My time as an NQT is coming to an end, and with it the extra afternoon off time table I get for my professional development. This time has been invaluable this year, sometimes just as a chance to sit back and reflect on my practice, sometimes to give me a bit more time to relieve the pressure of an intense year.
I have used it in many different ways, but one of the most vauable has been observing other lessons. One thing my previous experience in Early Years education and the PGCE gave me was a pretty good overview of the whole of the Primary age group. However, after just short of a year in the job I am rapidly seeing how easy it is to become institutionalized into a certain age range. This is one of the reasons why I cannot see myself ever working in a different setting to a Primary school, as I feel it is really important to keep in mind the longer term, and keep in touch with the learning that has gone before, and that which will come after, the cohort you are teaching. However, just getting involved with other age groups out of the context of the classroom is quite different to experiencing their curriculum based learning, and I have been fortunate to observe across the age range of my school on my NQT afternoons.
Over the past few weeks I have visited a couple of other local schools, and have found this a real eye opener. I can’t understate how easy it is to get into the mindset that your school’s way is the only way things are done, yet both of these visits have provided very clear, yet different, contrasts to what I see every day.
I have seen a vast range of practice in the lessons I have observed, both in my own school and others. Every observation challenges me, as it is so easy to be critical of what I am seeing, but each criticism also makes me recognise occasions when I may make similar decisions in my own teaching. I have observed a few teachers whose approach is fundamentally different to my own, yet who are undeniably very effective practitioners. Such experiences really make me question my motives and my practices, and pick up tips and ideas I would never have come to on my own as they are coming from a different angle to me.
Loss of the opportunity to get this contrasting view to what I am experiencing in my own setting is something I am quite apprehensive about. I hope that I will manage to find time next year to contrast my practice, and the practice of my school, so directly with that of others. I would urge any soon to be NQTs, and even experienced teachers, to get out of their classrooms, and even their schools, and avoid becoming institutionalized into they way things are done where they are. This has certainly been one of the most worth while experiences of my year, and I hope I can continue to be challenged and grow in such a way as I move forward in the profession.