It takes a community of practice to educate a teacher

 Vanessa Ogden

“My dad says that if you can’t teach me what I need to know between the hours of 9 and 3, then you ain’t doing your job properly” … proclaimed “Ryan” in front of the rest of his Year 9 class when I tried to enforce his detention for non-completion of homework. As a new teacher just out of the Institute of Education’s PGCE programme, I had a repertoire of appropriate responses for such situations but I recall, on this occasion I was stumped in that moment. A million possibilities occurred to me all at once – which to choose to get the best out of the situation for everyone? There was a pause while a cavern opened in the floor in front of me and everyone held their breath, waiting to see if I would fall in.

I thus realised very early on that learning the craft of teaching is career-long. My PGCE tutor once described teaching as a “generative art”.  It is situated in deep knowledge about subject and pedagogy – and for those who choose to teach in challenging urban, rural and coastal environments, the relationship between education and “place” brings with it a multitude of other professional learning that needs to be embraced. The complexity of learning your craft as a teacher requires on-going, professional support from within schools and from the rich human and intellectual capital in “Outstanding” university providers like the Institute.

I was delighted therefore to hear news of the Institute of Education’s recent Ofsted inspection judgement of ‘Outstanding’ and its glowing report – a fitting accolade for one of the key architects involved in London’s success over the past ten years. Of course, for over a century the Institute has led the international field in education research and development as well as in the initial training of teachers. The Institute has been responsive to changing times, adapting to new policy environments taking on innovation.

In 1993, provision for early professional development following initial teacher training was limited and leadership training was sparse in London. For many, London schools were not the schools of choice in which to teach and teacher shortage was becoming a real problem. There was no national framework for teachers’ development. I relied heavily on the Institute’s resources for further professional learning.

Twenty years on, the picture  in London for both early and career-long professional learning is widely different – and the Institute has led the way. London teachers and leaders have benefitted enormously from the wide range of opportunities it has provided for further learning during this period – especially through the establishment of innovative practice-based masters and doctoral programmes and the foundation of the ‘London Centre for Leadership in Learning’. In particular, strong mutually beneficial partnerships with schools, collaboration between academics and practitioners on research and writing in education and the embracement of initiatives like Teach First are just a few of those to name.

Becoming “at least good” as a teacher or school leader takes a wealth of high quality support and development from others. And whilst “Ryan” (and other pupils) have extended my learning and calibrated my practice – which, although not always easy, has been an important part of my own journey – and whilst I have learned so much from the cutting edge work of many school colleagues, the Institute has also been fundamental.

They say it takes a community to educate a child – it takes a community of practice to educate a teacher. The Institute is central to that community in London and practitioners in the Capital are proud to have it.

Dr Vanessa Ogden is head teacher of Mulberry School in Tower Hamlets, which works in partnership with the IOE, and received her Doctorate at the Institute

The pupil’s name has been changed.

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Posted in Leadership and management, Teachers and teaching assistants
4 comments on “It takes a community of practice to educate a teacher
  1. Reminds me about a comment a parent once made about home work: “If you do my ironing for me, I will supervise his homework”

  2. Blog Editor says:

    So, Vanessa, please tell us what you finally said to “Ryan”.

  3. Uba Babs says:

    I think it depends on the perspective of the community to go about educating a Teacher.

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