Driving aft on a freshly mown field isn’t “real” driving, but I had a good feel for maneuvering a car from my first practical driving lesson. The sheer repetition in a low-risk environment gave me invaluable practice in the more predictable—and controllable—part of riding. Once on the road, it freed some of my focus for the busy world outside the vehicle and totally out of my control.
While there is of course a lot of real contact with students during the teacher training course, the teaching part is only the practical application of what has been learned theoretically. Every newly qualified teacher or PME (Professional Master of Education) student has their own story to tell, but all teachers know that there are many steep learning curves along the path from learning teacher to earning a full license.
In the internship we learn and experience the process of teaching. As student teachers, we are very aware of the vulnerability of our positions – and so is everyone else. During the internship we are loved, partly because we are new and often because we are usually younger than the group’s regular teacher. There is a lot for students to discover, because everything worth knowing about the full-time employees has long since become known. We sense a lively interest in us during the internship and many students take the opportunity to start over with a new teacher.
How teachers behave towards each other cannot be hidden over the duration of an internship, and so PME teachers learn a lot about the working culture in schools
This is where really interesting learning can happen when a student who would normally underperform in a subject thrives in new hands. A prospective teacher’s liaison or liaison teacher may rejoice in this and see it as something they will benefit from when they return to their class group. Others, regrettably, feel threatened and have an urge to ask how things could possibly get better in the hands of this teacher. After all, a PME only learns the trade.
For a student teacher, experiences like these can bring early glimpses into the delicate human interactions that are an inevitable feature of the workplace. How teachers behave towards each other cannot be hidden over the duration of an internship, and so PME teachers learn a lot about the working culture in schools.
Against this background, how much do we know about the experiences of PMEs and the exploitation potential? Given that those entering the profession now know that their pay will fall short of many they will work with, shouldn’t the school culture focus on giving them as much as possible?
“Giving” doesn’t mean taking unpaid lessons or assuming he’ll happily use it as a handy recreational sub. During the internship, the students we teach do not really belong to us, nor does the school and colleagues. While we love our assigned school, perhaps even hoping that a position will open up and allow us to stay or return, our role is nonetheless temporary and short-term. Many teachers see this as an opportunity to wield power over a PME student teacher in a way they could never wield over their “real” peers. And yet these student teachers represent the future of our profession.
The current shortage, increasingly dubbed a crisis, calls for an urgent conversation about making teaching a sustainable profession and ensuring it even makes sense as a choice. While the cost of the two-year PME may be beyond our control, those of us who are already in school greatly influence newcomers’ earliest experiences. We may even be at the center of their reflections on whether teaching feels like a career choice for life.
If there is a national set of standards that need to be met when schools have a PME teacher, they need to be made more widely known. When PME policy development has been outsourced to individual schools, this can be at the heart of the varied experiences and challenges many face.
Networked thinking allows us to connect existing problems and solve them by finding a creative solution; Here, for example, a school principal’s workload would be lightened by providing a solid set of guidelines. Their actual application would enhance early classroom experiences and increase the likelihood of graduates remaining in the profession. An added bonus would result in improved teacher morale for those entering the career. With time, and with the right vision, we may even see fewer headlines that portray education as synonymous with overhaul.
The L-plate comes off the car at the same speed that a teacher goes from a learning teacher to a fully qualified teacher. While we do have a national induction process, we need to assess its effectiveness given concerns about teacher retention. The idea of suspending career breaks that was floated last year suggests that compulsory retention is now a strategy, but that would be a very worrying course. Having to use force to make us stay would hardly be good publicity for future generations of teachers.
Better recruitment PR means recognizing the need for solid evidence that teaching is a profession where one feels supported from the start, as such factors determine whether or not we stay the course.
Those willing to consider a teaching career are the potential saviors of our profession, but only if they stay. The needs of learners have top priority in schools. Only if this also includes the candidate teacher do we actively ensure that starting a career encourages a lifelong commitment at an early stage.
https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2023/03/07/the-secret-teacher-l-plate-teachers-need-greater-support/ L-plate educators need more support – The Irish Times