Apologies for the clickbaity title!
My very first blog, published on April 1st 2020, was as good a beginning to a blog by a teacher as I could have come up with. September was a fluffy, upbeat, optimistic account of that first month in the classroom, reflecting how I felt about it at the time of writing. That was the lens I saw my job through, and it largely remained that way until the summer term of 2020, when everything came tumbling down around me.
Reading back that blog entry, and even more so reading my source material from the time, there are red flags that neither I nor my family knew were red flags. The fact I was so exhausted as to be in tears about behaviour on so many evenings, and felt so judged by colleagues about my noisy class (who weren’t ‘noisy’ but rather inexperienced Year Ones, sitting at tables too soon) should have alerted me to something being not quite right with the professional relationships I tentatively built.
But this is the problem – entirely unresolvable unless we begin to talk about it – with being an NQT/ECT. I didn’t know, because I had nothing to base my experience on, that I was entitled to so much support that I never received. I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to be in school from 7am to 5.30pm, and then work between 7pm and 10pm or later still.
I’m too forgiving. My first impulse now is to write that every story has two sides, and I can’t try to speak for those on the other side of mine. But actually, I don’t have to be graceful about it, and I don’t have to protect anyone from my NQT year except myself. What happened to me was wrong: personally and professionally. It was put to me that I was too fragile to cope with the demands of teaching well. After hearing this from someone I had trusted, I was adrift. I was ready to walk away from teaching because I thought it would always be like that. I wanted to leave the profession, even though I could never see myself doing anything else.
I was able to construct my NQT-year blogs (September, October, November and December) due to my meticulously-kept journals from the time. These are something else I won’t revisit – the notebooks sit in a box under my bed – for much the same reason as I won’t write blogs addressing the months January to July 2020. It’s too painful to see those words written in my own handwriting, to read red flags that I just couldn’t see, and equally to read the moments that truly felt wonderful because I didn’t know what was to come. Even the positives are called into question because I don’t know how to interpret them anymore. I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours to write up those months like I did the others. It would also do a disservice to any ECTs looking for genuine experiences and advice from my blog entries!
I’m mostly over what happened at the end of that year, although undoubtedly it’s affected the teacher and the person I am now. I can’t get that year back, I can’t un-hear things that were said or un-give the trust that was broken. But what I can do is move forward. I can look back with respectful distance and see where I did make mistakes, and make sure I don’t make them again. I can keep reflecting on my new experiences, and slowly realise that this is how things should have been all along, so I can build on what has passed and be the best that I can be, without giving every moment of my life to this wonderful profession. We all know that teaching, as it stands in England in 2021, would gladly swallow us whole if we let it. But I’m not going to let it, not this year, and part of that is laying my NQT year to rest.