What advice would you give to new colleagues?

This week, we’re welcoming back Liz Black with her reflections on starting out as a teacher.

What advice would you give to new colleagues?

I’m sure like me you have found the last few blog posts by Yvonne Kennedy and David Shanks extremely helpful. We can learn so much from other language consultants and teachers, reading short, pertinent tweets and comments, longer posts or new books and research. Over the summer, I also read a PhD thesis written by Dr Michael Lynch at the University of Edinburgh which has helped me to think about the NQT year and what newly qualified teaches face when they want to maintain their enthusiasm for target language use in the classroom, but are faced with challenges. Michael interviewed young teachers and analysed their early work post PGCE. The conclusions he draws make very interesting reading and his findings are thought provoking.

I think that at the start of each year it is really helpful to think about why we went into teaching languages in the first place. The head of the very successful sixth form college in Newham, Mouhssin Ismail recently spoke openly about why he changed career and went into teaching, about the perseverance his students show and states that his students inspire him. I am inspired by the trainee teachers and mentors that I work with too. I am always pleased to hear how the trainees are getting on during their first years of teaching. I received this email from one of them this week… She wrote

First of all – thank you again for your support during the ITT year. I have now passed the Induction year and I am convinced that I would not have passed without the constant help of thinking back to “better” times at Uni and reminding myself that all of us are in the same situation, under the same pressures etc – and also thinking back to Uni-sessions as a type of “healthy world; how languages should and could be taught if circumstances were perfect”.

A lot of people claim that this makes University a “fraud”; that it would not prepare us for the harsher reality that comes afterwards during our NQT year and beyond… I think of it in quite the opposite way looking back; had I not experienced healthy, enthusiastic and languages (rather than purely results-) -driven University sessions with you and guest-speakers, I can honestly say that I would have crumbled by now. We have two choices – either keep the head down and follow into the hamster’s wheel, work of progress-charts and improvement-percentages OR reminding ourselves that what we do has to firstly serve the young person we are working with, secondly the school’s charts. Without creative ITT- sessions this first aim (or first aim for myself, personally) would have faded into the background by now.”

Why did you go into teaching? What advice do you give to new colleagues starting out in teaching?  I would say keep learning with and from the children, teenagers and trainees! Sonia Nieto states that teachers thrive when they keep learning!