Tag Archive for 'beginning teachers'

Starting Out In Teaching

I presented a keynote at the BETA (Beginning And Establishing Teachers) annual conference in Brisbane just recently. Around 200 1st year teachers. Brings back a few memories of my own 1st year. And it got me thinking about the way that we invite these beginning teachers into our ranks.

I’ve said previously that initial impressions count (also have a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink‘ if that interests you). Thus, it’s critical that we develop a series of support processes for that very first year… and even the very first month. Now, lots of schools do indeed have these processes in place. I’m just hinting that everyone (ie Every One) in the profession needs to remember the importance of welcoming the newies with open arms.

For starters, it’s good manners. As well, it gives these beginning teachers a much-needed boost in confidence, knowing that their more experienced peers are openly making an effort to support them.

And so, while I’m on the topic of first year educators, here are a couple of perspectives on this group:

1. This new breed of teachers are predominantly sensational. And they want to be there! Get over the old belief that most uni students only chose teaching because they couldn’t get into any other courses. I bluntly consider this to be an insult to the profession.

I openly admit that there will be some who literally fell into their teaching course because it wasn’t a first option. Life has a way of sending you off in directions that you never initially chose.

However, there are many more of these students who authentically wanted to be a teacher, and chose it because they desired to make a tangible difference with their work.

I remember sitting with a group of final year students late last year, and marvelling at their enthusiasm for whatever they would face this year. They couldn’t wait to get started.

We truly need this ongoing injection of enthusiasm and fresh thinking. It’s fantastic for all of us!

And this leads me to my next point.

2. The next time that I hear a teacher (or a non-teacher, for that matter) discouraging others from becoming a teacher, I’ll blow a proverbial fuse. For starters, there is a significant whiff of hypocrisy involved when someone who is presently in the profession, dumps on others who want to join the ranks. What degree of inadequacy is involved here? Just a little, I would conjecture.

Are these denigrators trying to flash their badge of courage, and insinuating that it’s too hard being a teacher? Yet look at me, I’m prepared to go through the misery…?

Here’s a statement of fact. When you demean your own profession, it will eventually affect you. If teachers keep saying that it’s a lousy profession, it too easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fewer quality individuals may join the ranks, and we really could end up with people in classrooms who did not specifically want to be there. And so on it spirals downward.

Don’t get me wrong here. Some (but not all) teachers face some pretty difficult stuff each day. And it’s stuff that can really test your resilience, if not your sanity.

I’m just saying that, if you are in the profession, don’t denigrate it from within. Praise it up. Point out the positive features (and yes, there are plenty. If you think that there aren’t, then why are you there yourself?)

My own daughter is a teacher (she’s brilliant…. but I’m not biased) and I’m proud of the fact.

So, please watch what you say when you are talking about the teaching profession. In two places in particular:

* Senior students who are contemplating their choice of career. I once convinced a brilliant school captain to persevere with a teaching career, after all other adults in her life told her that she could do ‘better’.

* In public gatherings eg parties. While others may occasionally want to demean teaching, don’t join in. It sends some pretty poor messages about your own professional credibility if you do so, and of your own beliefs about the worth of working with young people. Just ask the parents in the room: How important is it to you that your children are being supported by inspiring teachers? The answer will reflect everything I’ve talked about here.