Teachers are graduates, and many that enter the profession come from backgrounds that are comfortable, although not well-off. By dint of being a graduate they have generally been successful at school and college; perhaps even more successful than some of those they have followed as teachers. I wonder, having failed ‘O’ level English and just scrapped maths, whether these day I would be allowed into the sixth form to gain 3Bs at ‘A’ level and a pass in the ‘special paper’ in geography?
Fortunately, not achieving at 16 need not the be all and end all, it was too often in my day, and there are those that become teachers after persevering at learning, sometimes well into adult life: I salute them. Indeed, we need to encourage more such learners as a potential source of new teachers.
Why am I writing this post? Well, for two reasons. Firstly my attention has been drawn to a range of books for new and early career teachers designed to help them navigate through their training year and first two years of teaching. The series has been launched by the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT). This blog recognises the excellent work teacher trainers and groups such as NASBTT undertake in preparing new entrants into the profession and increasingly with their concern for post-entry professional development. The first two books, in what will be a series, are now available to order at https://www.nasbtt.org.uk/essential-guides-early-career-teachers/
My second reason for this post is not unconnected to the first. In the past week, I have attended presentations by amongst other the CEO of Child Poverty Action Group; The Rees Centre on Children in Care, about exclusions among such children, and the report of the local Safeguarding Board for Children. I was also privileged to attend the local Music Services’ awards evening where more than 50 groups and individuals received awards for various aspects of music and musicality.
What is the significant of these events for new teachers? Many of the problems they face in the classroom come from children with backgrounds different to their own. Understanding that for instance many children in care lack self-esteem and self-confidence, and consequently are not so much ‘naughty’ or ‘ill-disciplined’ as emotionally challenged, and even seeking attention. It’s hard understanding as a teacher what it must be like to come home from school and find your belongings in bin bags and social worker waiting to take you to a new placement. Even if you can remain at the same school it’s tough; changing schools as well mid-term is even harder.
I know that one of the books yet to be published in the NASBTT series is about discipline. I hope another will help new teachers fully understand what some children bring with them to school each day. Whether they are in care; from families facing poverty; confronting safeguarding issues or even acting as a young carer, teachers need to be aware of what this can mean and how they should respond.
Too often, compared with say attitudes in Scotland, where exclusion rates are much lower, England has official documents couched in punitive language. Perhaps the new government, after the election, will look at this aspect of schooling. More cash is needed, but so is a recognition of what is driving the attitudes of so many children in our schools today. There is a place for compassion as much as for compulsion.