By refusing to properly compensate and reward ‘Newly Qualified Teachers’ we are pushing them away from the profession and actively damaging the education of a generation of students.
I had the pleasure of visiting an Educate Together School in Dublin recently. I was there to meet to a brilliant young teacher who is collaborating with me on some research and teacher training events.
This teacher is famous amongst Irish teachers, her blog, tutorial videos and innovative classroom methods are often presented and discussed at TeachMeets and conferences. An expert on the flipped classroom, Makey Makey, Scratch and various other tools that might be in the average teacher’s tool-kit in a decade, she has already tried them out.
While I was there, I was invited to pop into a class of 10 year olds to answer a few questions and demo Project Spark. The students were delightful and eager to listen to this strange visitor to the class. As usual the questions ranged from scientific ‘how long does light take to get from the sun to the earth?’ (~8 minutes) to industrial design ‘did you invent the XBox?’ (no). I was never a primary school teacher but I know how to handle bizarre and unrelenting questioning from little ones – my 4 have trained me well.
When it came time to demo Project Spark there were the customary oohs and aahs followed by cries of ‘awesome’, but what struck me was the creativity and imagination these youngsters had in abundance.
They didn’t develop this overnight, it was instilled by their teacher, the young lady I was there to visit. After the brief class presentation I met the principal and some other staff members, who were obviously proud of the work being done and the research the teacher was embarking on. As she listed the conferences she was attending, the research she wanted to do, the ideas she wanted to try, it occurred to me she was working so much harder for absolutely no guaranteed reward. I won’t get into the injustices of Ireland’s second class teacher system, the ‘Newly Qualified Teacher’, but it has neither the job security or rewards to make it attractive to a graduate.
Teaching is a vocation, and although I would like to see reward based on performance, I don’t believe that means student exam performance. Those who believe that the teacher is the significant factor in the passing of an exam have obviously never sat an exam or taught a class. I don’t have a solution for this problem, but looking at this teacher made me humble as I knew of few other teachers doing as much for so little.
Media debate about the teaching profession is generally vicious and bitter, every Internet armchair warrior has a hated teacher in their past that they can kick anonymously. But let’s imagine a system where NQT’s who attend conferences and TeachMeets, who present at them, who try innovative new ideas in the classroom and can demonstrate a passion for teaching are explicitly rewarded, while those who feel bound by a set of insipid ‘learning outcomes’ in some tired old syllabus are encouraged to find their passion again. I don’t want to have teachers fired, I want them all to be as fired up as the teacher I visited.