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'My Journey into teaching: From Trainee to NQT at Inspire Partnership' by Gentjana Aliaj

'My Journey into teaching: From Trainee to NQT at Inspire Partnership' by Gentjana Aliaj

Gentjana Aliaj is year one teacher at Rockliffe Manor Primary School. Here is her account of her journey and training on the Inspire Partnership NQT Programme and 5 top tips for NQTs beginning in September.

When I first set foot in an English primary school, I instantly knew that I wanted to work with children in a primary context. I was astonished by the learning environment, pedagogical methods and the resources that children had access to enable them to succeed in their learning. From that moment, I steered my education towards teaching and in the summer of 2017, I finally graduated with a degree in Education, Culture and Society from Goldsmiths University. During that same year, I secured a place in a PGCE programme at Goldsmiths where I went on to train as a primary school teacher specialising in early childhood education. I cannot describe the enthusiasm, eagerness and passion that ran through me knowing that I was going to get in the classroom and teach young children. I had acquired a bank of learning theories over the three years of my degree in education and I was eager to start the practical aspect of teaching. However, my first ever teaching placement was a challenging experience that affected me greatly. Despite all the passion and enthusiasm that I had started my PGCE, I began to question my abilities and lost any sense of self-worth that I had. Despite the unsettling start to my teacher training, I always held on to my purpose of wanting to become a teacher which was to make a difference to children’s lives and instil a love for learning so that children become life-long learners. 

A new beginning at Inspire Partnership

I was introduced to the Inspire Partnership by my tutor, who is a lecturer in early years education at Goldsmiths University. She took me under her wing and arranged my final placement to be completed at Woodhill Primary School. I was placed in a Year One classroom with a wonderful teacher who supported me enormously, not just with teaching, but also with my self-esteem and confidence. She created an environment where I felt safe to make mistakes and where I could take risks in my practice. Her love for the children and her style of teaching was truly inspiring and it reignited my passion for teaching once more. I loved every moment that I spent in Woodhill Primary school because everybody was incredibly supportive of each other. I soon realised that this ethos is typical across all of the schools within the Inspire Partnership.

Fortunately, just as I was about to complete my PGCE and get my qualified teacher status, a position for a Year One teacher became vacant at Rockliffe Manor Primary School and I eagerly applied for it. The interview process was successful which meant that I was finally going to have my own classroom. I considered myself incredibly lucky to find a school that aligned so well with my own values as an educator. I am a strong believer in socio-cultural learning and that as social beings we learn from interactions with each other (Vygotsky, 1978). During my time at Woodhill, it was clear that children were supported to learn from their ‘more knowledgeable other’ by having mixed attainment groupings in their classrooms (Bruner, 1999). Collaborative learning is at the heart of the Inspire Partnership and rightly so, as it encompasses numerous advantages for both children and teachers.

Teaching in Rockliffe Manor: My NQT year 

I started teaching my Year One class in January 2019. I was super excited and apprehensive at the same time. I was excited because finally I was going to have my own classroom and apprehensive because the children were already a term into their school year and I knew that establishing positive relationships quickly with the children and their parents would be key. I am not going to deny that the first term of my NQT year was as tough as one would expect. I worked to put in place high expectations and routines, whilst also getting to know the school and the children both academically and emotionally. It was challenging, but I knew that I had a support system that would help me to get through. Firstly, I had my phase leader who has been incredibly supportive throughout my NQT year and continues to be an amazing colleague. Her positive attitude and love for teaching and learning continue to inspire me every day. I also received massive support from my NQT mentors as well as the leadership team. I have been very lucky to work with a truly wonderful Headteacher who has a special ability to bring people on board to believe a common purpose and pursue a shared vision for our school. Her passion and commitment in providing an excellent education for all of the children is heartening. She values and recognises the efforts that teachers and support staff put into educating young children and truly cares about everyone’s wellbeing.  I have now been at Rockliffe Manor for over a year and I love our school and the community it serves.

My NQT Training and Professional Development 

The NQT Programme at the Inspire Partnership is facilitated in a way that enables a newly qualified teacher to acquire new skills and knowledge both through engaging in the latest research and taking part in thought-provoking discussions. NQT training sessions take place every fortnight and NQTs from both across the Partnership and schools within the area, come together to learn more about a specific aspect of teaching and learning. The genuine collaboration within and between the schools in the Partnership meant that I could observe exemplary practice in partner schools and then implement the practice in my own classroom. When I completed my NQT year, I felt a great sense of pride and had built a network of supportive colleagues. The Partnership’s commitment to continuous professional development meant that even though my NQT year came to an end, I had the NQT + 1 Programme to look forward to. This has been a further opportunity to develop my pedagogical practice by engaging in research and conducting a class based project to become a ‘self-improving practitioner’ and a leader of learning. In fact, through this project, I have already started to make a whole school impact through supporting other staff in their practice of teaching pupils with English as an additional language.

It has been found that after a few years of teaching, teachers can reach a plateau in their teaching career. However, working for the Inspire Partnership means that there are ample opportunities to continue to develop personally and professionally continually. In my case, after completing my NQT year, I became RE leader which has been a great opportunity for further development. Recently, RE leads from across all the Partnership schools came together to create a vision statement and a scheme of work which ensures the progression of skills and knowledge across the year groups. As a result of the excellent partnership between our schools, a task that would have been daunting was a pleasant opportunity to collaborate as a team and share our knowledge and skills.

As I go forward in my second year of teaching, I am convinced that I would like to continue to teach within the Inspire Partnership for a variety of reasons. Firstly, our Partnership is committed to providing an outstanding education for all children and it is clear that all staff have the children’s and families’ best interests at heart. Secondly, the partnership has established a culture of inter-school collaboration which has numerous benefits both for pupil outcomes as well as teacher wellbeing and professional development. The advantages of collaboration are well researched (Armstrong, 2015) which confirms the wonderful work that our schools do for the children and the communities we serve. Lastly, what I love about the Inspire Partnership is the collective belief that children are agents of change and we as educators have a responsibility to facilitate learning opportunities that enable children to become autonomous and creative thinkers ready to face the uncertainties of the future. 

 

My NQT Year Top Tips

Be proactive and make the best use of your NQT time

As an NQT you are entitled to 10 % of your timetable and this is a wonderful opportunity to observe other practitioners. Ask your mentor to help you liaise with subject and phase leaders in your school and other schools. Observing more experienced colleagues has numerous advantages, including learning new teaching strategies as well as helping you to make connections and build relationships with other teachers. Another way that you can be proactive, is by taking steps to develop your subject knowledge. It is pivotal that you have a strong subject knowledge, both in terms of factual and pedagogical.

Ask for help and lean on others 

As a newly qualified teacher, there are going to be times in your first year of teaching when things might get difficult to manage. You don’t need to struggle on your own! You must remember that your mentor, your colleagues and senior leaders are there to support your development and growth as a teacher. They want you to succeed so you must ask for help if you are struggling with any aspect of your teaching. Asking for help is not a weakness but rather it is evidence that you are a self-reflecting practitioner who wants to improve your practice.

Always remember your why

Teaching is a profession that encompasses so much more than teaching the curriculum and passing on knowledge. Being a teacher carries an honourable responsibility for helping children to grow holistically, enlightening their curious minds and embedding skills and qualities that will help them throughout their lives. Although teaching can be an extremely rewarding profession, it can also be challenging at times. If you ever go through a tricky and overwhelming time in your NQT teaching year, you must hold on to your ‘Why’ and the reason you began. All of the hard work, passion and dedication that you put into your role will be worth it. Always make time to reflect on the positive impact you are making in a child’s life through your daily interactions. It’s the greatest feeling in the world knowing that you have helped a child to find their voice, to believe in themselves and to know that they are special and loved. 

Always praise the behaviour you want to see

Building relationships with the children is an essential aspect of teaching and learning. Positive behaviour is encouraged from the moment the children enter the classroom to the moment they leave. Always catch the children making positive choices and praise them for the behaviour that you want to see. This is so much more effective than focusing on poor choices. It is important to remember that classrooms are buzzing places with lively energy and that through collaboration learning happens.  

Practice self-care and learn to switch off

Walking into your first classroom is very exciting and there is so much that you will want to achieve in providing children with the very best learning experiences. You will want to plan and prepare excellent resources and if you are a perfectionist this will be very time-consuming (take it from me!) Also, as a teacher you will spend a considerable time nurturing children with various needs and that can be very tiring too. Therefore, it is important that you take care of yourself and that you learn to switch off. Make time for yourself to engage in activities that you enjoy such as socializing, exercising or reading. You must remember that a burnt-out teacher is not an effective teacher. Children will be inspired by an energised and a refreshed teacher who radiates positivity and love for learning. 

For more information about our NQT and NQT+1 programmes, please see below: 

If you'd like to enquire your interest, or find out more information please contact: 

Email: inspirelearning@inspirepartnership.co.uk 

Tel: 020 7993 3601

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