Over the last few weeks many education students will have completed their courses and be about to embark on their new career. Of course they have already been teaching and many of the pupils or students they worked with on placement will already have viewed them as teachers. Despite having experience at the ‘chalk face’ the excitement of passing the course will also be mixed with apprehension. This is understandable but I always try to reassure the students that once they become comfortable in their new class or pupils things will become easier. I also explain teaching is a challenge and there is always something new to learn so being prepared to learn themselves is essential. This can be helped by planning and preparation but I also think being open-minded to ideas is important as is the ability to critically evaluate these.
Something I try to avoid is giving too many practical ‘top tips’. This is partly because these may not translate to every situation but mainly because I want our future teachers to be able to think for themselves. This might seem obvious but when I started working in teacher education I went through a similar experience (this is often termed deskilling, but I prefer to see it as a chance to be upskilled). Colleagues who helped me understand the reasons for carrying out research, or engaging in enquiry, made a far greater impression on me than those who tried to help by instructing me in processes and procedures. A good example was completing a research project with two colleagues before submitting the resulting paper to a journal. The support from an informal writers group proved invaluable with this. Our peers discussed theory, interrogated the findings and generally challenged us to think about why we were doing things, which deepened our understanding. The actual online submission process, including referencing protocol, was laborious but was something we just had to get on with. I am pleased to say that, eventually, the paper has now been accepted, but the real benefit has been the learning process.
Returning to the newly qualified teachers, especially those who have overcome challenges, I hope they will support their learners to develop a deep understanding through an engaged pedagogy approach, rather than ‘drill and skill’ processes and procedures. If they can manage this then I am confident their pupils, some who will go on to become teachers in later life, can take this positive development of learning to the next level.