Future Physics Leaders Early Career Teacher Support: Thoughts from an NQT

In September 2018, the Future Physics Leaders (FPL) programme began its support package for a group of 12 newly qualified physics teachers comprising of CPD at FPL network events, a personal mentor provided by the IOP and the provision of a matched timetable by the school. Now, as the programme has extended to include over 24 early career teachers, Jake Harding, a newly qualified teacher at a school in the West Midlands has been giving us his thoughts on the programme so far.

I’ve always enjoyed the sheer scope of Physics, encompassing the weird and wonderful of the quantum mechanical all the way up to the incomprehensible scale of the Universe, and possibly beyond. Ultimately, this is why I chose Physics teaching as a career, to be able to pass on my enthusiasm for the subject by opening students’ eyes to the workings of the world they live in. That light bulb moment when a student makes a link to their everyday life and something they’ve always wondered about but never understood clicks into place is what makes the job so enjoyable.

The CPD programme [from Future Physics Leaders] on offer has been invaluable; the sessions have been full of practical teaching tips that I’ve been able to immediately implement in my own teaching with noticeable positive results for my students. The platform to network with other Physics teachers in the area has proved a great opportunity to share good practice, and the funding offered has meant that my school has been able to release me to attend without issue and bring back resources to my department.

I have been able to attend both national and regional events with other participants from all over the country, discussing subject specific pedagogy and sharing good practice, as well as hearing from experts in both the Physics teaching and academic community. Mentoring wise, I have a weekly phone call with my [IOP] mentor where we discuss the ups and downs of the week, always driving forward with ideas for improvement. In addition, we meet up in person for a coffee for a couple of hours every half term to touch base and discuss how they can best support me in the half term to come.

The mentoring programme has always been my first port of call for any and all queries. My mentor is always available and happy to help by providing a valuable external sounding board outside of the school system and bringing years of their own teaching expertise.

My matched timetable has made my transition into my first year of teaching so much smoother. Effectively, I teach the same content to 3 sets of year 10 and similarly to 3 sets of year 11. The benefits of this have been twofold. Firstly, it has greatly reduced my planning time, allowing me to spend more time crafting each lesson and on other admin tasks. Secondly, it has meant that I teach a very similar lesson 3 times a week, the third being invariably the best where I have learnt from mine and the students mistakes to hone the best lesson that I can, ready to teach next year.

I cannot recommend the programme enough. The CPD and mentoring is of an exceptionally high quality compared to internal CPD that I have attended in the past, including the provision of resources and funding; the efforts to ensure a matched timetable has resulted in me having to take minimal work home in the evenings, which I feel has been key to my maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In all honesty, there have been moments where I have seriously considered leaving teaching, but I truly believe that it has been the support offered by the IOP, and in particular my mentor, that has kept me positive, progressive and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoying my job.

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