Thursday, 28 May 2015

Keeping up the momentum? Starting the new academic year in June.

On Monday, most students and teachers in the UK will return for the last 7 weeks of the school year.  We won't though, we're starting our new academic year.  New timetables, new classes and new courses for some students.  It's exciting, and as an NQT coming to the end of my first year I'm looking forward to the change.  Starting with new classes is just what I need around now.  I've learned plenty over this year and I'm ready to have the chance to start afresh and establish some of the routines that I've not been able to so far.  However, I'm still in two minds about the change at this time of year.

I believe that the logic behind the change is to keep the momentum going throughout the year rather than allowing things to drop off during the summer term.  It certainly has it's advantages.  With no year 7 or year 12 I am gaining a lot of time over the next 7 weeks that I can use to plan and prepare.  I didn't have any year 11 and only a few hours of year 13 so I didn't stand to gain much time on the previous timetable.  I hope this gained time will mean I can cut down the amount of work I need to do over the summer break.  With 2 weeks taken up with lectures for my first Masters module and sometime needed after that for my first assignment I want to be as prepared as I can be for September.  So from a  personal point of view, this year the change should be really positive.

That said, I know that it will be strange for any new staff starting in September.  Taking over classes that have had 7 weeks with someone else.  They will have settled into ways of working that suited the last teacher and already have books with their names on.  I know this happens to an extent anyway, but certainly as a new teacher last September I felt like I was stepping into someone else's shoes mid-year rather than starting anew.

So, what does it mean for the students?  It means that year 9 students moving into 10 are getting started on their GCSE courses earlier and in theory getting into new habits and routines before September.  It won't make much difference for 12 into 13 as starting the A2 course after the AS exam is pretty common practice.  The 7s are excited about becoming year 8 even though academically speaking I'm not convinced of the difference they'll notice and the same goes for 8s into 9.  For the 10s into 11 does that mean the pressure of their final year is going to start earlier and last longer?  Will it give them extra drive or will it have the opposite effect?

I'm not sure what differences I'm expecting to see, will we still have the 'end of the year' feeling or will it be overshadowed?  We still have Sports day, Sponsor day, trips planned and year 7 induction days, so it is bound to feel like the summer term still.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone else that starts their new year next week or anyone that has a comment to share on this practice.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

NQT- Not Quite There - but only 7 weeks to go!

I can't quite believe I'm already at the point in the year where the end of my induction is in my sights.  The finish line is so close now I can almost touch it. In some ways I'll be glad to see the back of the NQT year and the half termly observations, standards tracking, target setting and report writing but in other ways the NQT status serves as both a safety net and a comfort blanket. I know that in September I will still have great support from my department and I'm not being pushed out to sea to get by alone, I have no doubts about that, but there is still something significant about not being an NQT anymore. Gone is the 'I'm an NQT, I didn't know that' safety net, I've not had to use it very much but much like a real safety net, it's reassuring to know it's there. Gone is my 10% extra time, although I'm lucky to be a bit under allocation on our new timetable (we start in June, more on that in a minute). Finally, gone are the NQT meetings where we can compare notes and share ideas.

Something that comes along with the end of my NQT year is the start of my Masters.  At the same time as I take on a greater teaching load and take off the NQT stabilisers I am taking on a new challenge.  As soon as term is over I start two weeks of lectures at the Institute of Education for the first module of my Masters in Education. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm aware of how tough it is going to be.  This year more than ever I'm going to have to keep totally on top of my planning and marking in school because my time at home will need to be dedicated to reading and assignment writing. There are a number of people that think I'm mad but I firmly believe that if I don't do it now I never will, no time like the present. As I've already got some masters credits from my PGCE this course should only take me a year, if it goes as fast as the last few have it'll be over and done with before I know it!

As I mentioned earlier we start our new school year in June. I believe the idea is that we're cutting out some of the 'dead time' at the end of the summer time and keeping momentum going.  This means that for the next 7 weeks we have no year 7 or year 12, excellent for me as it means I have loads of gained time for planning for September.  I'm looking forward to the change, I think it's just what I need this year to propel me through to the end.  I have mostly new classes so I've got the chance to start a clean slate with students that don't know me. I can apply all the things I've learned over the year to get new routines that I'd not established early enough on as I'd have liked with my old classes. I can keep on top of marking and behaviour and have more of an idea of what is ahead of me.  At least that's the dream, let's see how reality turns out!

So to all the other NQTs out there, we have 7 school weeks left, good luck!