The range of experiences made me think yet again about how someone becomes a teacher, how the jigsaw of different elements becomes one, encapsulated in the person who stands before a class, with self-assurance.
The Teacher Standards tell of the elements that need to be evident in order for the person to be allowed to enter their Newly Qualified Teacher period. These, as I have blogged before, can be divided into the personal (confidence) qualities (87134) and the investigative role (24652). There is a danger of seeing them as a list of qualities, but, looked at as I am suggesting, offers a way to interrogate and support the developing practice.
They are also not separate entities, as can be inferred when they are in list form. Created into a dynamic version, they begin to tell a holistic story.
They will have read, discussed and understood relevant school policies that apply to pupil relations, such as safeguarding and behaviour management (7) and be capable of operating within these, applying them appropriately and following through on any sanctions.
Expectations of in-lesson learning behaviours (1) will derive from the operation within the behaviour management policy, as well as the ability to make positive relationships with the children. There will be evidence of status being accorded by the children within these relationships.
(3) They will know their subject well and a developing pedagogy, sufficient to develop a clear lesson narrative, imparting information in ways that can be understood and which will provide the necessary knowledge with which to attempt any set tasks.
They will be ordered and organised in all aspects of their practice (4), ensuring plans are prepared over different timescales, but particularly the medium term, with supportive lesson notes, resources and any technology are available and working, so that each lesson can proceed to plan, until evidence requires an adjustment (see 6&5).
Standard 4 is the common feature between the two aspects of the developing professional, as the modifiers exist within knowledge of the children, where there are significant variables.
Standard 2, in many ways, is key to achieving at a high level in the rest of the standards, in that the pitching of expectations in lessons, as evident first within plans (4), will impact on the in lesson expectations shared, the in-lesson monitoring (6) and adjustments (5) that can be determined from learner behaviours, which can lead to achievement or not.
There will be potentially be further confusion within these areas, as with each school may have their own approach to planning and potentially also have their own unique assessment and tracking systems, each school practice experience will require adjustments in thinking, as will their NQT position. This could create insecurity in the trainee, where there is a need for security, so that decisions impact on positive learning.
Going back to standard 2; in the absence of national exemplification of standards, there is a need for trainees to develop, and reflect on, individual outcomes, to determine qualities and decide on next steps. This may be enhanced by reference to other year groups and key stages, if available. Trainees need to see the big picture, so that the smaller images have a defined place.
Support for trainees is given by a nominated mentor. This can provide another significant variable, leading to success or otherwise. Where a mentor is a good coach, prepared to engage in developmental dialogue, the trainee can develop with confidence, with the opposite also being the case. It is not always black and white, however, as relationships inevitably impact. Some class teachers find it hard to let go a little, to allow the trainee some space. Some offer little professional support. There is a significant need for mentors to be trained; with uni ITE, this is offered, in-house, by the school partnership team. I have done that role for two universities. A very good model is whole school training, so that every member of staff becomes a de facto mentor of any trainee in the building. The mentor should become a university tutor within the school.
At the same time as seeking to become effective classroom teachers, trainees, on all routes, often have significant tasks set by their supervising university, to be completed within the practice. The reflective nature of these tasks has to be applauded but they could be embedded within a reflective log approach, which could be driven by weekly thinking prompts, which could be discussed with the mentor, added to with appropriate reading and evaluated along the way, so that development was being driven along. The set essay can become a bit of a millstone, to be accomplished rather than reflected upon. On the School direct routes, where the university can be many miles away, (25-35 miles is not uncommon), access to the library requires a very long round trip after a day in school. With the internet, a set text could be shared and again, available for discussion with the mentor. If needed, a short evaluative reflection could be required, within the developing practice log.
During the NQT year, it is essential that this reflective process continues, with the nominated mentor taking a positive role in the process. Continuing to read and reflect professionally, the trainee will be seeking to refine and hone their teaching skills, possibly in a new setting. This is best done in a reflective, evaluative way, so that these behaviours become embedded into future practice. As discussed above, this creates new dynamics to be accommodated as quickly as possible.