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.
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.
“…great satisfaction in supporting students in developing their teacher identity - focusing on what matters.”
“To create cognitive conflict in order to get student teachers to think and to encourage them to be brave enough to think differently!”
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.