So, you’re halfway through the year, and your induction is now well underway. Whether you’re thriving or just about keeping your head above water, now is a great time to take stock and reflect on how things are going for you. While much of what you do as an ECT is exploring your work, in some depth and detail, as a teacher – your planning, the impact your teaching is having on your pupils, the ways in which you are meeting the teaching standards and so on – these reflections should stand outside of all that, and be an opportunity truly to check in with how you are doing.
Making a start
First of all, well done. This is meant most sincerely. You have entered the profession at a time when wellbeing among teachers is deeply challenged for many reasons. Teacher attrition is a challenge too, which could well mean less stability in the teaching workforce. It is important to acknowledge that your entry to the profession is at a particularly unsettled time.
The first point of focus in your mid-year reflections might usefully be you, your feelings about the job, and your feelings about the place where you work. What immediately comes to mind when you think about these aspects of your working life? Do you have a sense of unconditional relief that you are where you are? Or are your feelings affected by events that have happened or the circumstances you find yourself in? Can you see yourself staying where you are for the foreseeable future or would you like to explore the possibility of moving on at some stage? Jot down any thoughts that occur.
Something to keep in mind is that it is not uncommon to have a love/hate relationship with teaching. While the actual act of teaching a class of children who are enjoying the lesson and clearly using what they are learning in the work they are doing can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, other aspects of the role can be more difficult to love. That’s normal and can change over time. If you feel that this might be a factor for you, aim to determine precisely what it is that is contributing to the ‘hate’ element and aim to work out how that can be transformed. Who can help you with this?
Other points of focus
You are the best person to decide which points of reflection to focus on, but these ideas may help you:
- How supported do you feel with regard to planning and preparation? Do you have access to admin support? Are you able to work in collaboration with others so that key tasks are not repeated unnecessarily?
- How effective is your relationship with your mentor? Are things going well or could they be better?
- How would you rate your wellbeing in the job? What, precisely, is having a negative impact? What makes you feel good about the job? Is there anything that could change now in order to enable you to work more effectively or to protect your wellbeing more successfully?
- Are you able to build on, rather than repeat, what you learned in your initial teacher education? Are you accessing plenty of new learning and professional development? Or is there an element of repetition in your induction?
- Do you have any urgent development needs that you can discuss with your mentor?
- To what extent do you feel you are thriving as opposed to surviving? Are you just about keeping your head above water or raring to go?
- Has the reality of teaching been what you were expecting? Are you doing the job you thought you would be doing?
- Are you able to be the teacher you wanted to be? If not, what is standing in your way? Aim to be as precise and as specific as you can.
- Can you distinguish between internal stressors and external stressors? Are you putting yourself under undue pressure? Is the job putting you under undue pressure? Or does everything feel manageable even if challenging?
- Thinking about your relationships with the children you teach, how positive does this feel? Do you require any help with getting relationships onto a positive footing? If things are going well, what is contributing to that?
- How confident do you feel in your growing skills and abilities as a teacher?
- How secure do you feel in the wider family of your school?
One thing to keep in mind as you think about these questions, and any of your own that come up through this process, is that help is available. There are several spheres of support open to you, for example, the structures set up in your school (mentor, induction tutor, head of department, trusted colleagues and so on), your support networks outside school, from family members and friends, support from your union and Education Support Partnership (see below), and from your health care providers such as your GP. You are not alone and you do not have to struggle alone.
Hopefully taking some time to reflect on how things are going so far in the year will give you the opportunity to seek help should you need it, and to celebrate where things are going really well as both are equally important!
Making sure that early career teachers feel supported and confident enough to do the job is one of the most important things that we can do in the teaching profession. Without well-nurtured ECTs, we have no solid future. If we fail at developing new teaching talent, our schools and the children within them are impoverished. Speak up if you need to, it’s crucial that we get this right.
Find out more…
- Support for early career teachers (education.gov.uk)
- Education Support, supporting teachers and education staff
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.