Mike Brett, Deputy Director Academy Transformation Trust Institute will be speaking at SSAT’s Early Career Teacher Inspirations launch on September 15th. Here is a letter from Mike to those joining the profession and in the early stages of the their teaching career.
Firstly, what an incredible time to be joining our profession. The introduction of the Early Career Framework and the launch of Early Career Teacher programmes nationwide present arguably the most exciting and positive recent movement in teacher development. The opportunities to learn and grow have never been so varied, with the quality of training on offer nationally of an exceptionally high standard, rightly reflecting the status of the profession you have chosen to join.
In the first months, several challenges lie ahead, but this is also a truly exciting time. You will hear lots of advice, from lots of different sources, whether it be your school or academy, your Early Career Teacher Programme or from colleagues, friends and vitally, your mentor. Focus on finding value in every interaction in the first weeks and months. Everyone is unique and some advice may work for you, and some might not. Try to find that value in every support network that you have, and remember there is not just one way, or a set of hard and fast rules to follow in these early stages. Every early career teacher experience will be different and should be celebrated as such.
Now is the time to focus on learning the things that can make the most difference in the classroom for you. Part of this will be building your knowledge. There has never been more or better access to knowledge, evidence, research, and resources, whether it be around pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, or behaviour management. Take some time to explore literature and read widely on areas of your practice. Much like the advice you will receive, some of it will work for you, and some may not, but you will soon discover thinking that begins to shape your professional identity as you learn and grow. Never underestimate the importance of rich, deep levels of knowledge and understanding.
Your training as an early career teacher is the very first opportunity you will have to develop your expertise, so engage deeply with your training programme and with your mentor. Another part of this will be building relationships with children and young people as you begin to teach. Learn their names and do your best to understand their context. It will take time to build effective working relationships but spend time reflecting on and investing in this area regularly.
To grow your knowledge even further, ask questions. Be curious about teaching and learning and watch as many lessons and interactions between staff and students as possible. You will see things in action that might work well for you in your classroom, and there will always be hidden gems of classroom pedagogy that you can implement almost straightaway. Remember to explore the roles of other staff, not just teachers, who play such a vital role in our schools and academies. The expertise of colleagues in these roles can be staggering, so be sure to draw upon their wisdom to help you become a better teacher.
A key part of this is seeking feedback. Everyone can get better and improve. In our profession, there is no such thing as a “finished product”. Seek good quality feedback from your mentor, school leaders and a variety of colleagues. Everyone has value to offer you, so think carefully about how you can implement constructive feedback and celebrate this feedback when you receive it.
Importantly, be ready for things to go wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, even the most experienced and effective teachers plan lessons they wish had gone better or delivered an explanation that the children didn’t quite understand. Things won’t go to plan, and this will happen time and time again throughout your career, so don’t feel the pressure to be perfect. In balance, it will also be important to work hard and hone your craft. Stay thoughtful and curious about your practice and think carefully about the professional obligation we all have to keep getting better. In that way, we can have the greatest possible impact on the students and communities that we serve.
Most of all, enjoy it and take care of yourself. You are joining such a special profession with the potential of making such a positive difference to children and young people. Every child and young person needs a knowledgeable, effective, and passionate teacher. These are the first steps on a journey to help you become exactly that.
For more further insight and support on your ECT journey, you can explore our early career teacher book “Letter to My NQT Self”, a collection of letters by teachers to themselves in their early career. In their letters, teachers recount tales of successes and challenges in their first year of teaching, offering practical tips to support you to thrive in these first steps, with all proceeds going to our chosen charity, Education Support.
Deputy Director, ATT Institute