Flying solo can also be a metaphor for development as a teacher. From the initial stages of learning the fundamentals of the craft, making errors and occasionally crash landings, gradually, controlling the whole class becomes easier, enabling the key messages to be developed effectively. I spend a great deal of my working year with ITE trainees in schools. At every step they are seeking to prove that they are not just developing as future teachers, with potential, but that they are offering opportunity at a good level.
Eventually, the trainee achieves sufficient status and then flies solo. They have to make appropriate preparations and checks before embarking on the journey, to have a log book that records what they intend. They need to learn to read the signals “in-flight” and take notice of potential hazards, without reference to their textbooks, or thinking “What would “expert name” do?”, making appropriate adjustments within the flight. Post-flight, they will evaluate the outcomes, learning for the next opportunity.
January sees many of the School Direct trainees embarking on their second school experience, moving from their substantive practice, where they have become familiar with routines and expectations, to a completely new environment where, within the six week half term, they have to again show they are good, as defined by the teacher standards.
In the best situations a trainee will have a well-informed, very involved mentor, prepared to provide coaching to the trainee, within and between the lesson.
A visit to the Discovery Centre (library) in Gosport yesterday brought me into contact with a small display. What drew my attention was a photograph of a biplane and engineer which was almost exactly like that with my grandfather.
The accompanying text detailed a development made in the Gosport engineering works around 1918, where a rubber tube with effectively a funnel at each end was used to link the trainee pilot with their instructor behind. This simple device avoided more accidents as the instructor could make the trainee alter their behaviour and engage in actions that would be more effective, or resolve issues before they became more difficult or dangerous.
This is a relatively simple act that can prompt behaviours in the developing trainee, altering their behaviour in the classroom context. There are systems now that effectively emulate the rubber tube and funnels, with digital in-ear coaching, while lesson study activities can further develop awareness.
Developing the next generation of teachers is the responsibility of the whole profession. Where schools, as a whole, share responsibility for development, the trainee benefits from the collective knowledge. Where trainees and NQTs are left to their own devices, it is not surprising if they begin to flounder and crash land. Opportunity to talk, to discuss successes and areas for development must be available. Too often, the mentoring role is given to an already busy teacher. This can lead to the mentor only operating in a judgemental role, diminishing the development of the trainee to simplified target setting and achievement. Helping the trainee to understand how to improve is as important as telling them what to improve.
This echoes every learning situation.
If you are a mento to a trainee nect term, the following might be a useful aide memoire to support your and their organisation and lead to early successes.
Considering Post Graduate and School Direct Short Placements.
Being such a short experience, the six/seven weeks will fly past very quickly, so, in order to maximise the potential for a successful practice I offer the following organisational insights from previous experiences.
The first thing is to secure the professional standards as per this diagram.
Two key messages; know the children and know your stuff…
Create an overall plan for the six or seven weeks. Put into the plan any specific areas that you need to observe, within this key stage, whether structural like planning or behaviour management, discussions with particular staff, to address any gaps in, or to broaden your understanding of different areas. Plan in any assignments that have to be completed within this timescale, particularly if they depend on interactions with children or staff. Use your professional time well and remember that your colleagues fit you in around other roles.
The practical teacher standards will need to be developed within the experience.
4; Planning. This will have school specific elements. Hopefully, you will be able to get the plan for the half term, from which weekly plans will be developed, again that you should have, so that daily and single lesson plans can fit into a weekly dynamic, allowing reflection, during the week, of the need to adapt and also to evaluate the progress made during the week.
6&5; while some assessment will be after each lesson, with the next lesson altered if there is a need, there is also a need to consider assessment within the lesson. Whereas you may think that you have created the challenge within tasks appropriately, children will demonstrate, through a variety of means, that they do not understand something, or that they are finding the challenge too easy. It is important that you spot and deal with issues that arise with fluency, so that children’s learning is not disjointed.
2; the loop is closed with evaluation of outcomes and greater understanding of the children, as a group, but also as individuals. The repetitive cycle enables a refining of understanding and of approaches.
Seeking to put this together into a coherent plan that allows for all these elements might be achieved with the following model.