The class were laughing. Everything I tried to do to get them to focus on their work wasn't working. The students had found my weak spot and they kept going; laughter became refusal to work, which became chaos in the classroom. Someone was going to walk in any minute. They were going to see how bad I was as a teacher, and then I'm going to be fired.
….And then I woke up.
This was my first "teacher nightmare" of the year. It happened a few days before I was back in school on Monday 7th September, and there were a few others in the days before I was actually face to face with students. In my first year of Teach First (one of the many ways to train to be a teacher), I had been told by far more experienced teachers than me that these kinds of dreams happen, and usually they are just because you haven't been in the classroom for a few weeks over the summer.
However, this year was different. School as I knew it had not existed for nearly 6 months and I couldn't remember what it was like to be in a classroom of 20+ students, let alone be responsible for teaching them. On top of that, I was coming back to entirely new systems and routines put in place to ensure the safety of my pupils and colleagues. And then there were computer problems thrown into the mix.
To put it mildly; this was not the start to my NQT year that I expected.
These nerves and worries continued once I was back in school on two training days. Each session was something new to remember or adapt to. The CPD sessions (which were brilliant) addressed areas of teaching that I may or may not have forgotten existed. And the end of each day heralded the approach of D-Day; the moment I was stood in front of my first class of the year and would have to see whether my nightmare would come true.
However, the enormous, cataclysmic event of my teaching career falling apart which I had dreamed up one mild Sunday night never happened, thankfully.
The turning point came on "Meet your Guardian (Form Tutor) Day". As I welcomed each new member of form into our form room with their parents, not quite at their allocated time, I started to remember why I was there in the first place. Some students I knew from teaching them B. C. (before coronavirus), some I knew from teaching the group of students of key worker and priority students during lockdown, and some I had never met before. But as each one came into the room and I started to talk to them and their parents about coming back to school; what they were looking forward to and what they were worried about, I remembered that I was there to help them. I was there to serve them by helping them learn. If I was going to go down as the worst teacher since Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it wasn't going to be through lack of care for my students.
And then came D-Day, the first lesson of the year. I walked into my Year 7 class, having rehearsed my routines in my head ad nauseam, with my heart in my throat wondering whether my imposter syndrome was just that, to find that everything went okay. It wasn't the best lesson in the world, I'm not going to win any awards for it, but it was nothing like my "teacher nightmare" the week before, and I did not live through a re-enactment of the chaotic classroom scenes towards the start of Kindergarten Cop.
Looking back on my first lesson of the year, I can honestly say that I don't know why I got so nervous. Yes, it was not the start to my NQT year that I expected and, yes, there were a lot of new routines and working practices to get used to, but there is so much that is the same. My subject, science, hasn't changed, the fundamental skills for teaching haven't changed, and, most importantly, the students haven't changed. I may have lots of new faces in my lessons, I may be left wondering how time has gone so quickly that the Year 7s last year seem to have gone from starting secondary school to being confident Year 8s in a matter of weeks, but what my students expect and need from me hasn't changed; a teacher who cares about them and their learning. No matter what this year has in store, I know I can do that.