I have a fourth-year BEd student whose competence and confidence is making me realise how far I have strayed from the stuff I was taught at college. Is this common?

6th February 2004 at 00:00
Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

Ted says

Newly qualified teachers have been highly regarded for many years.

Successive surveys of recruits have shown a 90 per cent, or higher, approval rating from headteachers. In fact, you were probably just as keen and impressive when you entered the profession.

Newcomers can enjoy teaching's intrinsic excitement before its downsides - bureaucratic routines, box-ticking and remorseless accountability - wear them down. Sadly, they soon pick up on the negative elements, and four out of 10 quit before finishing their third year of teaching.

What students learn at college, and what you feel you may have lost, are the rudiments of best professional practice. They prepare avidly, try out new ideas, think about what they are trying to achieve. Trainees often tell me they are concerned about the emphasis on test results and league tables, and that the teachers they work with (whom they greatly admire) seem bogged down in literacy and numeracy hours and QCA schemes of work. They want to be able to back their own judgment, not merely act as a technician carrying out orders.

Use your refreshing newcomer to rediscover and enhance your own excitement and best practice. Remember you have the experience trainees lack. This can be an asset, a liberation that enables you to try out ideas novices would bog up through inexperience, or a millstone, if you have become stuck in a groove. You have nothing to lose but the chains around your feet. Children who are engaged by their teacher work harder, because lessons are worthwhile and enjoyable. In the end they do better academically and personally. To achieve this, I suspect, is just why you entered teaching.

You say

Experience counts

Don't forget all the changes you've had to endure in the past 10 years; curriculum changes, inspections, Sats. Not to mention the variety of conflicting teaching styles forced on you from heads, your senior management team and advisers. Don't knock your experience. Use whatever style works for the children you are teaching and keep an open mind about new ideas.

Linda Burton, Sultanate of Oman

Examine all sides

Why not look at it from a different angle? Maybe it's your senior staff who are underperforming. If you really are a such a bad teacher, they should have let you know by now and made suggestions to help you. Perhaps your student is one of those rare, naturally gifted teachers. Focus on the positive points of your teaching while finding out what your student does well and incorporating some of this into your practice.

Tim Parkes, Birmingham

Learn from your assistant

In my final PGCE teaching practice, I was placed with a teacher whose 10 years' experience in the classroom blinkered her to new ways of promoting a positive learning experience. She refused to acknowledge that my approach could be a valuable and complementary source of inspiration, and rejected my lesson suggestions out of hand. Keep copies of your student's lesson plans, worksheets and resources. Apply the golden cycle, "plan, do, monitor, review", to your own teaching skills; your achievements in the classroom will inspire and earn the respect of pupils, colleagues and trainee teachers.

Nicole Pollock, Middlesex

Inspiration is the key

Competent and confident she may be, but there will still be a lot you can teach her. Inspired teaching equals switched-on pupils, so watch her strategies for effective teaching and try to inject some of these new ideas into your style to switch on your pupils again.

Julie Cowdy, email

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