Today as part of our ‘teaching and NQT sort of week’ here on the blog, we have an interview with Nicola Hargreaves, an NQT of modern foreign languages at Ulverston Victoria High School. Nicola is originally from Preston, and now lives and works in Ulverston since graduating from the University of Cumbria. She teaches German Key Stage 3-5 (ages 11-18) and Key Stage 3 French (ages 11-13).
Why did you want to be a teacher?
I always wanted a fulfilling and rewarding job and whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would always be “a Teacher.” I like challenges and teaching is something that is never boring as every day and every class bring you something different. I think it also helped that I really enjoyed my education growing up and admired the effort and enthusiasm my teachers put into their lessons and my learning. Their enthusiasm for the subject, regardless of whether I liked it or not, or was good at it or not, was infectious. I aspired to be that kind of person.
Did you struggle finding your first post?
I applied for absolutely every job around the country, I’m not actually sure how many I applied for. When other trainees on my course started getting their jobs in January, I was worried, but then I realised that it was a good thing that I was not successful at my first two interviews, as in hindsight those schools were not right for me.
How did you choose your first post?
I had to look at the language combinations, as my degree was uncommon. I also looked at the websites of the school to see what their ethos was. You can also glean a lot of information from the job description and the priorities of the school. At the interview too you are able to ask questions and usually they give you a tour so you have a real feel for the place and know if it’s the right school for you.
What was your interview like? How did you prepare for it?
I feel that interviews for teaching posts are like the apprentice! You have several tasks to complete and can sometimes be rejected half way through the day, before you get to meet the interview panel. I had had a mock interview from my University mentor, but it was still quite nerve wracking at the time, you have to put it all to the back of your mind and just go for it! I had to teach a lesson, have a parent panel interview and a student panel interview. I also met staff in the department and had a tour around the school. This was all done before lunch! Afterwards the candidates are interviewed individually by a panel. The best way to prepare is to think what questions they might ask you and think of what you would say in that situation. Be honest, as people can tell when you are lying, so don’t try and make up an answer as they know you are an NQT from your application and must like you, as they would not have invited you to interview! Make sure you prepare and run through your lesson and have a plan b, in case technology fails on you. Also, think of questions you would like to ask the school and look on their website beforehand so you are clued up on what sets them apart from other schools.
Did your training fully prepare you for teaching?
Yes and no. Yes because it helped me deal with the unexpected and no because you can’t play out every single scenario while doing your training. It did however equip me with some brilliant teaching ideas and ways of coping with the unforseen, interviews, lesson planning and Ofsted! Which I underwent during my first term as an NQT.
Take us through a typical day.
I get into work at 7:45 and do photocopying and admin work. I then register my form and teach a mixture of French and German lessons from all key stages. We have briefing twice a week in the morning and a pastoral meeting too. After lunch we have registration for 30 minutes in which I do various activities such as reading, word games, maths, quizzes etc. After work we sometimes have department meetings or whole school training but I usually mark books and plan lessons.
What has been the most rewarding thing about your first year so far?
I think seeing the change in the classes I found challenging at the start that are now understanding the boundaries as well as developing their learning and enjoying the lesson more (hopefully!)
What has been the most challenging thing about your first year so far?
The jump in work load has been challenging, I’ve had a few late nights (mostly around Ofsted time) but it has got easier and you find ways of coping with extra work e.g: reports, parents evening etc on top of the usual lessons and marking.
Have you been involved with any extra-curricular activities? How has that been?
I’ve been on a few theatre trips with school as that is something that I really enjoy and I sing in the choir when I have time. I also do my own Italian club on Thursday lunch times.
How did you find being observed?
I don’t mind it! I think it’s because I became used to it after doing my PGCE. I find it helpful to receive constructive feedback.
What do you wish someone had told you at the start of your NQT year?
You can’t always do everything all the time.
What advice would you give to our final year students?
Remain positive as the lows are made up for by all the highs. And remember that you are human! If you are struggling, you won’t be the only one so ask for help. And don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m still trying to learn not to beat myself up about a lesson that might not have gone as well as I would have liked.