10 things I wish someone had told me as an NQT

  1. There are lots of teaching jobs out there. I really mean lots. If you join a teaching recruitment agency, you will be bombarded with calls and emails. This means the unrelenting stress that your university gives you about career prospects is more about their graduate employment data than what is best for you. Some of the best teachers I know were supply teachers in their first year post-university.  Only you can make that choice.
  2. Trust your gut. It’s really important to go and visit any potential schools at least once. On those visits, make sure to look carefully at the way the staff interact with one another; are they happy, stressed, indifferent? If you notice something that you think doesn’t line itself with your values, it’s not the school for you. It’s important to ask a member of staff about planning too- do you need to hand planning in? What are the expectations and do they fit with your previous experience?
  3. One form entry schools are hard. In a one-form entry school, everything for your year group falls on your shoulders. You will most likely be completely in charge of all aspects of planning, assessment and progress within your class, which is essentially the year group! This is not to say that this could not be the perfect job for you, it’s just really important to consider whether this is a challenge you would like to embark on in your first year of teaching. You need to make sure that you will be getting the correct support, and if you feel that taking on that amount of responsibility in your first year isn’t for you, then keep an eye out for two or three form entry schools!
  4. Schools look out for their best interests, not yours. This is something that I really wish someone had told me prior to my first teaching job. Schools have priorities which won’t always be in relation to you. For this reason, you too, need to act for your best interests. If you don’t like where you are, don’t be afraid to move on.
  5. Be part of a Teacher’s Union. Although I technically was told when I embarked on my NQT year, I have included this to reiterate the importance. If you are unsure of anything at all, give your union a call and they will advise you. You will not be the first person calling with that concern, nor will you be the last.
  6. Every NQT finds it hard. There will, no doubt, be many new teachers who will find elements of the job easier, who aren’t as daunted by those observations, but everyone struggles with aspects of the job. Teaching is hard. The first year is never going to be a walk in the park. Cut yourself some slack and reward your hard work, after all, you are starting to earn a wage now.
  7. If your school is not giving you the correct amount of support, phone your NQT leader. This information should be sent to you once you have been signed up for your NQT training. As an NQT, you are entitled to NQT (non-contact) time, regular meetings with your mentor, and constructive feedback. It is important that if there are any concerns in your teaching development, you are made aware. Following this identification, the school should made arrangements to best support you.
  8. You have a life, friends and a family out there, so make sure to look up from your NQT file every once in a while. It’s really important to remember that although training and passing your NQT year is extremely important, so are the relationships you have in your life. As much as it’s just lovely to socialise, it will also really help you to talk to people who have no idea what assessment grids are.
  9. Make time for you! In the blurry haze that is your induction year, it is really important that you remember those hobbies you love; they will keep you smiling through the rough times ahead. It would be easy to lose yourself amongst all of the bureaucracy and pressure you will feel at school, but you need to remember that a miserable teacher will not inspire those children. You need to enjoy your life so that you can enjoy your job, and therefore make the most impact on your class.
  10. Have faith in yourself. You need to be confident in your abilities and understand that if you do not yet possess those abilities, with practise, you will get there eventually. Everyone is learning. Life is learning. Whenever you feel like you can’t quite do something, think about how you would encourage a child in your class. As we say in my class ‘mistakes are only proof that you’re learning.’

 

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Embracing the imperfect

Today marks a pretty big milestone for me.

For the past two years I have whole-heartedly immersed myself into my teaching, leaving little space for my song-writing, composing, and performing. The other part of this, of course, was to allude myself into a somewhat self-destructive route of non self-belief in my own singing merits, or simply put, if I don’t put myself out there, I can’t be shot down. This is counterproductive in many ways, firstly, if you stop practising, you will deteriorate and the many years of training you have put yourself through will have been a waste. And also, If you deny yourself something which truly makes you happy, you will find it increasingly hard to find that happiness.

For me and many others, music in its many forms, is a prominent part of that happiness.

Today was the first time in a long time where I actually let myself sing. This is not to say that I have not been singing daily, because I really have. This is to say that for the first time in  a year and a half that I have actually let my whole body enjoy a song. Keeping silent and quiet through the risk of making a mistake has, for too long, consumed me. The result of letting myself go was amazing; I felt adrenaline, excitement and happiness all at once.

Life is for living. Find your voice and never stop singing.

 

Music and the Emotive

Music has the incredible power to take you back. It can take you to sunsets in your childhood and angst-ridden break ups from your teens. Without realising it, it seems that those notes, rhythms and musical nuances, have been assigned to your memory with the feelings you were feeling when you heard it.

I find the most striking example of this, for me, is a particular alarm song. This alarm can, within two beats, take my emotional state back to a time it would wake me up daily and panic would consume me. It has the power to strike the happiness from me in an instant and create waves of doubt in my current happiness. This time in my life stripped my confidence and left me in tatters in its aftermath. How is it now, when I had felt so much stronger, that I could hear the notes of the alarm and find it physically hard to breath? I could feel the fear radiate from my very being and would find it impossible to concentrate on anything other than my sheer panic. I am sure that this was not the intended reaction from the musicians who created this ringtone; its bubbly sound world would seem to be intended for quite the opposite. Yet, when I hear it, I can almost feel the cold, winter air which surrounded those December mornings.

There are countless songs that seem to have the opposite effect on me. I hear the first 3 seconds of Gypsy King’s Bamboleo and I am immediately taken back to holidays from my childhood. Even now, as soon as the sun shines, I feel myself having a Gypsy King Moment where I feel the elation of Summer and happiness fall upon me like the sun’s rays. This happiness can also be related to the collective happiness it has given my family over the years. I hear this music and feel the sunshine, smiles and happiness of radiating from my family’s faces. Music’s collective power has given this experience to me and my family.

This collective energy can be witnessed with the Last Post, played at war memorial services. This single melody played by trumpet traditionally, represents so much more than just a piece of music. This melody holds the collective pain of millions of people around the world, who have fought, been affected, and are still fighting wars. This simple melody has the power to strike silence, pain and reflection over a civilians and servicemen alike. It has the power to cast thoughts of the barbaric outcomes of war and can despair even the most strong-willed.

Music is a representative force; it can effect your outlook, mood and inner-thoughts with tiny melodic fragments and chords. Music can be an extension of your innermost feelings, and through this relationship, is bonded to those emotions.

 

 

 

This is an area I am incredibly interested in. I intend to research more about how these emotive connections happen. If you’re interested too, have a look at the link below.

Here is an interesting article written by the BBC about this topic. It discusses scientific and social studies surrounding music and its emotional qualities:

BBC Future- Why Music has a Hotline to our Emotions

A Singer’s Sense of Self

Performances are a funny thing, when you really think about it. You can practise daily for months on end, paying extensive amounts in tuition, but your fate, and ultimately your sense of gratification, lies in the  hands of strangers in an audience. You can stand at the front, pouring out your heart and soul, years worth of training, and emotion, and be nothing more than a passing comment to group of people.

As a singer, your instrument is your voice. This makes any negativity (inward or otherwise, perceived or invented) seem that much more heart-wrenching. Any negativity you feel about your performance, can feel like a direct disapproval of your very own being. A musical-character-assassination, if you will.

This dependence on other’s approval is something that I have only recently discovered to be my downfall, and in many ways, the root of many of my insecurities as a performer. For years, practically since the days I started singing, my vision and belief in myself was vested in what others thought. After concerts, I would not consider myself a success unless a person from the audience complimented my performance, and equally, if they did not, I would assume it was because I was inherently bad at what I was doing. 

It was only once I realised that my self-worth should not be weighted on other’s opinions, that my singing began to improve. I found that by allowing myself to make mistakes and not putting so much pressure on myself to succeed, created a more enjoyable and earnest sound. By allowing yourself to be your own affirmation, your own sense of worth is not decided by an assortment of strangers, but by you.

As a performer, it is only you know truly knows how hard you work, your areas for development, and equally your strengths. You know, deep down, when you’ve worked really hard, and that wretched portamento has finally started portray what the composer had intended.
Validation should come from that very moment,
when your hard work has come to fruition and all of the hours you’ve spent crying, laughing and arpeggio-ing are finally worth it. Validation should come from the soul-bearing pianissimo top A that you have trudged through a million vocal warm ups for; a sound that will bring you so much joy and beautifully composed anguish, all at once.

Validation should come from within yourself,
compliments from others are just a bonus.

The Power of Music

In the dark, quiet hours between night and morning, is when it usually hits me. The silence seems to reverberate around the room, asking, pleading for the emptiness to be broken.

Music.

The transient melodies from the pieces played, seem to all at once, possess every inch of me and I relinquish my thoughts to this powerful source. Music has this inherent power; it both transcends thoughts and consciousness into a  meditative state and all at once, has the power to act as a reminder for mortality.

The very impact that music has upon me in this way is, for me, evidence of my mortality, of what it is to be human. Each time I am affected by the power of the music being played, I am part of a cultural tradition of many before me who have felt exactly the same.

Music, allows this awe-inspiring escapism, but in the very essence of its human creation, can be a reminder that I am not the first to feel this way, nor will I be the last.