Post 2: Past, present and future – Kath Minett-Waller

Progress – past, present and future.

It has been a busy week and everyone is quickly thrown in again to the complexities of the job of teaching! Our new cohort of primary and secondary trainees, here at South Birmingham SCITT, will be starting each new day with feelings of excitement and exhilaration – that they have finally started their journey. Mixed with this will be a certain amount of trepidation, as they see fantastic teachers achieving fantastic things, across our partnership of schools.

There has been a plethora of research around teacher training over many years, where stages of trainee development has been identified and written about. Terminology such as ‘survival’ ‘mastery’ ‘consequence orientated’ (Fuller and Brown 1975), and, ‘fitting in’, ‘passing the test’ and ‘exploring’ (Calderhead, 1987) are used to describe stages of development. Further, trainee concerns such as, lesson planning and evaluation, discipline, working with pupils, working with cooperating teachers and adjusting their classrooms, working with others in the profession, and transitions from trainee to professional teacher, – are all identified as issues held by trainee teachers in research by Guillaume and Rudney, (1993).

Trainees may well be turning their thoughts to these issues as they embark on the first stages of their professional journey; each of them entering into the profession from a different experience or starting point. With this however, come reassurances that training will remain bespoke: tailored to the needs of the individual.

‘Idealism’ is a word that has cropped up on more than one occasion over the past week or so. Firstly, in the context of teacher-training itself, followed closely by a discussion about pupils and their readiness to learn.

‘Early idealism’ is the first of five stages of trainee development identified by Furlong and Maynard (1985), (along with ‘personal survival’, ‘dealing with difficulties’, ‘hitting a plateau’ and ‘moving on’). Trainees may well find themselves identifying with these stages, and the feelings that characterise them, as they progress. These feelings will be real – and at times disconcerting. Trainees however should take comfort; with the fabulous network of support they have around them, they will be able to overcome problems and obstacles and move on. This will form part of the natural flow of things – enabling them to develop and move towards more complex thought patterns as their learning, experience and responsibility as teachers increase. And, not to be put off – they are with us because we have already seen the teacher in them, believing they will progress into the great teachers our pupils need.

Furlong and Maynard (1985) identified that trainees are often idealistic to begin with: towards the feelings they have for the pupils and the image they hold of themselves as teachers. They have an idea about the kind of teacher they want to be, the kind of relationships they want to develop, what they want their classroom to look like and the atmosphere they want to create. These ideals are largely influenced by past experiences, of pupils themselves, their own teachers and their more recent experiences of schools and classrooms, through further school experience prior to training.

The first of our professional study days, here at South Birmingham SCITT, introduced the trainees to lesson planning. But this was so much more than simply planning a lesson and completing a planning template! The session delved into how children learn, with a focus on key educational theorists; Skinner, Piaget and Vygostsky. This led to valuable discussions regarding classroom climate, teaching approaches, engagement, pace and challenge.

Idealism arose again during the afternoon session, which introduced the trainees to research
practice. Ideally, we want all pupils to achieve and make good or better progress. But – what if a child isn’t ready to learn? Great dialogue followed – fuelled by reference made to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1954); a discussion of the differences between what is ideal and what is realistic. Maslow’s theory may well have been developed a good number of years ago – but still holds great relevance today – and encouragingly instils progress in the education system and development in our schools. Using the basic need for good nutrition as an example, the implementation of breakfast clubs into schools over the last decade or so, and more recently, under a coalition government (2010-16), free school meals for all Key Stage one pupils, exemplifies how everyone working together ensures this significant physiological need of our pupils in school is being met. This is progress.

Our trainees are at the start of a fantastic new journey. There will be highs and challenges on the way. Mistakes will be learnt from – resilience built as they go. They will receive the very best support possible and encouraged to be responsive to the feedback they receive, so they may truly recognise the real impact they will have on the learning and progress of the pupils they teach.

It is a time to encourage criticality; to ask questions, reflect, test ideas and assumptions, and of course ideals, and recognise how these change and shape the reality – past, present and future! At some point this week – or next – many of us may well question some of our ideals. This is to be embraced as this will enable our thoughts and practice to move forward – this too is progress!