Many of us will know the story of the Lion King. The tale of a young lion overcoming personal challenges, making new friends and finding his own way through his journey.
I have used this image recently in training sessions for our trainee teachers, NQTs and their associated mentors, as it is easy to think of personal development within Education as being a linear progression through the M1-M6 and UPS pay scales and beyond but from my recent experience it is anything but linear.
Within my training sessions I have talked about the “Little Simba” moments. All teachers and leaders will have felt this at some stage in their career but for some it may be a far distant memory that has been forgotten over the years.
I have recently moved from being a well-established (and would like to think respected!) member of staff in a large mixed comprehensive secondary school with a presence and reputation across numerous schools across the Teaching School Alliance and Multi Academy Trust. I was able to walk into many schools where I encountered familiar faces, some of whom I had trained or mentored, some whom I had supported in my role as a Specialist Leader of Education, colleagues and friends. Due to my extensive commitment and involvement in UK and overseas residential trips the students and parents knew me and trusted me. I certainly had a bit more of a strut of the young King Simba!
Starting a new school put me straight back into the role of Little Simba. It is tough not knowing where you are going, not knowing all the answers, students questioning who you are, the specificity of school policies and the nuances of individual schools and of course the colloquialisms that don’t always make immediate sense to an outsider. It took me an embarrassingly couple of days to figure out “the house” was actually the house as you enter the John Taylor High School site. As in the image I used, over time we all continue to grow and develop and start to evolve into someone that is a little bit wiser, confident in what they’re doing and feeling at ease in their new surroundings
For some staff it may have been a while since their last Little Simbamoment, but our Trainee Teachers and Newly Qualified Teachers are most probably at that stage right now as they start the academic year. At risk of stretching the metaphor a little bit too far, they do need the Timon and Pumbaas helping them, guiding them and answering those questions to ensure the school colloquialisms become vernacular as the individual’s confidence begins to develop.
Some of our trainee teachers are career changers and have a wealth of significant experience to draw upon and others are stepping into a professional workplace for the first time. With mentors and school staff who can appreciate the Little Simbastage of their development and invest in them I am convinced all will go on to establishing themselves as very astute and proficient practitioners.
The induction phase at the National Forest Teaching School has been wonderful. I’ve seen a collective focus, determination and eagerness to acquire knowledge about teaching and learning, pastoral care and the golden thread of safeguarding our children. The trainee teachers have pushed themselves out of their respective comfort zones, taught each other abstract concepts and established the notion of critical reflection. You certainly “can feel the love” within the training centre and a buzz of excitement as they start in their school placements.
As our trainee teachers embark on their emerging professional practice and NQTs or other new staff begin in your schools I do hope you are able to think about the Little Simbamoments and a question or activity that may seem so obvious or engrained in your practice may be something that they are encountering for the very first time and a source of anxiety. As I said towards the start of this blog post, progression is not linear and many of our trainee teachers and NQTs may have many Little Simbaregressions over the forthcoming weeks and months but I have no doubt all will continue to strive to be the very best they can be for the children they are nurturing.
The John Taylor SCITT at the National Forest Teaching School Cohort of 2018
Mike Simmons is the Deputy Director of the National Forest Teaching School, Secondary Programme lead for the John Taylor SCITT and a member of the Senior Leadership Team at John Taylor High School. Mike is an experienced Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) with extensive experience in supporting geography departments, working with teachers in the early stages of their career and writing about key geographical educational issues through his voluntary work with the Geographical Association. He is a keen advocate of learning outside of the classroom to ensure that students have the opportunity to reach their full potential and develop character and increased intrinsic motivation. Mike’s involvement with The Outward Bound Trust has culminated in national case studies and keynote speaker addresses at a range of events. Mike is an experience facilitator and is available for SLE deployments and bespoke training needs.