Carnegie Education

Let's talk about starting out as a teacher

What could be more exciting than starting out as a teacher? There’s the chance to work with children and young people, with all their foibles, quirks and enthusiasm. There’s the chance to walk into that staffroom as an adult, going into territory that as a student was off-bounds. There’s the chance to develop new skills, gain new knowledge and forge new friendships. There’s the reassurance of knowing that someone is waiting for you to arrive to do your thing every work day. There’s the pleasure of being able to choose how to spend your weekends and holidays. There’s the potential of a long and curiously diverse career. 

hexagonal images of speakers

Starting out as a teacher is always a challenge and always a privilege. It involves some hard graft, some necessary self-care, some laughs and some tears. What it should also always involve is consideration and collaboration with and from others. New teachers should feel that they are joining a collective profession, and as such that they are a critical new piece in a complex community of people working hard for great outcomes for individual children and young people. This sense of being part of a teaching community often starts with being part of a peer group of student teachers, having tutor support and being mentored.

As we look beyond the current Covid-19 pandemic we hope to host a CollectivED / GCI Knowledge Exchange Conference ‘Better Conversations, enhancing education one discussion at a time’ in the next academic year. This blogpost was originally written based on a theme for the conference planned for June. In addition to our main stage speakers we have a number of subthemes which will be explored through roundtable discussions. Prior to our rescheduled conference we anticipate hosting ‘Let’s talk about…’ webinars. Please follow @CollectivED1 on twitter for more information.

So, what can we do to better support those starting out as teachers? Let’s see what four table hosts in this theme have highlighted.

First up is Kim Gilligan who is the Team Leader of Professional Development at the University of Sunderland. Kim led a roundtable discussion last year which focused on mosaic mentoring (you can read more about that in a CollectivED working paper in Issue 6 ). Her discussion with participants this year will be considering the question ‘Does the gender of the mentor or mentee matter in the mentoring process?’ Mentoring Conversations are based on trust and a willingness on both sides of the dyad to be critically reflective about their part in the interactions, verbal and otherwise. Some institutions may assume that matching a male with another male will be conducive to a successful mentoring relationship. In reality, this assumption can be based on the false assumption that males are a homogeneous group, sharing a love of physical pursuits and having specific approaches to discipline. In actuality the gendered positions of the mentor and mentee can be strikingly different and these differences may impede honest and open conversations from taking place. In this discussion Kim will provide a short input into her research findings relating to a group of mature and a group of younger male trainee teachers. Then the rest of the session will be dedicated to looking at experiences of the participants round the table including the linking of theoretical perspectives.

Also leading a discussion on this theme is Lizana Oberholzer who is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Lead at the University of East London. Lizana’s roundtable discussion will be based on the question ‘How can coaching and mentoring be used as a change agent to develop early career teachers?’ Following a brief introduction of how coaching and mentoring can be used to facilitate conversations with early careers teachers which will also outline the difference of the two approaches, Lizana will share how a range of strategies such as values frameworks, principal frameworks, coaching and mentoring cards and goal setting exercises can be used to generate discussions to help unlock ideas and conversations. The key is to highlight that it is not a one size fits all approach to coaching and mentoring, and the key is to align the use of the different frameworks to the needs and requirements of the coachee/mentee depending on the phase they are at in their learning. Participants in the discussion will be invited to share what frameworks and models they use during their practice to extend the discussion, creating a rich opportunity for knowledge exchange.

And our final discussion in this theme is co-lead by Glennis Pye and Jane Chambers. Glennis is Senior Lecturer in ITT (MFL) and Jane is Head of Secondary ITT at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Their discussion will focus on the question ‘Can peer coaching conversations support personal and professional development and wellbeing in new teachers?’ Participants will consider how trainee teachers (and other teachers and mentors) can be helped to have peer to peer conversations which are effective in supporting professional and personal growth, learning and wellbeing. They will share a case study from their ITT programme of how peer coaching conversations have been introduced and developed exploring the rationale for inclusion, the key aims, the approach taken & trainee experience and significant challenges. Participants will be invited to consider the implications of the new ITT Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework in relation to peer support.

There are lots of reasons to talk to colleagues and amongst them are the opportunities to develop practices and better thinking.

By Rachel Lofthouse, Kim Gilligan, Lizana Oberholzer, Glennis Pye and Jane Chamber

You can also read about the roundtable discussions around the themes:

Professor Rachel Lofthouse

Professor / Carnegie School Of Education

Rachel Lofthouse is Professor of Teacher Education in the Carnegie School of Education. She has a specific research interest in professional learning, exploring how teachers learn and how they can be supported to put that learning into practice.

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