It's that time of year again. No, I'm not referring to the build-up of pre-Christmas excitement, though I confess I've begun teaching ceilidh dances to my P4s. The excitement I'm referring to happens not once, but four times a year.
It's the build-up to the General Teaching Council for Scotland's national assessment panel, where decisions are made on submissions for chartered teacher status.
A few weeks ago the candidates' submissions for accreditation of priorexperiential learning arrived at Clerwood House. I remember delivering my own submission last year. It felt as if I was handing over a part of myself. The submission took some months to prepare but it represented years of work.
There were two copies of a portfolio of evidence. I organised my evidence around four areas of recent experience. (I did try for three but there was too much that I couldn't bear to leave out.) My final choices were language and literacy, thinking skills, promoting positive behaviour and technology.
I managed to squeeze formative assessment into thinking skills, though now I'd probably make that a separate area.
Selecting evidence was not easy. It was important to be objective in considering which pieces of evidence best demonstrated how I met the chartered teacher competences.
In addition, the 10,000-word reflective report showed the impact of my learning on current practice. It was a big piece of work, a big commitment, too, putting one's professionalism on the line, to be judged by others.
What if the assessors didn't like it?
Being pragmatic I knew that if they didn't like it, they'd have to tell me what I needed to change. And it was more important to me that, being a reflective practitioner, I would continue to work to improve my teaching, whatever the outcome of the submission.
After making the submission, the candidate doesn't hear anything for a few weeks. Copies of the submission are sent to two assessors who look at it independently and complete an initial assessment form. One of the assessors visits the candidate, learning more about the context of the experiences.
At this stage the assessor cannot give the candidate any indication of the outcome of the assessment.
Following the completion of a visit form, the two assessors discuss the submission and a final assessment form is completed. In most cases the two assessors agree on the final assessment, but if not, the submission will be considered by two independent assessors.
At the national assessment panel meeting (on December 14 for the current set of submissions), assessors work in groups, looking at the submissions.
If the group disagrees with the original assessors, discussion will take place and the final assessment form may be modified. If agreement cannot be reached, independent assessors are involved again.
This is the current assessment process, but the GTCS may modify it in the future.
Many excellent teachers find themselves having to resubmit. However, it is not a case of starting all over again. Candidates are told which elements of their submission need to be changed and the reassessment considers only those elements. To date, almost all candidates have been successful with their second submission at most.
I was one of the fortunate candidates whose submission was considered satisfactory first time around.
After the award ceremony, we were invited to train as advisers and assessors for others taking the accreditation route. It seemed such a short time since my own assessors were unknown people with the power to make a decision that was very important to me. To cross the divide and join them was daunting.
However, I liked the principle that chartered teachers should be involved in the assessment process, not leaving it to university staff. I accepted the training and have never regretted it.
It is a privilege to read the submissions of chartered teachers. Each one is individual, each one demonstrates unique teaching experience and each one is submitted by a teacher who has found the confidence to say: "I believe that I am a good teacher. Here is the evidence to prove it."
After years of dealing with change, teacher bashing and low professional morale, it is great to read the work of teachers who believe in what they are doing.
Yes, it's an exciting time of year.
Anne McSeveney is a chartered teacher at Braidwood Primary in Carluke, South LanarkshireIf you have any comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org