Essential Guides for Early Career Teachers: Teaching Early Years and Professional Behaviours

I have written these books with colleagues to help guide early career teachers (ECTs) to thrive at what often can be a challenging time in their professional career. We have each  been in education many years and have loved the work in Early Years, Primary School and working with new teachers. No matter in which key stage they may find themselves, being new to the profession will mean having the sole responsibility for a class. While having your own first class is memorable and exciting, it can also be daunting. Linked to this, is the weight of accountability which will be ever present in teachers’ thoughts and associated actions. By engaging in these books, it is hoped that individuals will consider how they are responding to being accountable across the breadth of their newly formed audiences. These include the children in their charge, other professionals, their setting, families and those responsible adults they are now engaged with. We also intend that these books will support in finding effective ways to quickly settle in to the new role as an ECT.

Having graduated from teacher training it will no doubt feel like the ‘L plates’ are off. For some individuals it may feel like there is no-one sat beside them to advise and reassure them in their actions and decisions. However, at the heart of these books is a key message for ECTs:, remember you will never be alone.

These books are designed to help readers learn from more experienced and established teaching professionals. It is worth remembering all experienced individuals can learn from others: we are lifelong learners! I have been fortunate enough to have the wisdom of both Lorna and Rachael to write important chapters and to help guide and inform my thoughts and writings. I hope these texts will allow the reader to gain insight into professional practice in areas they have developing expertise in. Also, that they will form a bridge into the teaching profession, allowing the reader to build on all those valuable experiences gained whilst on their training courses and school-based practices.

Each book covers two key aspects of starting and being in the teaching profession. Firstly, with regards to our teaching in early years book, such practitioners establish the building blocks on which all future educational successes are established. Such teachers do not, as others might consider, just play. They establish the knowledge, values and attitudes for a child’s future success. Everything they do will be considered and organised to promote the best of educational experiences. While our professional behaviours book, considers and explores the key notion that professional skills and behaviours will be needed by all if they wish to be effective ECTs.

Both books are underpinned by current research and literature linked to the practice and teaching of early years and the establishment of professional behaviours. We also intend them to be a springboard for learning by offering suggestions for further reading around the themes explored. It is intended that these cited readings and further links to literature will not only serve to allow the reader to ground their practice in theory but also serve as a means to promote critical self-reflection. This being the key to successful improvements in practice and self-development.

 In both books, an exploration of an emerging sense of professional identity is a vital aspect that underpins the early chapters. This is important since it helps the reader to consider what it is that makes them so unique and special. Also, how formative elements of their lives, for example their life experiences and narratives can serve to influence and form not only who they are but also who they will become.

In our early years book we hope the reader will  consider the importance of building outstanding provision whilst supporting children to be unique individuals. Fundamental to this is the notion of effective relationships and the values these bring to working with children and other adults in each setting. Whilst our professional behaviours book also seeks to reaffirm the value of promoting outstanding provision but also the significance that others can provide in helping and allowing a teacher to improve and develop. No one should consider themselves an island, but see the importance of engaging with others, the value of professional development as well as the importance of looking after oneself.

Both books are full of case studies, reflective questions and tasks with the end to all chapters prompting the reader to engage in critical thinking. The case studies are intended to allow the reader to reflect on their own and others lived experiences at differing periods in their professional development. As with the professional behaviours books our writings have been enriched by the voices of mentors and senior leaders across a range of settings and geographical areas. No matter the experience of individuals, the values of the tasks and questions provided lie in the focus and spotlight they allow for the promotion of the themes covered. Their power lies in their ability to engage the reader and others mentoring or supportive others/colleagues to discuss their views and conclusion on the items provided.

In conclusion, I hope these books will provide valuable and accessible go to support for the development of ECTs. That they will allow the reader to dip in and out as needed to form that valuable voice on one’s shoulder. Thus, guiding ECTs to make informed choices and decisions as their careers evolve and develop. I hope, as with myself, the reader will see their careers to be part of a learning journey: informed by others, by experiences and the items that we engage with. It will be the choices that we make that will serve to enrich own personal and professional lives and will allow for the betterment of others.

Colin Howard, November 2022


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