I've been so used to subgrading fortnightly that it's good to hear about other policies.

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noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:43:03

I think as the sub grade stuff is such nonsense, I'd stop worrying about it. Give them all the same grade. Who is going to tell you that it's wrong when it's all made up anyway? Or if that seems too daring, pick a grade that they're roughly aiming for, like a 5, then give the scruffy crap ones a 5-, the OK ones a 5 and the nice neat lots of ticks ones a 5+. Don't give it any more headspace than that, because it certainly isn't worth it.

larrygrylls Sun 25-Sep-16 20:45:28

Teaching is a profession where there is a lot of hypocrisy (I am a second career Physics teacher). I was always amazed when I was graded outstanding during my PGCE year as, when I read the standards, I was a mile away from meeting them. But, then, so was everyone else, as they are an impossible aspiration.

The NQT is a very very tough year as your nominal extra 10% time is taken up with evidence gathering and mentor meetings. This 10% extra time is a complete lie. Your actual total commitment is no less than a full time teacher and you have to teach a lot of things for the first time ever.

The reality is that, if you know your subject and the kids like you, there is no way you will fail due to a lack of green sub grade stickers (I tested this to the max during my PGCE. My evidence file was about 20 sides long when most were hundreds. I passed with a one, albeit with some sarcastic comments written on the file).

If you enjoy the actual teaching and are good at it, find a way through your NQT year (and it will pass, I promise). Then find a school where you are valued and can manage your time within reasonable parameters. It is a fantastic job and a privilege to do BUT it is a job and it should leave enough time for a family and social life.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:46:46

We don't give individual pieces of work a level or a grade. It shows a complete misunderstanding of how grades and levels work to expect this.

My school expects us to give each kid a grade on each report which is 3/4 times a year (can't remember). I look at what they got on the last couple of reports, then if they've been good and haven't had it bumped up in a while, I add a bit on. Science it ain't.

walruswhiskers Sun 25-Sep-16 20:47:18

Can you buy a sticker/label machine? I use one for marking and it makes short work of setting targets. Often, I write the same 2 or 3 targets over and over in books so typing it once and pressing Control P save a lot of time. Also stops kids saying they can't read my writing when they see their books...

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Sep-16 20:49:56

think there could be way too many gaps

Then don't attempt to fill them all. Pick some topics that will definitely come up, and drill the hell out of them. Are they expected to pass? Are they doing GCSE too?

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