The perfect time to be reflective

12th December 2003 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

The end of term is an ideal time to reflect. Of course, you'll be tired and frantic in the run-up to the holiday, but some time before you start back in January think about what's gone well for you and what hasn't - and why.

Think about all the professional development you've had over the term. What has been most useful and why? What do you need to do next term to move on? Are you having enough or too many meetings with your induction tutor? Are they too long, too short, too formal or too chatty?

This person's experience definitely needs changing: "I meet my induction tutor with the other 12 NQTs in my school for one hour a week. All she tells us is how busy and important she is. She never hears from us about how we are doing, or asks us what we need. These meetings feel like a waste of my life."

Some people have been over-observed, and that has put them under excessive pressure. A contributor to the TES online staffroom forum says she has been formally observed 10 times, even though NQTs need to be seen only twice a term.

She writes: "Rarely a week goes past without someone coming in to watch me, requiring detailed plans and a one-hour meeting after school to feed back."

Another NQT has been observed 12 times in nine weeks: "I feel like I'm in goldfish bowl," he says. One observation involved three people watching him at the same time - the head, deputy and a consultant who was also an inspector. How stressful is that?

Being observed should offer a chance to get some useful feedback. But the value of observation depends on how well it is planned, executed and discussed. Make sure you know when you are going to be observed, for how long, and by whom. Some schools see trainees and NQTs as useful guinea pigs for practising their observation skills - and that is not fair. It can be damaging to have your every move analysed, so make it known if you you think your school is overdoing it.

But remember to make any criticism carefully to avoid offence. Try: "What's really helped me this termI and what was less usefulI" Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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