This time I’ll be talking about my experience attending SET’s first Annual Conference, Pride in Professionalism.
As I am sure if you’re a teacher you’ll agree it can be a hard decision sometimes to ask for time out of class… worrying about leaving your team short staffed.. not being there for your learners… etc.. But reality is that your learners will be fine, and I am lucky to work with a supportive SLT that promote staff following their passions through CPD and training.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the first SET annual conference, being a SEN teacher for Post 16 learners it can be hard to find courses and conference that are applicable to my area of teaching. But I went with an open mind and I wasn’t disappointed. All of the speakers, break out sessions and panelists were useful and reaffirming in my career choice to be a teacher. Over my first two years of teaching I have had (like many of my friends in teaching) moments of crisis, feeling burnt out and serious doubts in my ability to continue as a teacher at the level of excellence that is expected of you.
I am going to review my experiences of the panel discussions at the SET Conference, as I felt they had a really positive impact for me and would probably be useful and insightful to all, whichever subject you teach and whatever level yo teach at.
The first panel discussion, What does excellence look like? with speakers Harriet Harper, Nafisah Graham-Brown and Gerry McDonald, addressed this constant strife of teachers having to excel and constantly be outstanding. From the panel discussion it was suggested that excellence is not the constant teaching level of outstanding, but instead excellence is being consistently good. Similar to the Winnicott’s theory of the good enough parent, teachers do not have to be perfect to be excellent teachers or for their learners to receive the opportunities to reach their full potential. I found the panel discussion very reassuring and it reminded me that I do not have to over complicate my teaching, keep it simple, which does not mean it’s boring or simple in the level that it is taught. It means back to the basics of teaching, that we all learnt on our teacher training. A good lesson will cover:
- This is what we are going to learn
- This is how we are going to do it
- Have achieved what we set out to do?
I feel confident that I can cover these three point in all of my lessons and that they can be the three point I come back to when I am feeling overwhelmed or having doubts in myself. Being a consistently good teacher is an achievable state of excellence and now part of my teaching philosophy.
The second panel discussion, Teaching – Art, Craft or Science? with speakers Dr Margaret Gregson, John Johnston, and moderated by Stephen Exley; had a good balance of opinions, but more importantly gave an interesting discussion on the way that teaching is a vocation in an individualised way. So whether we believe teaching is an art, craft, science or a combination of them all; the main thread that runs through every teachers’ reason for teacher is the interaction with other people. To unlock something for others. To enable another to succeed, whether it’s in learning life skills, the Arts or quantum physics.
It is easy to get stuck in a bubble teaching, whether that is the bubble of your classroom, or your establishment; but attending events like this help you to see outside of your bubble, to remind you that there are lots of places and people sharing the same struggle but also lots of people still striving forward to improve education, knowledge and standards, and that you are a part of it. It is sometimes hard to put into a tangible list to your school or college of what the direct benefits of attending an event like this is. However, for me I think it’s about feeling part of something bigger than you, to feel part of a community. To pick up little snippets of information that will tweak and hone your skills and outlooks as a teacher. Although these things sound small, they’re key to keeping you enthused about your profession and maintain the confidence in yourself as a teacher. Maintaining yourself as a professional is something well worth investing in.
I look forward to next years SET conference and hope to see you there to.