The job of preparing generations of young people for a lifetime of English teaching is complex and relational. Beyond the daily grind of writing lesson plans, exists many multidimensional relationships between those tasked with supporting pre-service English teachers, and the students themselves. At a time when the pressures of standards, centralised control over education, and so-called professionalism are forcing themselves onto all stake-holders, we believe there is value in pausing and reflecting on what it means to be involved in this all-important task.
For those working in Universities and the initial-teacher education space, the job is simultaneously exhausting and rewarding. To be entrusted with the responsibility of planning, delivering, assessing and supporting young and mature students for the present challenges of practicum experiences, and future objectives, is no small charge. As the contributions from academics in this edition show, this task is one characterised by connection, voice, knowledge and perseverance. It involves understanding who each of our students are, what they bring with them to their practice, and the circumstances that they will have to negotiate.
Pre-service teachers are at the forefront of a ‘triple-whammy’ that makes the task of graduating a teacher-training course increasingly challenging. Firstly, increasing media and political attention on the quality of teachers has manifested as more requirements and competencies which must be demonstrated. Secondly, the spread of economic rationalist ideals into schools has resulted in more administrative and menial work for teachers, leaving less quality time to mentor and support those completing placements. Thirdly, challenges to the nature of subject- English, including the pressure to develop literacy and support a widerange of interdisciplinary knowledge and skills, has made the task of ‘doing’ our subject more complex. What hasn’t changed is the centrality of students to the experiences of being on placement and working with young people.
This issue offered practising English teachers a rare occasion to stop and reflect on some of the challenges and benefits of supervising pre-service teachers. Overwhelmingly, English teachers see the value in mentoring teachers within our field as it provides a stimulus for both self-reflection regarding our own teaching practices and the opportunity to keep up to date with changes to pedagogy and, particularly, new using new technologies in the classroom. One of the strongest threads running throughout all the contributions from English teachers is the importance of collaboration in the mentor/mentee relationship and the mutual learning that can take place as a result.
In an era of data collection and increasing accountability and pressure on teachers, it is hard to see what the future might hold for our profession. What is clear is the passion and dedication of all parties involved in pre-service teaching programmes, from academics, to supervising teachers and graduate teachers themselves. Reading the stories of pre-service teachers is also a reminder of why we began this journey in the first place: our shared passion for the subject of English, in all of its guises.
To be entrusted with the responsibility of planning, delivering, assessing and supporting young and mature students for the present challenges of practicum experiences, and future objectives, is no small charge
Contributing Editor, The University of Melbourne
Contributing Editor, Loreto College Ballarat