IEU member and Gold Coast teacher Jessica Prouten provides her top tips for building your professional community – a critical foundation as you begin your teaching career.
As you navigate the beginning of your professional life as a teacher, it is important to engage with a community of practice that can provide resource ideas, check assessment items, cross mark and be there to provide support when you need it.
The question is, how do early career teachers, or even teachers in a new field, establish these connections?
What things do you need to take into consideration when reaching out?
One positive to emerge in the last few months is that many organisations are now embracing digital technology more and hosting online meetings, training and catch-up in a way most of us have never experienced or accessed before.
When it comes to building your collegial community, these are my top tips:
1. Check in with the professional body for your subject
Many professional bodies are moving their professional development online.
In some cases, these presentations are done in really small groups which can allow for greater interaction.
While these do not replace of face-to-face networking, they can be places to get great ideas, or find other teachers who are at the same stage of their career.
Personally, I have loved the fact that Zoom allows me to deliver a PD session on podcasting to my local subject association and fifteen minutes later I can attend an IEU Branch meeting while never leaving my home.
2. Come prepared to share
Once you have connected with other teachers and you have begun the process of reaching out by email or a phone call, it is important that you bring something to the table.
While you might be stuck with the construction of an assessment task, are you able to offer one or two activities that might help the person you are reaching out to?
3. Building a connection that lasts
It takes time, communication and trust to build your collegial community.
These relationships are best built on the idea of “share and share alike”.
If you have already shared some resources with someone, they are more likely to want to share with you.
If you are having trouble writing an examination for endorsement – a good place to start is by asking your contact if they are happy to help you, sending them the questions you’ve already written, and seeking their feedback from there.
The current COVID-19 situation provides us with an awesome opportunity to broaden our community of practice, to visit someone else’s online class or attend a PD we might not normally have time to.
While we may not be able to physically gather, a virtual community can be just as good.
Jessica is a Head of Department on the Gold Coast. A former member of our union’s governing body, she is currently a member of the IEUA-QNT Education Committee, as well as the committee for the Business Educators Association Queensland. As a business studies teacher, Jessica believes in the importance of organisational culture and the establishment of professional networks to support teachers – new and established.