Getting to the Bottom of the Mountain

We all get to the bottom of the mountain at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what route you’ve taken.

For many schools and teachers February half term is peak ski trip season. I was fortunate to experience the full force of a Canadian winter this year skiing in -20 degrees Celsius on some days. The group I took skiing were predominantly beginners with little more than a few hours on the practice slopes in the Tamworth Snowdome. Some progressed faster that others and were hitting the black slopes quickly whereas others were concentrating on grooving their skills on the green slopes.

Teacher Training

During one of the reflection sessions on the evening I spoke to the students about how, “we all get to the bottom of the mountain at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what route you’ve taken”. In this insta-generation we can all be found guilty of wanting to fast track the experience to proficiency. Some students were getting frustrated at the lack of progress and wanted to get better but without the understanding that, for many, the art of skiing takes time and a willingness to show resilience, personal reflections and an understanding of the instructor’s perspective to enable their progress on the slopes.

I believe there are clear comparisons that can be made with the initial teacher education year. Every trainee’s journey is unique to them and they must find their own route throughout the year. Some days may be tougher than others, just like riding the black routes rather than the green but it is the underpinning skills, abilities and awareness to adapt that will make the journey successful.

One of the key messages we have continued to stress to our trainee teachers is that developing effective pedagogies and an intuitive professional practice does take time to hone. They are now about half way through the course and already made such excellent progress through the course so far.

Our trainees are currently coming to the end of their second placement and will be returning to their home schools over the forthcoming weeks. This is always a special time of the year as the home school mentors can see the progress that the trainees have made over the course of their second placement even if the trainees can’t always recognise it themselves. We have absolute confidence in all our mentors to guide the trainees to move between the challenging and comfortable routes, for them, at a pace that strives for individual proficiency.

One of my favourite quotes which I shared with the students of the ski trip as well as the trainees at the National Forest Teaching School by Sir Edmund Hillary (2003) is,

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

My previous blog post talked about the trinity of resilience, reflection and perspective that enables our trainee teachers to be successful in their professional practice. We do encourage our trainees to self-identify and direct themselves to take risks as well as determining how far their comfort zones extend.

The trainees are just like the skiers. At some points they may feel like taking the skis off to walk down the mountain, but the resilience they need to show is to summon the bravery to click the skis back on, with the mentors being there to support them just like the stability offered from the ski poles. We want our trainees at the National Forest Teaching School to challenge themselves and even if they do fall down from time to time, they get back up, brush themselves off, reflect about what went wrong and go again!

Mike Simmons Secondary Programme Lead
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.
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