We’ve all been there. First year of teaching after completion of teacher training – you’re feeling positive and beginning to get a handle on the subtle intricacies of the job, and then it happens. It’s different for everyone. It can be classroom management, data analysis, planning/ SOW, making resources, dealing with parents and everything in-between, but there will come a moment when you will come unstuck and think to yourself, ‘I have no idea what to do – we didn’t cover this last year.’
With only 10 months to prepare for a career that may well last over 40 years (and change dramatically even during the training), it is nigh on impossible to prepare for every eventuality in and out of the classroom. But, with anywhere between 6-10% of ITT students failing to complete teacher training, and a further 20% contemplating leaving the profession, surely it’s time for a change (or at least an adaptation) of focus?
Last year it was proposed that NQTs embark on a 2-year induction instead of one, in the hope that they would get a better understanding of the enormous pressures of workload, while still supported by a mentor.
So, what should we spend more time covering in teacher training? Below, we look at some of the areas which our teachers tell us need more emphasis in training.
During the majority of ITT, there is anywhere between a cursory nod to managing classroom behaviour and extensive practical approaches. As with anything in education, there is some good practice and some not so good practice. There are also a wealth of very accessible resources online (for example the NEU’s guide here), but what doesn’t seem to be covered is ‘the why’. How many ITT providers investigate ‘why’ students are acting out? ‘Why’ young people display that particular behaviour? ‘Why’ students continue to act out? Too often, most training is focused on treating the symptom and not the cause and this is something which more focus should be given to, to compliment the strategies which are currently taught.
Now this is offered throughout many routes of ITT (and more specifically for those PGCE courses offering Masters credits), but, like classroom management, not all main aspects are given enough attention. What does ‘good’ research look like? What steps are needed to begin your own research project? How can/ should research be used to inform classroom practice? These are just some of the questions which should be asked and answered during ITT. For proof that this is not always happening, look to the fact that prominent University websites are still espousing ‘learning styles’ and VAK (more on that later).
Planning/ SOW development
In ITT, teaching of planning and SOW development generally fall into three categories: 1. Planning is done in far too much detail; 2. It isn’t covered at all; 3. It is delegated to placement schools/ colleges (which can also lead to a repeat of 1 and 2). In a lot of educational settings, lesson plans are being phased out altogether, so why is this being covered during ITT? Too much planning in ITT can also focus on just filling the lesson time and not looking at an overarching scheme or developing a thread which runs throughout student’s journey. A potential solution could be to safeguard time with school leaders or training providers (to save on further teacher workload) and plan and create SOW in an environment more akin to workshopping than creating content and resources as silos and in isolation.
Well-being/ mental health
Though much has been made of the move to include mental health/ wellbeing training in initial teaching training programmes (critics claim it would be more effective to fund existing programmes and potentially dangerous for teachers to begin ‘diagnosing’ mental health issues), some form of training is certainly necessary. But what about training for dealing with teachers’ own mental health and well-being? As stated, it has been reported this year that 20% of teachers plan to leave the profession within 2 years, with the primary reason being work/life balance and the stress which comes with teaching. High levels of stress are evident in ITT and beyond, so why not embed mindfulness practices and mental health awareness training as early as possible?
Myth busting and sharing good practice
During teacher training, so much poor advice comes to the fore at times due to a lack of experience, excessive workload or simply a lack of time to share good practice. As previously mentioned, many practitioners are still being told to plan for VAK despite it being widely discredited since the mid to late 00s (and more recently). This is an obvious one, but what else is slipping through the net? How many times have we heard ‘I was told not to use the behaviour system because it looks like I can’t control the students’ or similar? Giving ITT students not only the time to share good practice, but also the structures and frameworks to make sure this is effective, would massively help with student development.
On my ITT course, I was told that the PGCE would be ‘the worst year of your life. Closely followed by your NQT year’ – it doesn’t have to be this way and with some tweaks to the excellent provision which is already out there, it won’t be.
Disclaimer: all views are the author’s only and not the views of eTeach.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Hartlepool College of Further Education. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher . He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.