Teachers are amazing. By entering the teaching profession, you’ve committed to making a real difference to each and every child in your classroom. We share a phenomenal opportunity to make a real positive difference. Every single day, we’re able to inspire, guide and enable the young people we teach to achieve great things. We may be new teachers, but I truly believe in the positive impact we can have for our pupils. Making a real difference to the lives of young people, inspiring and equipping them to do their very best, is the real reason why I, like most new trainees (Marsh, 2015), chose to become a teacher.
That said, the feeling amongst many new teachers can be that our chosen career is a daunting one to be entering, and there will undoubtedly be challenges. It is therefore important for every teacher to focus on their ‘why’ – the true reason why they became a teacher. Remaining committed to this will help you to continue to make an impact in your classroom every day.
Many of the challenges teachers face are shared; there cannot be many problems that are brand new or unique to you or your setting. It is important for teachers to work collaboratively to share their experience and ideas and enable every teacher to overcome these challenges. Teaching can feel like a burden at times, and working together with your colleagues will make it more manageable. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice; from NQTs through to veteran teachers, each of us has ideas and experience to contribute to provide the best possible educational opportunities for our pupils.
One of your main priorities as a new teacher should be to begin building strong relationships with your colleagues within your setting. The best new teachers are those who are reflective, seeking and responding to advice from more experienced colleagues, and sharing and taking on board ideas to improve their practice (Glendenning and Cartwright, 2011). Working closely with other teachers is essential; no teacher gets it right every day, so it’s important to be prepared to try new approaches on your way to determining what might work best for your students.
Improving your practice is a continuous process throughout your teaching career, beginning during your initial teacher training (ITT) and continuing thereafter. I believe that being able to teach is a privilege and we should strive to be the very best educators possible, in order to provide the best opportunities and outcomes for the young people in our classrooms. Developing your practice can take on many forms but engaging with research is vital.
Attending teaching conferences and research events, such as those hosted by the Chartered College of Teaching or teachers’ unions, are great for gaining exposure to current hot topics in schools and examples of good practice. After going to conferences, I often feel that I can apply elements of the presentations within my own practice immediately, as they are usually well-reasoned arguments and strategies related to classroom practice. For example, at the Chartered College of Teaching’s Annual Conference in February 2018, there were talks on a range of topics, such as assessment and promoting diversity and inclusion, from current, experienced teachers. Of course, the additional benefit is being able to discuss and share these thoughts with like-minded colleagues who are attending the events alongside you.
Research evidence is at the centre of the best teaching practice, and during ITE is the best time to take advantage of the research and time available to you, to develop how best you will apply evidence from research to improve your practice. As a student, you have a range of easily accessible research and information available to you, which may be provided through your ITE provider or university library service. In addition to this, student membership of the Chartered College of Teaching opens up access to the termly journal publication Impact, which contains a range of articles from real teachers and educators about evidence-based practice, in addition to a wealth of other research resources available on their website.
So where should you start? I would recommend beginning with a topic of particular interest to you, whether that interest stems from a specific moment in your classroom, from a focus you’ve been reading about or even from a talk you’ve heard at a conference. Begin to use the research available to you, alongside advice from your colleagues, mentors and tutors, to inform the strategies you use in your teaching. Evidence-informed practice is a fantastic method of self-development, based on what you believe will help you become a better teacher.
I guarantee that when you see the potential effect of your research on your classroom practice, you’ll continue to engage with research to improve your techniques and strategies – to be the very best teacher for the children you teach.
Take a look at ‘Where to find more support’ to find a list of useful resources to support your teaching and learning.
Philip McCahill is a primary trainee teacher, shortly beginning his final year of studying Primary Education at Birmingham City University. He is also a co-opted governor at a small primary school in Birmingham and an Advocate for the Chartered College of Teaching.