You have more than a month of teaching as an Early Career Teacher behind you, have been fully immersed in the life of your college and all that has happened in it so far this term, and may even have some battle scars to show for it! Your life as an Early Career Teacher is wholly underway, but you may just benefit from these gentle reminders that just might ease your path…
The Early Career Framework (ECF)
The ECF is what should be underpinning your induction. It recognizes the integral role of your mentor, who should be fully trained and supported in their role in your induction. Remember, you should not be assessed against the ECF. Your assessment will be against the Teachers’ Standards.
It is worth doing a quick review of your entitlements to make sure your induction is abiding by the rules. As a minimum:
- You should be teaching in the age range and subject range you were trained in
- Your classes should not be especially demanding with regard to discipline
- You should be teaching the same classes on a regular basis
- Your teaching load should be reduced (as well as having PPA time)
- You should not have additional non-teaching responsibilities (unless you have extra support)
- You should have access to admin support
- You should have access to training opportunities and INSET days
- Your non-teaching time should be in blocks of not less than half a day
- Your classes should be covered by experienced lecturers
The relationship you have with your mentor can make or break your experience as an early career teacher. Now is a great time to consider how things are going and whether there needs to be any improvements in the way you work together. Are you getting great, personalized support from your mentor? Do you have time to raise concerns, or ask questions about how you might best tackle any issues you are dealing with in your classes?
Your mentor is responsible for making sure that you receive high quality induction, that you have regular meetings during which you should receive support and feedback, that you receive targeted mentoring and coaching, and that prompt action is taken if you get into difficulties of any kind. If this is going well, it’s worth mentioning your appreciation (in order to nurture the relationship). If it isn’t going well, now is the time to raise your concerns with your mentor, induction tutor or union (if you would like some guidance).
You have probably been observed already and may have observed others in action too. How did your observations go? Were you given the opportunity to discuss the observations? Remember, you should not be given an Ofsted grade for your lesson observations, but you may well be given some areas for improvement. The key is that you should not be told areas that you need to improve without being given highly personalized support to get you from where you are now to where you need to be. It is also important that you receive relevant feedback as soon as possible after the observation. If it isn’t forthcoming, it’s fine to ask.
Reflect on workload
How is your workload going so far this term? Does it feel manageable? Could you do with some efficiency ideas? Take an honest look at where you are at right now and ask for support if your workload seems overwhelming. The key is to ask sooner rather than later so that you can get back on track with a more manageable day.
Acknowledge your progress and success
While you will be having progress reviews and formal assessment meetings, it is also important for you to be allowing yourself the time to acknowledge your own progress and development needs so far. How are you doing? What do you need help with? What’s going really well? Just a few moments of thinking about where you are at and where you need to be could be enough to make the adjustments you need to thrive. You’re doing really well – take a moment to acknowledge that.
If you need to have some time out of the classroom for whatever reason, don’t worry about what is happening in your absence. If you need time off for ill health, you need rest and recuperation, not to be checking emails and worrying about whether you have set enough cover work or whether your classes are behaving! Remember, a day or two sooner is better for you than a month or more later. Don’t plod on if you need to rest.
Remember to talk
Hectic days as a lecturer, where you communicate with such a high number of people, can lead to needing quiet time once the day is done. But talking things through is so important in order to retain perspective about our experiences. Don’t forget to talk when times feel tough. If you’re rather not talk to family or friends about work, there is an anonymous helpline run by Education Support: Education Support, supporting teachers and education staff
Also, never underestimate the value of informal conversations with colleagues at college. The five-minute chats in the corridor or quick words in the staffroom can reassure and keep you on track. Don’t bottle things up. Speak out!
If you are at risk of not making good enough progress, targeted support should be immediately forthcoming and it should be highly specific to your needs. The reasons for not making good enough progress should be made crystal clear to you and you should have the opportunity to discuss this.
If you have concerns about how your induction is going (perhaps about your timetable, workload, whether you are getting your entitlements, and the quality of your training) you can report these as soon as possible to your mentor or induction tutor. Also, if you have concerns about your progress, don’t hesitate to raise them quickly. Your union will be able to advise too.
Induction should ultimately be an enormously positive, fulfilling and rewarding stage of your career in teaching, despite the challenges it might hold. If it feels like it’s going really well, that’s brilliant, but if it isn’t, now is the time to speak up.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.