BEd was just the first stop on a journey filled with hope

6th July 2012 at 01:00
Initial teacher education has its tough times, but there is every reason to travel forward with a heart full of optimism

Four years, five placements, seven exams, countless assignments, millions of words and let's not forget the thousands of coloured stickers and my "Mr Campbell says well done!" stamp that all Primary 1s love - that could sum up my BEd, but by no means do it justice.

When you are starting out, it's hard to predict what the four years of teacher education will be like. Reflecting back, now that I've finished, got my results, had my graduation ceremony and await meeting my first class, I realise that that is because the years are what you make them. No one's BEd, no one's initial teacher education (ITE), is the same.

The journey began when, as a shy 16-year-old, I started the BEd after being determined to leave school at the end of S5 and start my teacher education, clueless as to how I managed to get myself through such a high- stakes interview to gain my place on the course. Regardless, I loved working with children, I recognised the positive societal impact teachers can have, and how important a teacher's influence can be on the experiences and lives of young people. That was and continues to be my driving force.

I went from being the least confident in class to being the guy people can't keep quiet. Thankfully, I lost the shyness and if I have an opinion now, I'll share it; if I see a gap in my knowledge, I'll try to fill it; if there is an opportunity available, I'll take it.

That's how I've developed my critical understanding of education, learning and my own practice, had a fantastic time teaching in a variety of schools and had the privilege of setting up and leading the CPD in Education Society at Strathclyde, to name a few things. It's also how I now feel more than prepared and ready to start teaching in August.

It is impossible to convey in words how much I adore working with children. Of course, there were times when the stress was overwhelming, the workload seemed endless and you would question your own abilities, but I see that as a strong point of the course. It reflects the day-to-day lives of many teachers, and it's a necessary experience.

Throughout my ITE, a constant focus has gone beyond the core skills to the development of my own philosophy of education; what I think education should be. It hasn't just been about developing a critical understanding of education and education systems and coming to my own judgement; it's about how to make that a reality. It's not a rose-tinted vision; it's a necessary optimism and vision of a potential future, grounded in the day- to-day challenges in any given classroom or school. It is thanks to this that I now feel prepared as an agent of change to grow as a professional.

Thanks to the content, context, structure and opportunities afforded in my ITE, I think I leave now as a confident, critical, reflective and empathetic individual, focused on providing the best experiences and opportunities for the children I'm privileged enough to have in my care. It's been a relatively quick progression, so the prospect of further progress over the next four years is exciting.

The future for new teachers in Scotland is still relatively uncertain. But one thing I do know is that I will still love working with children as much as I do now, I will still be as committed as I am now, and I will still be ignoring everyone who says to me: "After a few years in the job, that enthusiasm will be knocked right out of you." I will prove them wrong.

I still have a lot to learn and areas of my practice need development - a process I look forward to in my induction year and the rest of my career. But I graduate, feeling cautiously confident in my professional practice, prepared for the challenges of being a primary teacher; ready to teach and learn from anything that might be thrown my way in August - it's an indescribable feeling.

Central to all this has been an appreciation for my own development, combined with the vision and drive to affect meaningful and lasting positive change for the experiences of all young people. I recognise that that is required to develop and maintain a school experience and an education system that will suit the needs of all learners; enabling them not only to reach their potential, but to be leaders of change and innovation in an uncertain world.

I know that all teachers need to be reflective, analytical and critical. Without that, practice cannot improve, children's experiences cannot improve, and our education system and subsequent outcomes will not improve.

I am a different person now, after my four years of ITE. But what sticks with me, and will forever inform my practice, is that you can achieve what you want and progress as far as your determination allows. With effort, a strong will and the necessary support in place, you will achieve and exceed your goal. That is my BEd. That is my experience. That is the philosophy I will take with me.

So, yes, four years, five placements, seven exams, countless assignments, millions of words and thousands of coloured stickers is one way to describe my ITE. But a more fitting description is "life-changing".

Paul Campbell, aged 20, is a primary NQT who recently finished the BEd Primary Education (Hons) at the University of Strathclyde.

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