The teacher journey
In this article we think about teaching as a journey and how it may not always be a smooth one. Lead Educator, Ellie Overland, explores some aspects of the teaching journey and how using this metaphor may be helpful when developing your understanding of success, challenges and finding solutions.
The metaphor of the journey has become quite clichéd in terms of a process of professional development, but it actually is quite useful when thinking about your development as a teacher. Later in this week, we refer to ‘bumpy moments’ where the journey does not always run smooth, but we must remember that you have already travelled a long way and made lots of progress. It can be easy to forget the times where your journey is smooth and enjoyable.
Think back to before you started your teacher training. You may have had a different starting point to your peers, perhaps more or less experience in schools or working with young people. You may have felt more or less confident in the classroom or had different starting points in your levels of subject knowledge. Regardless of the starting point, everyone will have moved forward and made progress. If you think back to your first lesson as a student teacher compared to now you will realise how far you have come. And it is important to remember this. You are not right at the start of a journey, you have already travelled a long way, and the skills and knowledge you have developed will support you in this next stage. The earlier stages of your journey may have had a great abundance of travelling companions, constant support from your mentors, class teachers and peers. This next stage of the journey will require you to be more independent, but those companions are still with you and can join you on your journey whenever you need to invite them along.
We often think of journeys as always moving forwards. It is never that simple in teaching! A change in school, different pupils, even a change in the weather can impact on your progress. It can take a while to adjust to moving to a new school. New systems and ways of working can make you feel as if you are going backwards in terms of your professional development. It is easiest to think of these as meanders rather than moving backwards. You are still travelling, learning and developing. You will make mistakes or need to explore different ways of working in order to continue moving. If you constantly think about your progress and reflect on what changes you need to make, you will continue to move forwards. The important thing is to be mindful of the process rather than despondent about a lack of progress.
During your teacher training you will have made huge leaps in your progress. During your time as a new teacher, you may find this progress is slower. You have already come so far, you will not be able to continue at the same speed. As you continue to refine your teaching you are developing much more complex and sophisticated aspects of your practice. You are also working with greater levels of independence and less formal requirement to reflect. All of this may make it feel as if it takes a longer period of time to make strides. It can be useful to think of this in terms of inclines. The more sophisticated the aspect of your practice you are developing, the steeper the hill you need to climb. This does not mean you are not moving forward, it just may be slower and require greater strength. If you find yourself on a hill it can be useful to engage with others exploring the same things to help each other out. There are also those who have already conquered the hill, and therefore will be able to help.
Obstacles are different to hills. These may actually be blocks along your path. It is critical to know the difference. Obstacles are things that are stopping you from making progress, actual blocks. It may be access to equipment, information or training. It may be a situation with a child that requires other intervention. Every teacher will come across obstacles throughout their journey and it is not a sign of weakness. A strength is to identify the obstacles and to know when and who to ask for support. Trying to ignore them or navigate around them alone can actually prevent you moving forward. In both Weeks 2 and 3 we will explore who can help you in your journey and what you can do should you come across obstacles.
Goldstein, L. S. Becoming a teacher as a hero’s journey: Using metaphor in preservice teacher education. Teacher Education Quarterly. 2005;32(1):7-24.