Earlier today I had the privilege of addressing a group of NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers) at a post-qualification training day. All of them are in post and all of them are working towards their final accreditation as teachers; support and training days like this one are designed to invigorate their thinking, give them time to reflect on their practice, and allow them to meet and connect with other colleagues.
I had three messages for them:
First, teaching is fun and deeply rewarding. There is no other profession like it, in fact. Teaching stretches your brain, develops all your competencies and grows your emotional intelligence. A deep satisfaction results from working with and for people, changing their lives, and helping prepare them for their future. As a teacher, if you throw yourself into your profession headfirst, immersing yourself in it, then you become a better person yourself. I compared teaching to the experience of going on a log flume at a theme park: you wait with nervous anticipation before launching yourself forward, at which point you speed exhilaratingly downwards, get drenched in water – and laugh with joy and exhaustion. Teachers – especially new teachers – should never underestimate the joy of teaching.
Secondly, teachers – in fact, all of us – learn best when they learn and work with others, and they are not on their own. In actual fact, they must not be in this on their own, because teaching is all about encircling each child with a collaborating group of teachers and coaches, so that he or she can grow and learn. Teaching is all about the child; it is essential for teachers to work together, not only to improve their own practice, but to understand the child from many different angles. Every teacher has unique perspectives on a child, and all teachers should learn from one another – there is much experience out there to learn from.
And thirdly, what teachers are doing really, really matters. Our society needs teachers to educate the young people of today so that they can go out and contribute fruitfully and positively to their society and to the world. Over a billion people in the world live in poverty; 1 in 3 girls do not receive a secondary education. Look around at our society and you will see so many areas which we need to combat – the self-esteem of our young people, their understanding of their role in the world, the requirement upon us all to create a harmonious, fair, peaceful place in which we can all live. Our young people need to learn to think critically about themselves and their responsibilities. Teachers can make a tremendous difference to our world.
Teachers teach so children can learn. They are teaching a child, not a subject. Their role is one of the most important we could possibly imagine. To all the new teachers out there, we should say: thank you, and bon courage.