Resilience, Dedication & The Next Steps: The Observations of a Newly Qualified Teacher
September 2019 was a month full of the same anticipation and willingness to overcome the challenges of any academic year. For myself, it was the opportunity to transfer my subject knowledge from my degree in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics at King's College London, into my PGCE Secondary (Religious Education) teacher training at Oxford University. A career that I have been looking forward to since beginning my A-Levels. Teaching has always been a profession that requires absolute dedication and resilience, both for the educator and for the students. However, it was almost unfathomable to predict the resilience and dedication required for all those in education and different professions across the world in the face of the COVID-19 outbreaks.
In terms of teacher trainees, my first-hand experience of the challenges has shown that there is an impact on our own teaching and learning. It is invaluable to be able to work in a school environment in order to establish a true understanding of education, and the pandemic has ultimately meant a closer look at pedagogy rather than experienced teaching time. Employers have taken note that teaching time has been massively reduced. It is incredibly difficult to defend a strong ability to stand in front of a class and teach, when no classes are present for interview, and in class training has been cut short. However, for any trainees struggling to overcome such challenges, it is important to focus on the experience that you have gained, rather than what you have lost.
On a broader level, the impact on teaching and learning has been incredibly significant. Students no longer have the contact time in lessons that provides them with multiple resources and access to different ways of learning. Assessment for and of learning has become much more challenging to determine, as does the ability to differentiate for both the less and more abled students. Despite the academic implications, the pastoral remains the most worrying. In terms of the transition back into schools, it is a constant consideration now more than ever, that disadvantaged students will require increasingly extra support. Although this can be met with structured planning and pedagogical strategies, this will no doubt be a challenge, and requires high levels of emotional resilience for all involved.
However, despite all of these challenges, I find that positivity at a time like this is incredibly important and must remain to motivate and uplift the members of school communities. We are slowly seeing an increase in resources and answers from the Department of Education, and support for home learning from several organisations such as the Education Endowment Foundation. On top of this, the government have announced that a return back to schools is likely to occur in the next few weeks. Therefore, as is always necessary for any involved in the education system, it is a time to remain dedicated to both ourselves and to the students. This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult transitions for students, and it is of upmost importance to ultimately focus on all members of the school communities’ wellbeing. For myself as a willing and ready NQT, and for all NQTs, take this time over summer to prepare as much as possible; spend the time reading up on the world of education and subject specific pedagogy, get to know your new school as best as possible, offer support where it may be needed in the summer time, and ultimately remind yourself that we are here for the students. To provide an education for the younger generation remains one of the best jobs to take on, and despite the challenges, the success and wellbeing of the children will always be worth it.
University of Oxford Graduate
Religious Studies Teacher at Bishop Justus Church of England School