Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Want Some New Tricks? Talk to New Teachers

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Want Some New Tricks? Talk to New Teachers

Article excerpt

The profession is always changing and newcomers' ideas can be invaluable - as this headteacher learned from his daughter

As my eldest daughter and I travelled down the motorway, we had an interesting discussion. It was the last time I would collect her from university and I was all geared up for her to become a forensic scientist - my image of which was based on watching too many US dramas over the years. Instead she announced that she wanted to be a teacher, like her dad.

Talk about shock. At that point, I had been a headteacher for 16 years and I didn't know what to say. I certainly wasn't going to put her off, as I loved the job so much. But I did suggest she should try working in a school for a year before embarking on her teacher training.

Eight years on, she is a very successful and talented teacher, and I find myself asking what we each get from this aspect of our father-daughter relationship. Am I a better headteacher because I am so familiar with the teacher experience, having seen it through her eyes? Is she a better teacher because she more fully understands the demands and decisions that need to be made at the top of the school hierarchy?

The initial years in the teaching profession are always challenging, and my daughter certainly had her fair share of issues. Some I could help with, some I couldn't. And I'm sure she would agree it's not easy being the offspring of a headteacher who is well known in the area where she works.

Without a doubt, my daughter has the personality to deal with the job. And our relationship remains strong on a paternal and professional level. We often talk about education and very seldom disagree, but we both recognise the differences between teaching now and doing the job 35 years ago - and also the differences between being a teacher and leading a school. So what have I learned from my daughter that has been useful for my own work?

Give time for growth

The quality of training and the quality of teaching skills expected from new staff have changed enormously over the decades. Recruits are given no time to learn the craft of being a good teacher. They go straight into it, with no probation period and no time to learn by failing.

We also expect all new teachers to have skills in every area straight away, and to be capable of dealing with parents, overenthusiastic headteachers, inspectors and the demands of a changing curriculum. …

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