Back to the chalkface

24th October 2008 at 01:00
Teaching teachers can progress your career - and improve your work in the classroom, says Susan Young

You love teaching and want to stay in the classroom. But you also want to move on and develop your skills - so what do you do? Lots of teachers solve this dilemma by becoming an Advanced Skills Teacher. But another, increasingly popular, option is to sign up to teach continuing professional development (CPD) sessions to other teachers.

"I love it," says Gail Haythorne, who combines her part-time role as French and German teacher at Woldingham School in Surrey with teaching training courses for four different companies and looking after two small sons.

"It keeps me creative and enthusiastic about teaching and it keeps your ideas fertile. I feel fortunate that I have ended up in the situation where I can develop myself and feel my career is moving on, yet I am working on a part-time basis."

Gail's career took a different path when she cut her hours after the birth of her first child. She asked if she could take on more of a professional development role, cut her school days to three a week, and stepped down as head of French.

Then she started building a reputation as someone with expert knowledge of using new technology, such as interactive whiteboards and blogging, to teach languages. Since then she has gone from teaching four or five CPD sessions a year to 24 in 2008-09.

Time spent researching and preparing for courses often results in new things to try in her own lessons and those of colleagues, and some of her courses are taught in her own school - which means free places for Woldingham teachers.

And the day job stimulates her CPD teaching. "It's a bit like reading a recipe book - you can tell whether they've really made sure something works. It's not a science, it's an art. We've thought about it, tried it, something went wrong, tried it again, and so this is what you might like to do," she says.

"In the classroom, sometimes something you think will work won't - but it will work another way. For instance, some kinds of computer program have a little help button. I don't want pupils to use it, I want them to think it through. But I have actually found that if the class is getting rowdy and I tell pupils they can use the help button for a minute, it refocuses them. It isn't what you think would happen."

Carol Hunt, another CPD tutor, thinks that credibility is vital when teaching teachers. "Working in the classroom gives you credibility because you know the issues. The worst thing for teachers is to be taught by someone who hasn't been in a classroom for years," she says.

She is head of PSHE at Wirral Grammar School for Girls and believes that working with teachers is an excellent way to sharpen those classroom skills. "There is most definitely a challenge in delivering to a group of your own profession. You have to be spot on - rightly so. They are informed people. In delivering CPD I am trying to move the subject forward and that develops me as a teacher."

The move into CPD for Carol came last year with the roll-out of the new PSHE curriculum. Her subject association was looking for regional subject advisers and she joined because she thought it would be a new challenge. "Also, if there was new information out there, I wanted to have access to it," she says.

"Having done that and enjoyed working with other teachers, I started to look for other opportunities for developing CPD."

Carol, 52, now in her 31st year of teaching and passionate about her subject, juggles three days a week in her school (where PSHE has been rated excellent in the past three Ofsted inspections) with a couple of days a month as an adviser and teaching CPD sessions. "My primary focus is still in school - that's the most important - and the CPD work comes in the time I am not there," she says.

Carol finds lots of professional benefits in her out-of-school work - including reading up on a subject for training or advisory sessions. "It allows me to see a variety of practice going on in school both good and bad, so again that's a two-way process. I enjoy the variety, meeting people from a huge range of schools - comprehensive, selective, independent. It gives you a job satisfaction."

For Jason Drewett-Gray, an Advanced Skills Teacher who leads sessions at the National and Regional Science Learning Centres, often on the use of interactive whiteboards, teaching other teachers can be a confidence booster - once you get over the shock of them behaving differently in class to pupils, that is.

"It's a good thing to do, definitely. I have changed a great deal about the way I view myself. People have said you are a good teacher. Getting out gives you a frame of reference.

"When you get into your career, you are observed very rarely. With Advanced Skills Teaching work and working with other people, I am getting a lot more observation and feedback."

Another upside for Jason is the opportunity to earn a bit of extra money - and potentially the chance to change the whole direction of his career.

"The most important thing at the moment for me is that I am beginning to develop a reputation and people are beginning to know who I am," he says.

A couple of years down the line, he may even consider coaching other teachers full-time.

TEACHERS TEACHING TEACHERS

Sara Morgan, head of professional learning at the General Teaching Council for England, believes that continuing professional development is a two- way street.

"Teachers' involvement in contributing to others' CPD training is valuable for all involved," she says. "Teachers receiving the training gain the opportunity to hear real life and relevant examples in a classroom and school context. The teacher delivering it benefits from sharing their teaching and learning techniques, which is an important aspect of their own professional development."

Teachers could explore ways of working together to develop professionally through the GTC's Teacher Learning Academy, she says, with opportunities for learning and mentoring - or you can try a "do-it-yourself" approach.

"Supporting other teachers' CPD doesn't have to be restricted to delivering formal training courses. Teachers can benefit from supporting others' professional development by acting as a coach or mentor as part of the CPD that happens every day in schools."

www.gtce.org.uktla

TRAINING TEACHERS: WHAT MIGHT YOU EARN?

There is no set rate of pay across the industry, with fees for a day ranging from Pounds 275 up to Pounds 1,000, with an average at about Pounds 400. You will have to pay tax on this, but you should be able to claim reasonable expenses.

Pay varies, and depends on how popular a course is: you might get the top rate if your day is fully booked and you can teach a lot of people at once.

There is a downside though: courses can be cancelled as soon as the week before you were due to teach them if numbers are low, but you will have had to keep that day committed up to the last minute.

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