Working with trainees is an enlightening experience. At times it’s a tough job, but as they begin to blossom there is a magic that they seem to emit upon a department and there are a lot of things those who have been teaching a while can learn from this fresh crop of hopefuls.
1. Reflective practice
A massive part of teacher training is reflection, and the skills that trainees develop during their ITT year are a modelled example of how quickly teachers can improve their practice.
Taking some time to look at what worked and what didn’t is something we don’t always do as fully fledged teachers. Taking a leaf out of our trainee’s books is good for our practice, and who best to ask to watch us than those reflective trainees?
Some of the best feedback I’ve had this year has been from my trainees and the joint reflections we have done have really made me think about my practice.
I love it when they ask me why I did something and I have to try to explain it in light of the fact I know that I need to justify the effectiveness.
Remember, reflective practice doesn’t just mean looking at what you did, but also looking at what others did and getting them to talk about it – the process is cyclical and trainees are great at it.
2. Use the research
One of the big things about teacher training is that it is steeped in the most recent research and the theories being taught are grounded in evidence. Education moves very quickly and the wealth of new knowledge that trainees bring to a department is phenomenal.
The theoretical side of teaching and learning can be something teachers lose touch with – it’s hard to keep all of the plates spinning after all.
When trainees are talking about cognitive load theory and explaining the intricacies of it to other members of the department, you see how valuable this recent teaching is…if you’ve got confident trainees, get them to showcase this knowledge.
3. Make mistakes but don’t keep making them
Your training year is a bit of a practice run really. You get to try a load of things – you keep what works and do away with the rest.
One thing that I love about trainees is that they are robust (most of the time) when it comes to something not working. I think we can all learn a lesson from this resilience.
Getting stuck in your ways makes your teaching predictable and this, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on engagement. Remembering that trying new things is OK – and not having that over-arching fear of them not working quite how you wanted them to – means that you keep moving your teaching forward. Having an open mind also means that you foster a sense of responsiveness with regard to those around you. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
4. NQTs are full of new ideas
I’ve taught Macbeth for 10 years and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the book and analysed it. I mean it’s sad but I know most of the quotes, which act and scene they come from, and I can recite them like a preacher…but it’s crazy how much I still learn from my trainees.
Maybe it’s that there is a fresh set of eyes looking at the subject or topic, maybe it’s because they aren’t as influenced by exam specifications? Whatever it is, trainees are full of new ideas and there is a lot experienced teachers can learn from them with regard to subject knowledge…as long as you listen.
Teaching is a tough profession and over a period of time, it can take some of your positivity away. We all know how it feels to go through dips, and having a trainee in the department can really raise morale.
It’s a mixture of innocence to education and the fact that you’ve got some new blood with regard to ideas, but it’s also because a trainee can make a department pull together and host a new fledgling with the hope that they themselves will one day do the same.
Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and lead teacher in English