I am going to take a step back in time to Autumn/Fall of 2001; this is when I started to do my initial teacher training. I must say it was a gratifying experience. There was a wide range of subject covered within the course. So, I must say it was a great time. What I am asking though is, did the underpinning knowledge that I learned by completing this course add a great deal to me growing as a practitioner, or did the growth only take place within the classroom environment?
I was lucky as I was teaching 24+ hours a week while I was training, either in a team-teaching role or my own classes. There were plenty of people though in my peer group that was only teaching the minimum requirement of the course. While I did gain some excellent underpinning knowledge on the course, what was learnt in the classroom and interacting with colleagues was far more critical in my growth as a practitioner. As I said earlier, I did enjoy the underpinning knowledge of assessment and educational trends but getting in there and dealing with the students is where real learning takes place.
I am speaking from a Further Education environment here, so I am not really in the position to comment on the school teaching experience. I will say though that it was indeed a shock, the range of abilities within the same group. In my first year of teaching, I was delivering a session to groups that ranged from entry-level 2 to full level 3 learners, which is excellent and I had no problem with that.
The thing I found the most difficult as a new practitioner was the range of ability within the same group. I spoke about the issue with this in a blog post on the 8th of February. You will never be told during teacher training there is a likelihood of having a range of abilities that covers five levels. You will not be told that because it should not happen, in that situation it is a recruitment issue and you can be the greatest master of differentiation on the planet if you have a class to deliver over that range of ability you are going to struggle.
So, what should happen? Well, I think a bit of honesty should come into things. In-class educational psychology is fine, does it prepare you for having to break up fights or get you ready for when one of your students comes to see you in tears because he/she is having problems at home? When you are doing your teaching practice, it would be an idea to have a range of groups with different challenges, rather than being given a good safe group to work with. I would say the breakdown of things for me would be 20% in-class and 80% teaching/reflection should be the weighting for teacher training going forward.
I have deliberately not mentioned much of the other things you must take on when entering the teaching’ profession like, Assessment, CPD, Meetings, Internal Verification, Pastoral and many other things that have to be completed. What you learn in the teacher training classroom nowhere near prepares you for what you must deal with on the shop floor. I am just so happy that I was delivering 900+ hours while I was training as this showed me what teaching is really about, and held me in good stead going forward.