by Cathy Duncan
All NQTs prepare as best they can for the stresses that await them in their first year of teaching. They have advice on speed dial on behaviour management, their first parents’ night or their first school trip, but a worldwide pandemic? Nothing.
Yet here we are, presented with Covid-19 and school closures worldwide. Suddenly your first year in teaching has been diverted on a very different journey with no policies, procedures or road maps to follow.
A standard NQT year for many is challenging, forced to quickly find your feet in the classroom, it can be overwhelming at times. You need to be adaptable, resilient, self-evaluative and reflective to grow in confidence and competence over the year.
This skillset is one that you will need to rely on more than ever in the coming weeks. Covid-19 has thrown us all into unknown territory. This isn’t a normal time and none of us have been here before. While we’re all finding our feet at breakneck speed so it is especially important for NQTs to stop, breathe and reflect.
Reflect, not just on how the year has gone to date, but also reflect on how your role as an educator may change during these unprecedented times. You are now virtually working with your learners and relying mainly on technology to connect. You may indeed find yourself leading in this area and supporting other members of staff with online platforms or new technologies.
However, this virus won’t have changed your main role and responsibility as an educator. You will still want to create a safe space for the learners. The time you invested to build strong relationships at the start of term with your learners, was time well spent.
Those relationships will continue to be the foundation for everything you do working remotely. Stay connected with your learners and lead by example. Like you, they have fears and anxieties. Now, more than ever, they will be looking at their teacher to guide them through these difficult times.
Share a positive mindset. Help them see that there are benefits and opportunities to be had in these strange times. Maintaining these relationships along the journey will help them feel safe and eager to learn.
While you are looking after your learners’ wellbeing, ensure you continue to look after your own. Teaching, along with learning, cannot happen during a crisis if you are feeling stressed and anxious. As your learners look to you for support, you must collaborate and connect with your colleagues.
A strong network of support will have helped you to get this far. Even though school buildings can be stressful places at times, being there can be a big comfort. Don’t isolate yourself, connect with your colleagues and continue to work as a team.
Focus on connection, on maintaining relationships and communities. Educating the whole child is more important than ever. Looking after your learners’ wellbeing along with your own will make everyone stronger and better equipped to deal with the demands of post-pandemic school.
Use this time away from school to reflect on your current practice. You may want to develop subject knowledge or a specific area of CPD. Invest some time to evaluate and challenge current pedagogies and practices. This crisis may have made you question aspects of curriculum design or school policies. It may have made you want to change your approach or priorities on your return to school.
We are still uncertain when schools will open their doors again. You may very well have to say virtual farewells to your class if schools don’t reopen before the summer break. Getting through this crisis and coming out the other side stronger, better equipped and excited to see what the future of education will look like.
This crisis will be a catalyst for change in many areas of the economy. No matter what the future for education will look like, relationships will continue to be the foundation for all.
By no means is this what you had imagined for your first year of teaching. We now know, if you have already met the Teachers’ Standards, you will complete your induction this academic year and you will forever be known as the Covid-19 cohort.