So a lot of Teach First participants both old and new have been asking me about this year’s Participant Preparation Work (PPW). To outline, the work is an interactive document, which is thirty-seven pages long. It is divided into the following units of work:
Reflection Task 1: What is learning?
Module 1: Pupils at the centre
Module 2: Becoming an effective teacher
Module 3: Having a strong vision
Module 4: Leadership in the classroom
Module 5: Strengthening communities
Next Steps for Summer Institute
Reflection Task 2: What is learning?
Reflection Task 3: Preparation for teaching
For each module there are three elements. Firstly, participants are asked to complete a reflection task based three or more reading stimuli. Next, we record our observation of practice during our School Observation Experience. Finally, we complete a set of next steps, which help to formulate a final action plan for the Summer Institute.
There seems to be a general mixed reaction among participants as to the value of this work. A universal complaint is that the document is too long and sometimes repetitive. There are also some issues with formatting the work in a PDF.
As this is the first year of PPW in this format I am trying to forget about these issues and get the most out of the work that I can. In the spirit of this blog, which is intended to encourage, I am going to share few things I have taken away from the PPW. I’m not going to go into the specifics of my PPW answers, as I want to write more fully about my thoughts and ideas on the topics when I’ve had more teaching experience but I hope this will provide a bit of an insight into what it’s all about.
Food for thought
The resources in the PPW are a great starting point for starting to think about pedagogy. While I appreciate that people are coming to the programme from different backgrounds and some might find some of the readings repetitive or simplistic, their purpose is to ‘provide you with an overview of some key thinking about education, schools and the direction of education policy’. The reflection task questions are, in my opinion, open enough to allow a variety of answers. In some I have related back to the readings extensively, in others I have gone in a completely different direction. I really think that the key to making the PPW useful is using your initiative to decide what you can take away from each question and using the approach that best facilitates your learning.
Balancing work and studies
I can wholeheartedly say that finding the time to do this work alongside a full-time job has been challenging. However, part of the Teach First brief is studying alongside…well, a full-time job! It’s useful to have a little test run of this scenario. I’ve become rather good at balancing my commitments over the past few months and I’m glad that I have done this sooner rather than late into the Autumn term, when I am in charge of a class.
Creating a discourse
This might not have been the initial intention of the work but I think it’s actually an extremely positive result. PPW has really got everyone talking: whether that is collaborating over how best to paste a mind-map into a PDF document, discussing approaches to a question or suggesting ways in which the work could be made more useful. I’m also certain that some of the topics raised in the PPW will start a lot of conversations at Summer Institute.
So there you have it: the PPW. If you still aren’t a fan there is comfort to be had. One day, when you are quite the seasoned professional, it will be amusing to dig out you PPW.