I was asked the other day what I would suggest to prevent the situation where probationers and less experienced teachers seem to have to re-invent the wheel in order to arrive at an equilibrium between creativity and the demands of the curriculum. Having been in an unpromoted post throughout my career in English teaching, there is a sense in which I’ve never had to think about this, but I shall try to do so now.
Rather than publish a massive entry which rambles through all the areas of English teaching and administration, I’m going to break this problem up a bit. This post will look at how I would structure the administrative set-up to assist the development of new teachers.
In the case of the PGCSE student, with a subject degree, doing a one-year post-grad course in teaching, I would suggest that a straightforward approach should be made to ensuring that they know exactly what they will be expected to do when they find themselves in their own classroom the following year. (Remember – I still don’t know exactly how this is taught, merely the outcome). Such entrants into the profession already have the academic qualifications in their subject – it’s vocational training they need at college.
When the newly-qualified probationer arrives in his first school, there seems to me to be the tension between the teacher as authority figure as far as the pupils are concerned (teacher knows best – otherwise why is he teaching me/my wean?) and the teacher as absolute beginner who needs considerable support and encouragement. The new teacher hopes the pupils can’t spot the rawness, but it’s there. It’s like the newly-qualified driver taking to the M8 in the rush-hour – perfectly legal, often done, but not a particularly good idea.
Two things might need changing here. The first is the mentoring available in school. Is the PT necessarily the best person to do this? Is there a Senior Teacher (ie promoted post) from another subject area looking after our English teacher? (Because they might not always be able to address all the problems of departmental know-how and keepy-uppy). Is there in fact someone else in the department who could, if given the time specifically to do this, be a more effective “soul friend” for the new teacher? And is the school smart enough to recognise this? Is everyone in the department aware of the need to support their new (and perhaps temporary) colleague – and are they willing to do this?
The second is the attitude of the new teacher. It is difficult to mentor someone who puts up barriers. It is not out of the question that a new teacher – especially one who had been in, say, business, and has not come straight from his own education – may well behave as if he knows it all already and resents any implication that he doesn’t. This may well be a hangover from the “super-teacher” mentality, when you shut your door and triumphed over any adversity which might assail you. However, this was always a convenient fiction. Colleges of Education, in my opinion, need to remind students of how much they will still have to learn – and about how to ask for assistance.
Disclaimer: remember that I was never in a position to implement any of this, and know little of what is done in colleges now. All I have said here comes from the other end of the process, and is based on observation in one school.
More to follow…..