‘The Carnegie School of Education is seeking to redefine the education and professional development of the children and young people’s workforce. We offer distinctive and creative programmes that are responsive to the changes taking place in society, focusing on the diverse skills required of modern professionals.’ This is what our website says about us. It might read like a grand and ambitious claim but is also one which a reader could easily gloss over.  If they did focus on it, they could quite reasonably ask how that promise becomes reality. A good question like that deserves an answer, and in this blogpost I will reflect on what I have learned which reassures me that our students are indeed joining a professional and academic community which does the claim justice.

Earlier this year I invited my colleagues who work in teacher education here at Leeds Beckett University to participate in an online survey about who we are. You could say that it was a nosey-parker streak which motivated me, but beyond this it was my realisation that every now and again I find out something about a colleague which makes me acknowledge quite how much expertise and experience the team have. Twenty-eight ITTE colleagues responded to the survey and the first thing it revealed was that collectively we have 294 years’ worth of experience teaching in Higher Education and 667 years working in education. These figures alone indicate quite how highly experienced the team is. If you do the maths you will see that on average the members of our team have worked in education for almost 24 years each. Of course, a cynic could just read this data and suggest that it just means we are typically long in the tooth. However, a realist might appreciate quite how significant it is that the student teachers on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes get to learn from a mature, diverse and highly qualified team.

One of the most important qualities of the teacher educator team is quite how much of the education sector we have professional experience of, including early years, primary, secondary and special schools as well as further education, alternative provision and community education. As well as our former roles as classroom teachers we have worked as heads of subject and curriculum leaders (over 70%), members of senior leadership teams (over 50%) and as headteachers (15%).  Some of us have been SENDCOs and others have led on safe-guarding. Many of us (50%) have been or still are school governors. Prior to joining the teacher education team more than half us had been mentors for student teachers on placements in our schools and a quarter of us had co-ordinated ITTE in the school.  Some of the other specialist roles individual members of the team have had include being a Section 11 teacher Community liaison and English as an Additional Language co-ordinator, being Advanced Skills Teachers, working to support teacher development through Local Authorities or as consultant, being an inclusion manager and behaviour management trainer.

Our professional lives are even wider than this though. We have not always been teachers and teacher educators. For example, we have colleagues with former experience in nursing, the armed forces, working with children in secure units and in law. Others worked in business and the arts, and some have worked internationally. These professional roles have provided some essential perspectives including ‘instilling a person-centred approach to my work’, ‘an appreciation of rights and responsibilities’ and a belief that ‘team work for communal goals are crucial for success’. Some recognise their own school experiences as formative, for example in Montessori or Faith schools; others recognise the significance of wider education roles. These include work in local authorities with critical responsibilities for supporting schools in challenging circumstances, membership on national committees, research networks and unions and participation in Erasmus projects.

Some of our volunteering and community roles extend our insights, for example through working with a refugee organisation in order to support refugees and asylum seekers and being a school governor or MAT trustee, being a member of mountain rescue and board member of a theatre company. Many of us cite our family roles, including in birth, adoptive and step families, as influential, as one colleague said about parenting  ‘it shapes my understanding of the needs of the developing child and the importance of positive relationships.’ 

We also have a wide range of hobbies and talents and many of these give added flavour to our work as teacher educators. Being outdoors (some much more actively and adventurously than others) is a common love, as is travel. Colleagues value the ‘the potential being outdoors has for developing many different aspects of a person’, have an ‘interest in the environment, what we eat, reduction of plastic’ and ‘philosophy and culture’ fuelled by travel.  We also have yoga and fitness enthusiasts and those whose hobbies include growing vegetables, arts and crafts, musicianship and reading. Again, these shape who we are and what we value. One yoga enthusiast believed that ‘the mind and body are one we need to look after each of them to maintain our equilibrium’, a colleague interested in mindfulness and developing self-worth uses this to ‘encourage students to reflect on what they do well’. One musician shared that they are ‘unafraid to sing to and with our students’. Apparently, we also have a pigeon racer amongst us. 

So, the mini-census tells us who we are and how we became teacher educators. A future blogpost will celebrate some of research interests and achievements. We feel fortunate to work in teacher education now and are continuing to expand the learning experiences that we can offer our students on their journeys to becoming teachers. The things we love about our jobs include,

“…great satisfaction in supporting students in developing their teacher identity - focusing on what matters.”

“Love being at the start of the journey for future teachers, inspiring and guiding this next generation.”

 “To create cognitive conflict in order to get student teachers to think and to encourage them to be brave enough to think differently!”

 “Getting to know the individual students and seeing them develop over the course into confident, creative teachers of young children.”

These quotes illustrate the passion and commitment of our teacher education team. They also give an insight into how and why we create inclusive provision and ensure our teacher education programmes both challenge and support our student teachers.  We are proud to be Carnegie Educators, and feel privileged to be helping our students on their own journeys to becoming new teachers and to belonging to the profession we have helped to shape over many years and remain hugely proud of.

More information about our teacher education programmes can be found here

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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