Welcome to The Profession, the new annual publication for early career teachers, and also welcome to the fantastic career path you have chosen. Hopefully you agree with me that you have made two excellent choices. You have chosen to do the most important job that exists. Without teachers, there would be no other professionals – you lay the foundations for all the skilled roles that follow on from an excellent education. I hope you will also agree that you have made an excellent choice in deciding to join the Chartered College of Teaching. In doing so, you have been sent The Profession, the annual publication for early career teachers, which will help you do the job well and prepare you for the responsibility you hold in this crucial role. You have the potential to transform lives. The advice you are about to read across the range of articles in this publication will give you confidence and enthusiasm, and when you have read them, you will be raring to get on and make that difference.
When I look back at the early stages of my teaching career, I can still vividly recall that potent mix of excitement and anxiety about what I had signed up to. There are so many potential highs and lows to teaching that the balance of excitement and satisfaction, versus anxiety and selfdoubt, can tip either way at the drop of a hat. For me, dealing with this was partly about knowing that these fluctuations are normal and reassuring myself that the downs are compensated by the ups. The other important solution is to look carefully at the things you can control that are worrying you and to do something about them. This publication will help you enormously in making you feel able to respond constructively and positively to the challenges ahead.
All the contributions share a practical, accessible approach to some of the factors you need to consider. They are written in a bite-sized, digestible format but with a real depth of evidence, experience and expertise underpinning them. I would have loved to have this resource to guide me, and I am sure there are items within these covers you will continually return to.
The Profession is organised around key principles relating to professional knowledge, practice and behaviour – a very useful way of thinking about your practice in the classroom. The professional knowledge section includes a range of contributions to help you think about what lies at the heart of education. As Francis Bacon famously said, ‘knowledge is power’. The development of knowledge and understanding is one of the most important purposes of education. This is true both for yourself and for your learners. The need for you to focus on your own knowledge as a teacher in order to be able to impart this meaningfully and powerfully to learners is covered in a way that is both practical and evidence-informed. Coe et al. (p. 11) provide an excellent framework for developing professional knowledge and the pieces that follow describe aspects of this in more detail. The case for the importance of subject knowledge (Enser, p. 17) and how this links to assessment, questioning, memory and cognitive load (Christodoulou, p. 22, Doherty, p. 27, Firth, p. 31 and Shibli and West, p. 36) is powerfully made and practically illustrated.
Following this, a series of articles on essential elements of ‘professional practice’ will help you hold up a mirror to your own practice. A theme that runs throughout is the importance of continuously coming back to the ‘why’ question in how you approach teaching. This is crucial both in terms of your own reflections – as stated eloquently by Ali (p. 41) and McGill (p. 52), but also in terms of how to design the curriculum and implement it in a way that encourages students to consider the fundamental concepts that underlie their learning. Turner (p. 54) and Mulholland (p. 47) have some excellent advice on how to do this well, in terms of both principle and practice. In this section you will also find some really excellent advice in relation to the ‘nitty gritty’ of what impactful practice looks like. Examples include the powerful use of individual feedback (Fletcher-Wood, p. 59), use (and abuse) of technology (Picardo, p. 65) and the importance of focusing on diversity (Temo, p. 63). There is also really helpful advice on behaviour across the board, but with a key focus from Dix (p. 69), and how to create a positive learning culture. I well remember this area being the thing that dominated my worries. Even the most experienced teachers will tell you that they still give it careful attention when establishing new relationships at the beginning of the year. The advice given here is therefore so important to getting the foundations right. Hopefully you will use this section to reflect on your own practice and as a tool to help you design future learning experiences.
The final section is grouped around the principles of professional behaviour. There is so much helpful advice here to help you think about yourself in relation not only to your own personal needs and development, but also to the relationships that will be so crucial to this. For many new teachers, the quality of support and relationships available to them is the key factor in determining how far they feel satisfied and confident that they are doing the right thing for their learners. In the busyness of schools, with the pressure and competing priorities of all those who work in them, it is easy for someone who is relatively new to feel they are a passive agent in finding their place and establishing a network of support. Much of the advice here is helpful in enabling you to take more control over this and to be an agent of your own support. From applying for jobs (Tomsett, p. 117) to getting the most from mentors (Lofthouse, p. 109), to the importance of professional development (Weston, p. 112), collaboration (Creaby, p. 95) and maximising the role of teaching assistants (Webster, p. 81), there is much here to help you navigate your way through complex decisions with a sense of purpose and fulfilment. There is also absolutely essential advice (by Green, p. 92, OvendenHope and Brimacombe, p. 87 and Hamer, p. 76), and elsewhere in the other sections, about how to manage your time and keep a sensible and sustainable work-life balance. The importance of putting the maximum effort into the things that give the maximum impact cannot be understated. Try to avoid the traps I used to continuously fall into (and still do with equivalent distractions in my current role). Spending the whole weekend triple-mounting and laminating a game that is finished in two minutes is not an attractive proposition when faced with the rest of the time that now has to be meaningfully filled and you have no time left to plan. There are also important messages about evidence and research and some of the pitfalls to avoid from Bokhove (p. 99) and others throughout the publication.
Teaching is such a great career – it has so much to offer and so many moments of ultimate reward when you find those ‘teachable moments’ and the lights switch on. However, it is also a complicated, busy, demanding, confusing set of activities, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by the noise this creates. This is why I encourage you to read and re-read the advice from Alison Peacock (p. 123) about why you matter and why your job is so important. Her advice and the role model she provides is so inspirational. The Chartered College can support and inspire you, helping you to connect with other teachers and work with the latest research and evidence. I hope you find this example of its work a useful introduction and that you continue to gain from the many other benefits it can offer.
Samantha Twiselton is the Director of Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University. In this role she uses her research and practice in the development of teacher expertise to develop a range of innovative workplace embedded approaches to Initial and Continuing Teacher Development. With experience in teacher education, curriculum development and language and literacy, Sam has been heavily involved in influencing government policy on teacher education and was recently a member of the advisory panel for the Department for Education Carter Review of ITT in England and the DfE Expert Behaviour Management Panel chaired by Tom Bennett.