In September I made the move from Primary class teacher to Lecturer in Education at Plymouth University. I know some people thought I was mad to ‘leave the classroom’, and take on the big change from working with learners ages eight to those ages eighteen (and over). I what has in many ways been a career change into the unknown on thing has struck me.. it really isn’t that different.
Certainly, moving from an organisation with 400 learners to one with 30,000 has had its changes. Understandably there are significantly more structures, more administrative systems to support so many people learning in the same space, and more institutional devices such as module codes and room numbers to get my head around. Working with so many others also creates an email culture I knew nothing of in Primary schools, and I am getting used to Outlook and electronic calendars having a significantly increased influence on my working days.
Part of the reason for making the move to Higher Education was the opportunity to continue to develop some of the wider activities and projects which I had increasingly been spending my ‘free time’ pursuing. I have not been disappointed; having the time and space to follow my own directions for research and undertake other projects as part of my official role has been wonderful, and in that sense I feel like I am able to make the most of a side of me that it was difficult to give time to as a full time class teacher. We have some really exciting projects on the go, and although I have joined HE during a very challenging time, it is also an exciting time. Challenge brings opportunity for change and I am excited to be a small part of the current changes in our University system.
So what of the teaching? I have so far mostly been teaching a mixture of first year BEd undergraduates, and post graduate PGCE students, mainly in ICT but also PSHE, and soon Geography and Science. I have a tutor group of first year BEd students, whom I meet to support them through any challenges or difficulties, as well as working on setting targets for development. So far I have probably run seminars with about three hundred different students, which has been a big change from working with the same thirty pupils every day. This has been a challenge in terms of creating the kind of class environment I want to aim for, but this change is largely administrative. Just as I would have aimed to develop a questioning, open and learner centred classroom if I were to have stayed in primary, I am seeking to do the same here, and in many ways using the same techniques.
The subject matter may be different, the pace and amount of content may be different, but ultimately I am still trying to lead learning rather than control, to question and to elicit questions, and to make the learning and the process of what we are doing as explicit as possible so that those I am working with can master it and, to be frank, so I can continue to learn from how they respond myself. We’re in it together really, as they continue to develop their thinking around pedagogy and learning I continue to develop mine, but to be honest that is how I felt last year with my class of eight year olds.
So this has left me questioning whether I really ‘left the classroom’ at all. My classrooms was always a place where I sought to create independent learners, to seek relevance and authenticity, and to make the process of learning explicit and visible. Despite the many changes these things all remain the same, and I actually feel that the teaching and learning I am involved with is really not that different. Learners are learners, and I’m still the same learner I always was. Those I am working with just have a few more years on the clock.
Photo: (cc) U.S. Army on Flickr