When I joined the education sector four years ago, I quickly realised the profession requires stamina and commitment. Half-hearted won’t do. Teaching is all consuming and there’s a sense of being married to the job.
I’m not the first to say that teaching is more than a job. It’s a way of life that brings joy and fulfilment. Even though 12 hour days do not clear my to do list, creating lessons where every student is connected to the content, driving their own learning through thinking and questioning, feel powerful and poignant. Every day I get to make a difference in someone’s life and that is intrinsically rewarding. Whether I am behind the revolving classroom door or plate spinning the expectations on my evolving praxis, I love my job and the children I teach.
Through 15 years of experience in the voluntary sector and raising three daughters, I’ve learnt that working/doing life with young people is as much about managing competing demands as it is holding these demands in tension. Building purposeful relationships, yet having clear boundaries: supporting and guiding young people yet empowering them to stand on their own two feet: being consistent yet flexible: holding steadfast to values yet adapting to change.
My goal, like the many before me is to enable my students to achieve the best outcomes they can. To be truly successful at this, I can’t lose sight of the individuals in the process. Outcomes matter yet their own hopes and dreams, fears, failures, expectations and circumstances are equally as important. I didn’t build a career working with young people for them not to be at the centre of it. Therefore, through taking a person-centred approach, I am fulfilling the call on my own life as well as helping facilitate the growth of theirs.
Focus on students’ individual needs
The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2017/2018 suggests that from September 2019, Ofsted will move focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving their results. Whether schools are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep, or simply teaching to the test. Impacts will be considered in two distinct areas: behaviour and discipline in schools and pupils’ wider personal development and their opportunities to grow as active, healthy and engaged citizens. There is a window of opportunity here to respond dynamically.
Experience has taught me that if individual needs are met, then real and deep learning takes place because students begin to own their learning for themselves. Through raising awareness of the present landscape they are in and where as individuals they aspire to be, an integrity blossoms as responsibility grows. The pro-active and reflective relationship is key.
Despite a workload-exacerbated retention crisis and tight caps on the photocopying budget, as a profession we still can’t afford for this fruit to be wishful thinking. Individual needs are too valuable and costly to ignore. During my transition into teaching, I have found my own questioning has been focused on how to build capacity in this area.
Developing coaching and mentoring relationships with students
Firstly, building capacity is not about funding: it’s about those tasked within the school workforce using their concern and influence to develop leadership with young people. At grass root level, conversations that bring out the substance of a young person’s learning do not need to break the budget!
One of the main ways I believe we can do this is by developing coaching and mentoring relationships with students in schools. During this transitional and pivotal period of people’s lives, we have the opportunity to strengthen their foundations upon which they will build their lives upon.
Coaching and mentoring helps young people find out who they are, what they like, what brings them life. Knowing who you are is a powerful and peaceful place to abide.
Coaching and mentoring helps young people to set and achieve measurable goals. Often small steps of accomplishment that lead into new spaces where they can reflect, find meaning, focus and move forward from.
Coaching and mentoring offers accountability in relationships, where young people can be themselves, knowing they won’t be judged. This environment enables young people to discuss the things that are acting as barriers to their progress.
Coaching and mentoring creates an environment where individual lives matter at every level within the school. This is a dynamic force for change within the fabric of our school community. This activates the latent potential that we all long to see in the lives of our students and in the culture of our schools.
Coaching and mentoring places an importance on nurturing our own lives as role models, mentors, and professionals working with students. The 12 hour days are not sustainable and the to-do lists won’t end, however, your energy levels will. We need to be congruent and reflective about our own lives and teaching practices and find balance where possible. Collaborating and joint planning helps; enhances our practice and innovation whilst also ensuring our schemes of work are coherent and sequenced in a logical way. Thus making the processes involved in facilitating our capacity to be available for students, less of an uphill and onerous task.
You can follow more posts and tweets linked to the themes discussed by following Joanne on twitter: @DowdenJoanne