A letter to my early career teacher self
7 years ago I graduated and began my teaching career as an NQT in London. Returning to the UK last month, after teaching internationally for 5 years, was bittersweet. Whilst sorting through some old boxes, I came across my NQT final report and some training files. Immediately I was transported back to my time as an early career teacher and felt an overwhelming sense of achievement and pride at just how far I’ve come since then.
As I step forward into a new teaching role in London, a part of that NQT is right back with me, full of anticipation for what’s to come. So I began to wonder, what would I say to that early career teacher, 7 years on?
Perhaps some of these words will resonate with my current self as I prepare for a new start, a reminder that everything eventually becomes a moment in time. This may also speak to newly qualified teachers out there as they begin their journey into teaching.
You got this!
Firstly, congratulations on securing a teaching job for your qualifying year. You worked hard throughout your training and deserve this opportunity. Of course right now you are feeling excited, nervous and slightly overwhelmed about your new career. Fear not, as those feelings will continue to creep up on you time and time again. Your teaching legacy will not be defined by this NQT year, nor will you look back and say you aced it. In all honesty, there will never be a year you do. Teaching is bloody hard, not a joke, just a fact.
Most of the time when you meet other teachers who refer back to their NQT year, they (and you) will describe them like survivor stories. Although in these tales it is a hurricane of workload, a tsunami of self-doubt, and continually fighting fires of educational natures that will be depicted. This isn’t the case 100% of the time and for 100% of NQTs but getting through it shouldn’t be underappreciated. Your best is good enough.
The dedication and enthusiasm you showcase won’t go unnoticed, however, this is not the year for you to be the star of the story. Within your career, you actually learn the least in terms of how to be an effective teacher in this induction year. Getting a handle on the job role is the main goal of the NQT and a rather exceptional achievement. To ease any worries, you’ll do just fine, no teacher ever has an empty to-do-list!
Yes, the job is challenging, but it’s also exceptionally rewarding and lots of fun. Hang on to those moments of joy and learn to give yourself a break from time to time. It is not your whole life, no matter how much it feels like it consumes it.
One great lesson that you will begin to learn in your NQT year is the importance of good people. There is an abundance of kindness, wisdom, and support in this vocation. Some of your fondest memories will be the relationships you form and the conversations you have with such people. Over the year, you will be challenged in many ways and they will provide comfort in times when it all gets a bit too much. So remember to be present, enjoy the staff room, and appreciate those after-work drinks.
Not forgetting the children of course, how could you forget your first class? Those special little ones who allow you to be their teacher irrespective of your experience. All they recognise is how you show up for them each day, create engaging opportunities for them, or when you continually try new things to get it “just right”. Being only 5 years old also means they will forget those times you didn’t.
As you navigate through this year, there will be moments when you ponder life beyond an NQT. Whilst this suits your ambitious nature, approach with caution! Opportunities to progress are desirable but it will pay to wait for something that you are passionate about and really inspires you. As when this promotion arises, it is your passion and confidence which will carry you forward.
To conclude, these thoughts are all written by you, a more experienced version of you. Someone who has overcome the teaching trials and tribulations that at times trampled on your life and kept you awake at night. These words come from an educator who has learnt and grown from their many many mistakes.
Sure, there are times when you will question your chosen career, however you most certainly will never regret it. The journey you are about to embark on takes you far further than you ever imagined.
You don’t need me to wish you good luck but a nice cup of coffee might help…yes, you drink coffee now!
Welcome to teaching.