As a fresh-faced, 22 year old graduate entering the real teaching work force for the first time came also the realisation that in order to pass my NQT induction period and keep abreast of the fast paced changes in education in Wales, I would need to make sure that I latched on to some critical and relevant CPD courses. The objective was two-fold; ensure I secure ongoing professional development to enhance my saleability into the profession and maximise (and hopefully extend) the time I have in schools so that I can secure NQT status. The problem, however, was accessing valuable CPD opportunities that were relevant and free!
As a supply teacher, I have sat through hours of unpaid staff meetings and endless slides, attended Hwb’s Teach Meets and listened to after school discussions about best practice and quality teaching, none of which I can record against my induction period as they were short term contracts. I did this for my own benefit and ultimately for when I could draw upon this newly acquired knowledge and understanding at interview! It soon dawned on me that I was in an awful and unfair position, very unlike my permanent colleagues. I was in catch 22! To receive high quality and bespoke Professional Development and Learning opportunities, not only was it was a prerequisite that I pay for it myself, and in some cases I would also end up missing a day’s supply in order to attend said courses. This being, of course, the good ol’ £100+ problem reserved for us supply teachers!
Why it’s important
The thing is, Continuous Professional Development is not only vital to career growth, but is also an important way to stay up up-to-date on new research. One of the benefits of supply teaching is that you teach in a vast range of schools in varying contexts. I get to see what other schools are doing to promote student learning. This in itself is a steep learning curve for me. But there are occasions where one school is streets ahead in emerging pedagogies and using technology in teaching and learning. Some schools are putting into practice the new research into how students learn, some are using technology to redefine the learning experience and some are already leading the way as Creative Schools and putting into practice elements of the new Donaldson Curriculum. I watched so many teachers around me adapting and blossoming to the ever-changing teaching world in huge leaps and bounds that I literally felt scared that I would fall behind to the point at which my only hope would be one-day contracts for the rest of my teaching life! With the rise of technology becoming an integral component of the modern day classroom, with concepts such as the flipped classroom and blended learning, I could see first-hand how my colleagues were changing the methodology of how they were teaching, changing the terminology through which they communicated about pedagogy and assessment and ultimately showing significant breakthroughs in student progress and personal satisfaction. So what had initially started out as necessary for my induction and appeal as an NQT, access to relevant CPD soon became vital for my survival and credibility at the very least as ‘someone who knew what she was talking about’ within a rapidly changing profession.
Thankfully, it didn’t take too long before I came across the guys at TeacherIn where I was finally offered access to hours of PD courses perfectly tailored to my needs and in line with Welsh Government’s Professional Learning Model and the New Deal, many of which were – and continue to be – free. Professional development courses, like those offered by TeacherIn, are one of the greatest resources a teacher, like me, can use. Here, teachers share ideas, strategies and grow together online and in their own time through collaborative, progressive peer discussion forums. And perhaps the best thing is, I get to add significant value to the schools I teach in. I have a renewed confidence and can dazzle my colleagues with my fresh and up to date knowledge and can hold my own in professional dialogue with the Senior Leadership Team. I no longer feel like the invisible babysitter who makes pitiful pleas to tag along to their Staff INSET sessions. And I no longer lose out on potential supply days by attending face to face courses.
I’ve changed a lot since being that fresh-faced, 22 year old, both overwhelmed by the prospect of organising my own CPD and scared to death at the idea of falling rapidly behind without it. What I have quickly come to realise is that it’s not just about completing hours of courses on top of my already busy life. There’s a wealth of best practice out there that we can tap into to see what the teacher community have developed and shared together through research, collaboration and strategy.
Hopes for the future
Despite recent press releases informing us of the crisis in teacher recruitment and with many practising teachers leaving the profession, I still hold a fervent desire to teach as my lifelong career. I know that it will be a constantly evolving and developing profession just like medicine and as scared and overwhelmed as I may get to take on, for example, the SMART Board, incorporate edtech through blended learning principles or foster a growth mindset philosophy amongst my students, I know that the more equipped I am in the classroom with new tools and strategies, then the more students I can reach and the more invigorated I become and remain!. We’ll be inspiring our students to learn by modelling this ourselves!
The reason why we become teachers is to foster learning. It’s in our human nature to be curious and to not nurture that curiosity and creativity within ourselves will severely limit our potential. Access to professional learning opportunities through TeacherIn and other online courses has been a gift in so many ways in enabling me to thrive and keep developing as a teacher in a role that can be extremely challenging. To all supply teachers out there in Wales, the opportunity now presents itself to access high quality, meaningful and bespoke professional learning that meets your needs and reflections!