There are many challenges currently facing the teaching profession, some specific to the UK others that are global. Problems include funding, recruitment and retention of teachers, workload and well-being plus more. Despite these undeniable issues I also think it is a very exciting time to be a teacher. I suggest this because of professional learning. There are now methods of professional learning and development that did not exist previously. Teachers are embracing professional learning and are able to take ownership of their own development and interests through a variety of strategies.
What do all great teachers have in common? Likely, many attributes and qualities but all great teachers never stop learning. I am a very strong advocate for teachers taking ownership of their own professional development and learning because when I did this it improved my teaching practice and many aspects of my life. Taking responsibility of your own professional development can enhance, and eventually even transform, your teaching practice.
I often share the quote above because I remember reading it and feeling completely liberated. The quote is taken from The Confident Teacher: Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy (2016). It is my favourite book about education and you can read my review of it here. In the early years of my career I often felt exhausted. I was constantly chasing perfection and desperately trying to complete the endless to-do list. There’s always something we can add to our lists as teachers, whether that’s developing schemes of work, lesson planning, paperwork or even tidying up displays.
The NUT (National Union of Teachers) states that “Teachers’ workload is currently far too high and surveys show that recently qualified teachers work longer hours than their more experienced colleagues.” Clearly, this is not acceptable but fortunately there appears to be a movement recognising and tackling this problem. No one wants to see teachers, especially enthusiastic and optimistic NQTs, suffering from exhaustion and burn out caused by excessive and unnecessary workload. It can take years for some teachers to find the right balance in their life between work and home life. Sadly, some teachers never find the balance and leave the profession as a result. However, managing workload can be a skill that teachers can get better at, especially with the right support. Hindsight is a wonderful thing as they say. There are some experiences that teachers have to experience for themselves and learn from, for example we can reflect on a lesson that we didn’t feel went well and do things differently next time or ask why the lesson plan didn’t actually go to plan as we hoped for? However, there are lots of experienced teachers, myself included, who are willing to share their stories and offer advice to support NQTs and other educators from repeating mistakes we made. Here’s some advice I have to offer …
I discovered a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Twitter is (or can be) a wonderful source of networking, sharing, discussion, debate and learning. There are so many communities on Twitter. I was quite oblivious to most of these communities as I have been in my own Twitter bubble with the wonderful “EduTwitter” community. There are even smaller communities within the EduTwitter community – such as WomenEd, BameEd, Edtech, leadership and subject-specific groups such as the History teacher community. These online communities are not exclusive and everyone is free to read what others share ( private accounts can restrict who can view their profile).
Today the public vote has gone live for the UK Blog Award nominations with the winner to be announced in 2018. I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated for the second year ( I don’t know who nominated me but thank you!). Winning is always lovely but I’m so pleased to be recognised and nominated! You can vote for my blog to win here:
A few weeks ago I presented at the second Digital Innovation Summit in Dubai at Jumeriah English Speaking School ( known as JESS). I have written an overview of the event that will be published in the upcoming edition of Education Journal Middle East (so apologies if this blog post seems self indulgent as it is just about my presentation which I didn’t refer to in the EJME article!). Many people have contacted me since my presentation to ask questions or provide feedback. I thought I would address any questions and share my slides for anyone who wasn’t able to attend my session or the event.
The Confident Teacher : Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy by Alex Quigley really surprised me – as the book covered much more than I expected it to. I have never met Alex Quigley, yet I follow his educational profile online via his Twitter account @HuntingEnglish and I am a regular reader of his blog, also titled The Confident Teacher. I thoroughly enjoy reading his blogs and they have been great resource to me as a teacher, so I was very keen to read his book. Alex is a Teacher of English, that is evident as I think he has a wonderful style and use of language as well as many literature references made throughout his book. He is also Director of Huntington Research School, this book is heavily research informed and influenced which also supports many of his arguments and points. The Confident Teacher is obviously not some sort of quick fix self help guide to give teachers a transformation with confidence overnight, but it does focus on a wide range of strategies to develop confidence for both teachers and pupils. This book is filled with many stories from his career as well as anecdotes about various well known individuals from Pablo Picasso to Michael Jordan and Albert Bandura along the way!
In August 2016 I relocated to teach in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Before my move I had already made some online connections with teachers based in the UAE via Twitter and I have since been fortunate to meet many of them. I’ve also been able to stay in touch with the online educational community in the UK, keeping up to date with the latest developments and news via Twitter. If you are using Twitter you will know it is a fantastic resource for professional development with networking, sharing, collaborating and much more! I have blogged in more depth about how social media can be used for teachers’ professional development here.