As comprehensive as ITT schemes try to be, there is a huge difference between being a placement student at a school and being a fully-fledged member of staff from day one. My training year was wonderful. As a Schools Direct student I spent it in 2 contrasting schools, feeling very much a member of their Maths Departments, and struggled to think of any extra sessions that I could possibly have needed from University/Lead School at the end of the Summer Term. We seemed to have covered everything I could have wished to have known about working as a teacher in a Secondary School however, here are 5 Things I learnt in my first week as an NQT.

This week I learned I was wrong about that. There are some things you just need to be there from day one to appreciate. This is what I discovered this week:


  1. Inset days boggle your brain.

    I don’t think I am alone thinking this, as an NQT or otherwise. For every teacher, the first day of term at my school was filled with talks about last years’ results, learning how to use the new admin system and new departmental initiatives. As an NQT, I also attended talks covering the names and faces of every useful person in the building, the locations of every useful file on the system and the specifics of the behaviour system.
    It was a barrage of information, from 8:30am until 4:30pm. By the end of the day, I had so many questions that I was running out of post-its to write them on and was told by my mentor to go home when I forgot the question I was going to ask for the 3rd time in a row…

  2. What to do when the students in front of you aren’t who you are expecting.

    So you’ve created a seating plan, based on the set list on the system. Perfectly crafted, with the right mix of each child of each ability – you’ve even asked their teacher from last year who would be a nightmare to sit together. Then you line up the class as they enter the room, introduce yourself and set about sitting them all down in those perfectly picked seats… But Rachel, Joe and Steve don’t appear to be here, and instead you’ve acquired Jenny, Harry and Caitlyn. Some of these are on your register, some of them aren’t. One of them is on no list you can find at all! This makes the transition to your ‘expectations’ portion of the lesson substantially less smooth, and involves a lot of chatting by the rest of the class…
    As mentioned above, my school has a new admin system this year, and I think this has worsened the usual September Set Change debacle. We’ve muddled through as a department, but I have to admit I’m still not 100% sure if that was Abi or Olivia in that seat on Friday Period 5… Hopefully this will get sorted next week!

  3. How to entertain 25 students for 3 hours.

    On the first day of term my Vertical Mentoring Group (VMG) spent 3 hours with me in an effort for us to get to know each other. In the build-up, trying to find things to fill that vast 3 hour space seemed like an insurmountable task. However, I ended up with a list so long that I barely used any of them. We played a ‘People Bingo’, the students made their Student Profiles and helped each other with their timetables for the first couple of hours. Then after that we spent some time playing silly icebreaker games to get to know each other some more.
    The time flew by! My VMG are all great kids, and were great sports with my silly games as they wanted to get to know me too. I was particularly impressed with the Year 10 boys being so helpful and accommodating of the Year 7 students’ questions! We seem to be getting on swimmingly!

  4. What to do when a student is sick in your room.

    On Friday, my lovely little Year 7 group were working really hard on the Mixed-Up Clock problem, when one hand went up and little Abby* told me she had been sick. And she had, mostly all over herself … Yes, my lessons are that exciting!
    I have to admit that this is one of my worst nightmares. I hate being sick myself, and it’s all I can do not to follow suit when someone else is! But I held it together, asked the boys nearby to move onto another table and asked my mentor (who had thankfully popped in about 10 mins before this incident!) where Abby* should go… He took her to see the school nurse and she went home later that morning. But not before I had to clean up the desk and her belongings, before taking them to her… Thankfully my carpet was untouched by vomit, so I didn’t suffer the consequences all day.
    I’m impressed with my own composure over this whole incident. Though I have made a mental note to ask who to get in touch with if it’s ever worse/on the carpet next time!!!

  5. How tiring the first week of term really is.

    I think this one speaks for itself. After a 7 week summer, the early mornings alone this week were incredibly hard work. It really hit me how tired I was on Wednesday after a half day with my VMG… 3 and a half hours of being all-singing, all-dancing for a class is exhausting! I could barely walk around the kitchen to help with dinner that evening, and was sound asleep before 10pm.


It has been entirely worth it though, even if only for the small things. Like the Year 8 boy thanking me for a great lesson, a Year 10 who pretends she has loads of attitude but secretly loves helping out, and the 10 minutes that Year 9 worked in near-silence (except for helping each other) and realising that I did that… Me… I really am a teacher!

Written by

Arithma-ticks @Arithmaticks

NQT Maths teacher . Providing an honest account of her  year. Cohost of weekly  at .