Mike Simmons, Deputy Director of the National Forest Teaching School and Secondary Programme Lead for the John Taylor SCITT

Rightly so, wellbeing and workload is toward the top of the agendas of many Senior Leadership Teams in schools and, of course, is a key driver for many Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers too in recent years. However, we must appreciate there is a fine line between a task that is and isn’t time consuming with little long-term and sustainable change in practice.

At the National Forest Teaching School, we believe the key for long-term sustainable changes in practice is the trinity of resilience, reflection and perspective, and we encourage our trainees to approach their tasks with this in mind.

A recent 350-word blog piece challenge was an excellent opportunity for the trainees to engage with this trinity and allowed them to explore a topic of their choice. And, as any good teacher would when reading these reflections, we were able to assess the trainees’ understanding of the wider roles of being a teacher and the level of their critical reflections.

I have overall responsibility for the progress of the secondary SCITT trainees over the course of the year both in terms of their emerging professional practice but also their pastoral needs. However, what I found most useful about this blog piece was that for a short time I was invited into the trainee teacher’s world and able to see their perspective.

I inadvertently joked, to a rapturous outburst of laughter, with the cohort that I enjoyed the image of one trainee who wrote: “One evening, crying openly in a traffic jam, sat impotently next to the stack of marking on the passenger seat, and despairing of ever getting all of my lessons planned”.

What I meant was that, just for a minute, I was invited into their world and understood from their perspective how they were feeling, and the enormity of pride I felt when the trainee continued to explore how through her resilient approach she tackled the situation and came through the process with a long-term change in practice.

As a senior leader of ITE it is too easy to remain at that helicopter level, overseeing the development and holistic progress and descending every now and again to hold a meeting or conduct a lesson observation, but we pride ourselves on being a personal provider of ITE.

By threading the concept of trainee teacher reflection into all that we do, we enable our mentors and the SCITT team to understand the trainee’s perspective and can help to develop more efficient workload practices and the resilience so often required to be successful in a career in education.

As a geographer the image I have chosen to support this blog piece speaks to me on several levels if we place it into the context of resilience, reflection and perspective. The hard-resistant rock central to the image is the core strength we are encouraging our students to build up regardless of the expectations placed upon them from the demands of the teaching profession.

The water running around (and over time eroding away the land away from the core) is the fluidity of the reflection required. Poor lessons will pass by, as will good ones, but the ability to pick apart and build upon strengths and developments without always relying on an external assessment or judgement is what will make the trainees appreciate the long-term changes to practice and only make that core strength stand out further.

Finally, it is all about perspective. From one viewpoint we can see a potentially precarious rock formation formed over time by being open to all elements of erosion. Yet from the perspective of the specialist we see a solid, strong feature that can stand the test of the time and all that it may face.

So, when thinking about the tasks that trainee teachers are undertaking, there may be merit in thinking about the trinity presented here. Does it encourage resilience? Are you developing critical reflection? Are you, as the mentor or coach, able to engage from their perspective?

When reviewing our school-based tasks in light of reducing workload and demand for trainee teachers we believed that when those three key strands exist, the time spent undertaking the task or activity is purposeful and should lead to a long-term and sustainable impact on practice.

Mike Simmons

Provider details: National Forest Teaching School and Secondary Programme Lead for the John Taylor SCITT

Website: www.nationalforestteachingschool.co.uk/teach

Twitter: @NFTSchool

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