Becoming a Teacher


Thoughts and challenges for Beginning Teachers

Welcome to this blog which will run right the way through this year, hopefully supporting you on your journey to becoming a great teacher.

I am the Director of Initial Teacher Education at the University of Nottingham and am really interested in the journey beginning teachers take and how they can be best supported through a challenging year.

In the early days of student teachers being with us we talk a lot about the complexities of learning to teach, the different types of knowledge you will be developing and the many expectations that will be placed on you over the coming months. What we know is that, right from the outset, we are asking you to: juggle ideas; work hard every day (and many evenings); gradually increase your teaching and, at the same time, step outside of the day to day and reflect and think about how your teacher identity and thoughts about teaching and learning are developing. Not an easy task.

At the end of the 2014-15 PGCE year, chatting to some students as they finished our PGCE course, I mused about whether it might be helpful to have some sort of ongoing dialogue, sitting apart from the day to day demands and inputs of teachers, schools, pupils and university tutors, that could drip feed ideas and thoughts throughout the year; a space beginning teachers could visit on a weekly basis that would support them to reflect on their week, identify things that they have learnt and plan for the next steps they need to take. The response from these students was a resounding yes so the idea was trialled the next year  and a blog was born.

My aim is to offer thoughts, ideas and challenges for you to mull over. When it feels appropriate, I might draw your attention to things you can look at or read but I will be careful not to overdo this as I know you are already bombarded with enough on that front!

I hope you enjoy the weekly insights and challenges and that this helps you as you navigate the coming year and develop as a teacher.

Featured post

What’s niggling you?

I am sure the start to your year feels quite dramatic and I know from speaking to some of you that your heads are spinning with everything that has been thrown at you. So, let’s keep it simple. A key thing we have talked about this week is reflection and the need for you to develop your skills in this area. Many of you will already see yourself as reflective and will find yourself constantly thinking about your experiences and what you have learnt from them. I want to suggest you need to take this a step further and be able to not just think back on an event and decide what you have learnt, but to be able to gradually question and develop a thought, however small, so that your philosophy and personal theories about teaching and learning can crystallise. What follows is a suggestion of how you might do this:

What is niggling at you?

What is a key ‘issue’ that has stood out for you this week? This might be an idea that has been offered to you by a tutor or teacher in school or it might be a thought that has started to develop in your mind based on this week’s experiences and conversations. Pick something that is niggling at you, perhaps something that has never crossed your mind before about teaching or something you thought you were certain of and now are less so.

What are you doing with your idea? 

To me, the answer to this second question is crucial and establishing ways that work for you to mull over and develop ideas will be a real key to your success over the year. So, what might work?

Firstly, I would recommend trying to find some way of formalising your idea on paper. This might only be a few words at this stage or a basic question. For example:

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The next thing to think about is how to avoid the idea getting lost amongst everything else we are expecting you to engage with and the many notes you have probably already made. Try selecting just one key idea and put that somewhere different – on a post-it on your mirror, a separate page in a notebook, a note on your phone… Simply separating out this one idea gives you space to keep returning to it. If you recall, we talked about the need to shape and reshape your ideas and this is part of that process.

Once you have identified your idea, explore it: talk to others ~ tutors, your peers, teachers… and pupils; read about it; have it in the back of your mind when you observe a lesson. Try to return to your idea at regular intervals ~ have your views changed? Have you got more questions? What do you need to know to develop your thinking further? Do you reach a point where you feel pretty confident that you are certain of your views? If yes, then leave the idea alone for a few weeks, make a note in a diary or on your phone to return to it in a month’s time and see if you are still sure of your position.

Then find your next idea!

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