The Teacher Trainer Diaries: Induction 2021/2022 – Part 1

Every year usually starts with induction week, and this week is really important (in my mind, at least) for a number of reasons. Here are a few (although this is by no means an exhaustive list!):

  • It provides teachers with an opportunity to get to know each other (especially important if there are new teachers!) or catch up after the summer break
  • It provides teachers with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the school’s objectives, goals, materials, etc. for the year
  • Teachers can be supported for their first few weeks of term by the activities that are covered in induction week
  • Teachers can express their concerns, doubts, needs and wants regarding the year, their development and their own goals.

I remember the first time I planned an induction week – last academic year – and I remember thinking that there really was nothing on the web regarding how to create or what to include in an induction week. I was a little shocked and a little annoyed – why didn’t Google have all the answers!? I even went to the books, looking at Richards, etc. and still I found relatively little info. So, I went and spoke to a former mentor of mine, Katy, and asked her what she did with her teachers (she was at the time the DoS of an academy with 30+ teaching staff). She gave me the low-down and I set about to creating the development programme. Last academic year’s induction week was very heavy with PowerPoint presentations, workshops and ‘ideas’, but I felt that it lacked a lot. And so I reflected on it and changed my approach significantly this year. This year, my approach to the creation of induction week was heavily influenced by Wright and Bolitho’s Trainer Development as well as a number of other teacher trainer books that I have read over the last year (another is Hughes’ A Practical Introduction to Teacher Training in ELT). In this three-part post, I will aim to go over what I included, my reflections on how it went, the feedback I received, and some thoughts I have for the next time I create and implement an induction week programme. Why? Well, I hope that this provides other trainers and DoSs out there with a few ideas of where to start in their context. What follows is not a perfect programme, but I do hope that it helps in some way 🙂

A little context

Before delving into what we did for induction week, I need to let you know what my training context is as I feel this is important to recognise. Remember that what happened in my context may not necessarily be appropriate for your context!

I manage and train teachers in a small language academy in Zaragoza, Spain. The teaching staff totals six teachers (quite small), with some teachers having 8+ years of teaching experience, whilst others having between 2-3. The majority of our teachers are ‘junior’ in terms of teaching years and experience.

The majority of our classes are Young Learner groups, and nearly all of our teen and adults classes (and some YL) are exam-focused, with learners preparing for one of the Cambridge exams. All of our teachers have some experience with teaching and preparing learners for exams.

My thinking behind the week

I have tried to write in the session information boxes my rationale and thinking behind each session. I wanted to include a short note here as well covering my rationale for the overall programme ‘style’. I really didn’t want a week of ideas and bureaucratic stuff. Rather, I wanted to help teachers explore their values, attitudes, beliefs and expectations – and to make these explicit! Why? Well, as Wright and Bolitho mention in their book, progress, learning and development really can’t take place until teachers are aware of these points. With this mind, this week was very much a ‘discussion-focused’ week, with very little ‘imparting of knowledge’. I may be criticised for this (in fact, as you’ll see in the final post that some teachers actually wanted more ideas), but I feel that as I really want teachers to be able to develop over the course of the year both as a group and as individuals, this week was very important in bringing these values, attitudes, beliefs and expectations to the surface (not only for them, but for me – it helped me really see where teachers were in terms of development as well as knowledge). In the final post, I will go into more detail about how the programme could be improved, but please keep this in mind as you take a look at the sessions. Also, feel free to give as much feedback as you want. I am by no means saying this programme is perfect; in fact, I hope to get feedback and be able to make it so much better!

Overview of induction week

Below you will find the overview of the the whole week (five working days). You can see that we included workshops, electives, CPD interviews and social events. In this post, I’ll be covering the first two days of sessions, CPD interviews and social event.

CPD Interviews

Whilst I won’t go into detail about each teacher’s discussions, I will cover the purpose of these sessions. In short, these sessions allowed me to sit down with teachers, one-on-one, and discuss their development goals and endeavours from previous years, what they wanted to focus on this year, and any doubts they might have. These sessions gave me plenty of insight into how I could make the development programme personalised for the group as well as for individuals (fitting in-line with the needs-based criteria of the INSPIRE model).

Electives

These sessions were included for those teachers that needed to do any personal admin and wanted a hand; they were also included to give teachers another opportunity to go over any extra things that weren’t covered in the sessions. Surprisingly, no teachers chose to attend the elective sessions. I put this down to the fact that we covered quite a lot of information in the main sessions and teachers had already been set up in Spain prior – therefore no need to really go over the admin stuff.

Day 1

Sessions

Day 1 reflections

Today’s sessions went really well. When teachers arrived at the school, we welcomed them in and went straight into getting their contracts signed. I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not – really we wanted to get it out of the way. Perhaps there was room to get this done in the CPD interviews. It wasn’t that these were rushed – I felt teachers had time to go through their contracts, ask questions, clarify any doubts – I just feel that maybe having the more personal one-to-one signing would have been ‘safer’ for teachers, especially if they had any doubts. In saying this, if one teacher has any doubts, they all might have them.

The first session went smoothly, and teachers really enjoyed the bingo. We did get a ‘bingo’ very quickly, but we continued the discussion. With the creation of the North Station profile, teachers got super creative and I was really impressed with what they came up with (see gallery at the end of this post). I put these up in the staff room, and will keep them there throughout the year. I think it will be interesting to look at these at the end of the year.

The second session went really well. S and D were expecting the standard PowerPoint as we had last year, and so it was great to see their faces when I told them we were going to be moving away from that. The initial part got some good discussion going on, and teachers were able to correctly guess most of the numbers. This was a nice bridge to the next activity also, in which teachers went through and answered questions about the school (all the answers were in the teacher’s handbook). I realised after that some of the questions were a little vague (e.g. how much work do learners need to do in class?). This vagueness, however, didn’t work against the session though – if anything it create more discussion as there were a number of different answers in the handbook. Once teachers had completed the questions (well most of them) we came back in plenary and looked at the answers. I really feel that this session hit its success criteria well – and it had the added benefit of showing teachers a good way of carrying out a reading lesson (lead by example, after all!).

How did I feel though? It was interesting because in the first session I felt the excitement of the teachers and so I got excited. I started mixing up my words a little in the first five minutes, and I had to tell myself to calm down and slow up a little. I think this is one thing I need to start doing more BEFORE my sessions – get to the calm place, no matter the excitement level or how nervous I am. After the first five minutes though, everything went really well with regard to my feelings and how I feel I conveyed myself and mediated/led the sessions.

Feedback

Teachers were provided with an opportunity at the end of the week to evaluate the week. In hindsight, I should have done this for every session as one of the points was that all sessions blended together. Regarding specific sessions, I kept it simple and included two questions relating to usefulness and enjoyment, with each questions having three options (Useful/enjoyable, Somewhat useful/enjoyable, and Not useful/enjoyable). Here are the results for Day 1:

Session: Welcome to The North Station
How useful was the session? 80% Useful
20% Somewhat useful
How enjoyable was the session? 100% Enjoyable
Session: School Policies and Administration
How useful was the session? 80% Useful
20% Somewhat useful
How enjoyable was the session? 60% Enjoyable
20% Somewhat Enjoyable
20% Not enjoyable

Looking at this feedback, I can say that I feel happy overall with the sessions, although perhaps I need to think about how I can make the School Policies and Administration session more enjoyable (maybe make it more physical, similar to a running dictation?).

Day 2

Sessions

Day 2 Reflections

Again, we started with more paperwork today. Teachers read the workplace health and safety documents the night before and then we completed a short little tests. It wasn’t how I wanted to start the day, but we needed to get the paper work done and submitted for legal purposes, so it had to be done. After this, though, we moved straight into our first session – career pathways. This session went amazingly! I had teachers discuss their thoughts about careers in ELT and everyone came to the same conclusion – everyone’s path is a little different. I had them visualise their own career pathway and then asked them to draw it however they wanted. I did show them my career pathway just to give them an example. The result? Well, everyone had something that was completely different – some rather abstract! When we placed them around the room, teachers walked around and took a look at what others had put down. We then paired up and discussed in detail our own career paths. Teachers were really involved in conversations and finding out much more than what was simply put on the paper. I feel that the visualisation and drawing played a strong priming role in this and really allowed a good amount of time for teachers to reflect on their journeys, hence why the conversations were quite detailed. The last part of the session was an individual task in which teachers wrote an adjective that describes them at the start of their career and an adjective or phrase that they would like to be sometime in the future. The carried out this task and then folded the pieces of papers and kept them private. Some even gave them to me for safe keeping as I said I’d like us to review them at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see what this brings.

The second session, Development Programme Beliefs, went interestingly. Teachers responded well to reading a blog post – some even took the name down to look for other interesting stuff. Teachers found the mark system with workshops a little restrictive, but I think this is a positive point. I saw them really thinking about, and later explaining their choices. The second activity, the self-evaluation, was perhaps the most interesting. I said that in terms of ratings, 1 would be equal to not knowing anything while 10 would be the equivalent of being a Scott Thornbury or Rod Ellis. What I found interesting was that still many teachers were putting quite high marks on some areas that they did not really know much about. I am glad that I had them conduct the self-assessment in groups as through this discussion each of them had to ‘check’ and ‘evaluate’ their marks and understanding with others. With this in mind, I feel that the results show more what teachers feel confident with as opposed to their current level of knowledge in X. This being said, it is hard to know what you don’t know (take a look at the Dunning-Kruger effect for more info on this), so I can understand the way teachers marked themselves. I wonder, however, if perhaps I could include a question or some terms in each of the areas as ‘prompts and questions’ to get them thinking about how much they actually know? So for example, with regard to pragmatics, I might wright something like: These terms relate to pragmatics: illocutionary, locutionary and perlocutionary force. Perhaps this would make the discussions more directed and thus give teachers more of an opportunity to see if they really do know a lot.

Feedback

Session: Career Pathways
How useful was the session? 100% Useful
How enjoyable was the session? 100% Enjoyable
Session: Development Programme Beliefs
How useful was the session? 100% Useful
How enjoyable was the session? 80% Enjoyable
20% Somewhat enjoyable

Very happy with this feedback, and while I don’t think the sessions were perfect, I am happy with what we were able to achieve. Much less bureaucratic than Day 1’s sessions, and so I feel that teachers felt that these sessions were more about them!

Social event – Escape room

The social event was really fun. We went and did an around-the-city escape room. It involved a lot of walking, some very interesting translation moments as we did it all in Spanish (and none of use are Spanish!). We had to work together, and then once we finished we took teachers out for dinner and some drinks. The purpose of this event really was to provide another opportunity for teachers to bond, show them that we want the group to feel tight-nit, and that not everything about the school needs to only be ‘professional’- you need a little fun every now and then. I do think that this was one of the most important aspects of induction week. In terms of classroom value, there was not much, but in terms of group dynamics I think it did wonders.

Final notes

In the next post, I’ll be covering Day 3 and Day 4. I hope this post got you thinking about your own induction week, either as a teacher or trainer/manager. I’m looking forward to reading your comments and questions (which I will try to answer as best as I can). Stay tuned 🙂

You can find Part 2 here.

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