I recently visited a school where every single member of staff is asked at least once a year where they are in regards to their ‘five-year plan’. Performance management and appraisal meetings are structured around the idea of teachers being on a journey, with coaching style conversations focusing on feeding forward and looking ahead, rather than judgement-led feedback.
In my work at the Teacher Development Trust, I visit schools across the country to speak to staff about their CPD experiences, but it’s rare to hear teachers speaking so explicitly and confidently about how they are taking control of their own development. It strikes me that as educators, we often shy away from this sort of development-led dialogue and aren’t always the most ‘career hungry’ profession.
However, now that it’s September and you’re (hopefully!) well-rested after the summer holidays, there is no better time to reflect on your own journey and set yourself some powerful positive goals based on where you hope to be as a practitioner by the end of the year. Is there a particular group of pupils on whom you really want to focus? In what areas could you develop or improve to support this? How does this tie in with your career aspirations?
Whether you’re thinking about formal targets for appraisal, or have set yourself some more informal, self-directed goals, here are some suggested tips to help you get to where you want to be:
There is now a whole array of inspirational books to choose from on pedagogy, leadership and teacher psychology that can really get you thinking. Some recent favourites that also offer practical solutions include Unleashing Great Teaching by Weston and Clay, Making Good Progress? by Daisy Christodoulou or Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Wilingham.
When workloads are already piled high, it can often seem impossible to fit in time to read. One idea could be to buy a few copies of a particular book and set up a reading group in school.
Make use of technology
Video technology for schools has come leaps and bounds in recent years, and filming yourself can unlock a huge platform for professional learning. It may sound scary, but a video camera at the back of the class which captures footage for you to watch back later will help you learn a lot about your practice and how you. It works even better if you find a trusted colleague and agree to pair up to work with each other. A good tip is to focus on the way pupils are learning and reacting, rather than getting too hung up about how you look on video or your own habits at the whiteboard.
Join a subject association
Effective professional learning includes exploration of subject specific pedagogy. By joining a subject association, you can access dedicated resources for your specific subject, which will not only be useful to you, but also your department, subject or key stage team.
There is no denying that whole-school structures need to support you in meeting your CPD needs, but in constantly remembering to check in on your own trajectory as an ever-improving teacher, you’ll be more likely to feel motivated, empowered and prepared to thrive from day to day.
About the author
Maria Cunningham is Network Development Officer for Teacher Development Trust, the national charity for effective CPD in schools and colleges. She is a former primary school teacher and supports over 200 schools across the UK to improve their processes and structures for staff development.