I had the pleasure last week of meeting with a group of 25 trainee teachers from Edinburgh University. We took the opportunity to discuss teacher education and how it has changed since I qualified almost thirteen years ago. I was delighted to hear how the PGDE course seemed to have moved more towards practical guidance, focusing less on theory, something which even as a trainee teacher I knew I believed in and wished I had experienced during my post-graduate year.
The reason for my visit though, was to sit down and discuss how technology is changing the classroom experience for both students and teachers. I was also keen to discuss the ‘journey’ that has brought me to where I find myself today and it really got me thinking about how much I could have predicted where my early teaching career would take me. I am about to complete my twelfth year in the classroom and find myself at a bit of a cross-roads: is my passion for developing technology use taking me away from what got me into teaching in the first place?
Before I start, I have to make one thing clear. I hate EdTech Twitter jargon and none more than the idea of a ‘journey’. However, I have to admit to having used that exact term many times whilst writing this post. I hate myself for it and apologise for it now... but I couldn’t find any way of avoiding it!
I started by sharing what might have come across as a very negative statement:
... I never wanted to become a Primary teacher, or at least, I wasn’t willing to admit it.
I wonder how common this story is? I remember sitting in a school assembly, aged 17 and about to leave school and thinking to myself that I would be back, perhaps not to the same school, but I felt that school was still going to be relevant and not just as a parent. I had spent most of my final year of school taking responsibility for a S1 form class. I was only meant to be the form prefect, but the teacher who was actually responsible for the class suffered from ill-health and was rarely there in time to take registration... so more often than not, it fell to me! I still think this was the beginnings of my teaching career. However, at the age of 17, I don’t imagine many guys tell their career advisers that they want to be a Primary teacher... I certainly didn’t.
So off I went to complete a degree in Marketing, Management and Entrepreneurship. It made sense, there was a family business for me to into and it seemed like an easy enough way to get myself off to university. Very quickly though, I knew it wasn’t for me. However, I wasn’t ready to quit, in fact I saw a brilliant opportunity. I worked out that after my first year, I could select electives which meant I only had to go into University four mornings a week, allowing me to get experience back at my old school within the After School Care setup... yes, I only got away for one year!
I finished my degree and after a couple of years gaining further experience in classrooms, I was accepted to the PGDE (Post Graduate Primary) course. But why is any of this relevant to this blog post and more importantly, to the group of soon-to--be NQTs sat in front of me? I guess my point is and was, that my ‘journey’ to the classroom was far from predictable and that this has continued to be the case ever since. We always say that we love the unpredictable nature of our job, but it is very true and that never ceases to be the case.
I had very little interest in technology when I first became a teacher. I have spoken many times before about a chance meeting with Abdul Chohan at a conference in Bolton and how that inspired me to get involved in the world of EdTech, what I have never confessed to though, is that I wasn’t actually meant to be at that event... someone else called off! I came back from that event and mentioned to my Head Teacher that if our iPad deployment was to be successful, he had to put someone in charge of it... I never meant for a moment that I should be the person given that job!
All of a sudden, I found myself in a somewhat promoted post and responsible for the development of technology use in our Primary school. Initially, I was given one day a week to work on this, then an additional period each day and currently, I find myself only teaching a 0.5 timetable. My worry now though is that the more time you are given to work on something, the more potential you see and the more you want to achieve. As a result, I find myself getting further and further away from the class teacher I was twelve years ago. At times, I would love to have nothing else to think about professionally than my own classroom!
The main piece of advice I left my group of new teachers with, was one which I am sure many of you have passed on to your colleagues many, many times... the importance of a global professional network. I would say that at least 90% of my EdTech understanding and opinion has come from Twitter. I do hope that many of those who sat down with me last week have signed up and I look forward to seeing what they do in their own unpredictable careers.