NQT Year: To stress or not to stress? That is the question

James Cooper
NQT Year: What’s the antidote to stress?

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that teaching is stressful. Hand on heart, I can honestly say that I don’t remember much of my first year in the classroom. Fleeting memories return from time to time when I really think about it. I do remember meeting my head of department on the first day of the autumn term. He handed me my overloaded timetable, tilted his head to the side pitifully and said,  “ I wouldn’t worry too much about the curriculum, to be honest. Just get a handle on the discipline for now and I’ll talk to you again at Christmas.” #induction. From that point, it seems I developed a type of stress induced, NQT amnesia.

I will never know what really happened that year but apparently, I survived, as that was 11 years ago now. Luckily, systems in Ireland are continuing to evolve and the NQTs of the current era are escaping the “sink or swim” style of induction that I was subjected to. The antidote to Stress Induced NQT Amnesia is simple. Support.

The UK education system has developed a robust and effective NQT induction programme that supports teachers as they dive into the teaching world. This programme prescribes the following course of treatment in order to minimise stress:

  1. In-school mentor – not just a token figure who you’d hope to bump into in the staff-room, your mentor is an experienced teacher (often a head of a department) who is your first port of call for anything you need throughout the year. #newbestie

  2. Designated member of staff who oversees the programme – this will be a member of the senior leadership team who coordinates everything to do with your NQT year. You will have ample opportunities to meet with and feedback to this person. #workparent

  3. Ready made Schemes of Work and Lesson Plans – yes, it’s true! You won’t have to plead with anyone for a copy of a worksheet you saw them use one time! You will have access to all your schemes of work, lesson plans and resources from the start of every term (if not from September!). #lessstressmoresuccess

  4. Weekly CPD – weekly training will ensure that you feel fully equipped to tackle all aspects of school life and will build on the theory that you learned in uni. #knowledgeispower

  5. Increased PPA time – planning, preparation and assessment are often the stress points for teachers. As an NQT you will have a reduced timetable which allows you more time for PPA. #workatworknotathome

  6. Opportunities to get involved in Pastoral and Teaching and Learning teams- right from the off, you may be given the chance to be a form tutor and/or to get involved in various teaching and learning teams: literacy, numeracy etc. These opportunities get you out of your classroom and establish your place in the wider school community. #progression

Nobody is expected to sail through their NQT year without feeling the occasional pull of an undercurrent.  Every teacher you meet was an NQT once. Every teacher you meet feels stressed at times. Working with small humans is loaded with variables and unpredictability which, of course, can be stressful. As time passes, we learn the best way to respond to stress points and triggers and we become amazingly resilient creatures. In the meantime, use the structures that are in place to support you and your chin will remain well and truly above the water.

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