I’ve been reading up on the new ‘dip’ process – Droichead and decided to write a blog post/rant about the whole dip process in general and some suggestions which could be more beneficial for everyone.
First of all, why do we need a dip/droichead process? Teachers go to college for 4 years now (I know Hibernia and post graduate degrees are different), they complete at least 4 teaching practices during that time, and are inspected at least twice during each teaching practice. Surely this is the time to inspect teachers and make a decision on whether they need extra support or have developed the skills needed to be an effective teacher.
Most learning as a teacher happens in the classroom. Therefore students should spend at least 1 day a week in their final year in a classroom both observing, teaching and helping out. (Most colleges are off for 6 weeks in December – could 1 day a week be spent in a classroom, students also finish in May which leaves June to work 1/2 day a week in a classroom where they can get hands on experience, practical tips and knowledge and try things out under the careful guidance of an experienced teacher.)
The first year is hard enough without the added pressure of inspectors who only visit twice – how can only two visits determine whether a teacher is effective or not? What is the point in these visits at all? I can see no benefit for the teacher, the children or the school in general.
All new teachers need a mentor. I had a mentor myself when I started my first teaching job – she was a person I could ask all of my ‘silly’ questions to, who I could bounce ideas with, ask advice on planning/classroom management, assessment etc.
I trained as a mentor myself last year and have worked with four NQT’s since. A mentor gives the NQT the support and encouragement they need during the first years of their career as a teacher.
Why should new teachers complete weekly plans when the requirement is fortnightly plans and cuntas míosúil? When I completed my DIP the principal took up my plans every Monday to glance through them. This was a fantastic help and support as I knew what I was doing was correct. The principal also checked in regularly to the class (not in a scary inspector or observation way) but to show her support and offer encouragement. (This was brilliant as a new teacher in a large school as the children knew that the principal could drop in at any time.)
Schools are different. Staff are different. Children are different. I have worked in a lot of schools since graduating – 7 to be precise. Each school was completely different. I was lucky that the school I did my DIP in was very welcoming and supportive. There are other schools where my experience as a DIP student would have been a lot harder, where the principal and staff were not as supportive or helpful and who I wouldn’t dream of asking advice from for fear of being seen as ‘inadequate’ or ‘too young’ or ‘unable to cope.’
Droichead is not the right way forward for Irish schools. Having worked in the UK where school leaders observe lessons and grade teachers I know first hand the effects it can have on a staff. The tension in staffrooms can be so high that many teachers prefer to eat their lunch in their own rooms alone rather than sit beside colleagues who will be determining the grade of their lessons.
The document is full of suggestions, mights and maybes – there is no strict procedure that should be followed meaning that some schools/teachers may abuse their power (both in favour and against the NQT).
“Droichead is grounded in the belief that those best placed to conduct this formal welcome are experienced colleagues who have relevant and in-depth knowledge of teaching and learning in their respective schools.”
- Who are the experienced colleagues? Are these the teachers with the most experience who trained 20-30 years ago. Not all these teachers know about or use the most up to date methodologies and teaching styles that newer teachers have been taught to use. While that’s not a bad thing, I have to wonder if they are the best people to decide whether a new teacher should pass/fail their probation.
- If the staff in a school are to become inspectors – the collegiality will be diminished and NQT’s will be scared to seek advice, ask questions or share problems. There will be a massive divide between the more experienced and new teachers.
Voice for Teachers have done a great blog post providing an analysis and response!
The Teaching Council document on Droichead process.