I've been to ResearchEd every year since my NQT year and I've got more and more out of it every time. This year was the first year that I didn't feel totally out of my depth and that I could start to fit in as a 'proper teacher'. I've been thinking lots recently about what I want to do, where I want to end up and although I had some ideas I think today has given me some more.
I went to seven sessions today, some of which I will mention in the course of this blog, they were:
I also got myself a copy of The Confident Teacher by Alex Quigley which I started reading on the train home, so that deserves a mention too.
The more I heard today about changes to ITT, teacher retention, making the job sustainable and just generally trying to make things better for teachers, the more convinced I became that what I'd like to do in the future is be involved in ITT and NQT support/training etc. So many of the sessions highlighted things that new teachers should be being taught, or ways we could be supporting them or ways things should be changed that I came to realise how much I'd like to be involved in it in the future. What I'm going to try to do in this post is share what I heard and what lead me to this, as well as making sense of it all myself.
The issue of teacher workload came up in one form or another in a number of the sessions. The first session I attended, by Laura McInerney, was about perfectionism. Laura discussed the reasons for teacher anxiety and showed some interesting graphs which are available on her Twitter. She showed that the reasons teachers leave the profession are not only due to government policy and personal reasons, in fact they are more often to do with specific school settings. She explored what is unique about both teachers and teaching that could be contributing to this. Laura noted how important approval is to teachers and how this can affect the way we work but the comparison she made that made the most sense to me was that of teachers as performers. Perfectionist performers with stage fright. She talked about how unique teaching is with the amount of relationships we deal with day-in and day-out and the associated risks. Laura concluded by noting that the worst thing you can do to a perfectionist who is struggling is to show them best practice, as it's too unattainable for them. This, of course, has a knock on effect for the way we develop and support new teachers. Making sure we don't expect teachers to strive to be the best right away, but actually making one small change at a time. This was the first trigger moment today for me thinking about ITT/NQTs and myself.
During a later session by Jo Facer on how we have overcomplicated teaching, I thought again about how interesting it would be to be involved with ITT/NQTs in the future. Jo talked about all sorts of things that we could be doing to make our lives easier. Some of these ideas seemed to be things that you could probably only get away with at her school. We're not all teaching at Michaela although I bet we wish we had a marking policy more like theirs! However, her key messages of sustainability, consistency and retention linked to curriculum, pedagogy and systems totally made sense. One point that she made that I thought was really important, is that if there is one person that works 12/14 hour days and teaches 'whizzy, jazzy' lessons, then students start to compare teachers and teachers feel pressured. Not only that but it's completely unsustainable for the teacher. Teachers that want to work these hours could, she suggests, spend the time working on something that will help to reduce workload for everyone, share the load, and benefit from it themselves in the future when they can't sustain those hours any longer. I think there are elements of the things Jo discussed today that could and should definitely be filtered down into ITT, it would surely make a difference to teacher retention, wouldn't it?
The last session I'm going to focus on when it comes to supporting new teachers is the session by Sam Freedman. I've never been sure about Teach First if I'm honest, but the only time I really looked into it was in my final year at university. I've certainly not looked at it too closely since I've been teaching myself. Today has changed my mind, although potentially as I can see how the changes Teach First are making could have an impact on ITT in general. Before I talk about those changes I want to mention some of the research Sam talked about. Lots of these points link to the other talks I attended in some way I feel.
So Teach First is moving to a 2 year, PGDE model with more credits towards masters study. There are more changes they're making too, such as the support for participants and a new role that I would love to hear about at the right time in the future (which I know is a long way off yet).
Between these 4 speakers, I have gone from thinking I knew which direction I wanted to head in to swinging in a different direction. That's what I think is so great about ResearchEd, the ability the day has to get people questioning, thinking and changing. I don't know where I'm headed right now, and I don't need to yet! I'll keep my options open, keep listening to and asking questions of the right people and I'll figure it out. Until that happens though, I'll take every opportunity that comes my way, and some that I'll have to hunt down myself and see where that gets me!