Lift-off. 2 November 2017 and the (Institute for Teaching) rocket was safely off the launchpad, with the help of our friends at Oasis Academy MediaCity. Our mission (amongst other missions): to finish designing the world’s best course for teachers looking to develop mastery in their classroom, and to fill it with a a small group of brilliant (and brave) teachers.

You can read about some of the progress we’ve made on the first half of that mission – designing the course – in our blog series and recent paper on expert teaching from Masters course lead, Peps Mccrea. But now I’d like to share a few takeaways from the second half of the mission – filling the course.

This coming Wednesday (11 April 2018) we will welcome a group of 25 teachers to London for three days to begin Sprint One from Module One of our Masters in Expert Teaching course. So, what can we tell you about this intrepid group of teachers/astronauts? And what more about the schools that they are hailing from?

Our teachers first.

Getting better is their only option

The raw willpower of the teachers we’ve met to improve their craft on a daily basis has been inspiring for all of us. Last week I spoke with a secondary teacher who spends his PPA time planning lessons whilst sat at the back of his colleagues’ classes, picking up and embedding their best tactics and ideas. Initially an experiment a year ago, he now spends all of his non-contact time around the school sampling the best that he can find.

Another teacher, 19 years into his career, feels more motivated than ever to be at the top of his game. While his own children attend band practice at the weekend, he carves out time to focus on his development as a teacher.

But it’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to teacher development – across town in West London, and only a few years into her career, a primary teacher has learned that ‘leaving school at school’ leads to the biggest gains in her own mindset and teaching (see our recent blog on teacher wellbeing and passion). During her video interview, she taught us how and when to use the active and passive tense – her performance was mesmerising.

This appetite for improvement – clear to see in all of our 25 teachers – is no mean feat when we consider that they are operating at the very limit of their personal capacity every day. Although most had considered a Masters before, the feasibility and impact of extended research and writing assignments had put them off. Their message to us was clear – help them to focus only on the things that will make the biggest difference to their daily performance, and protect them from low-impact, time intensive content. We are on it!

If you’re a teacher and you’d like to tell us your story then we would love to hear from you. Drop us an email here.

And what did we learn about their schools?

Places to grow a career

A big thank you to all of the schools that generously opened their doors to us to talk teacher development over the last 6 months (and the 18 months before that too!). There would be no mission at all for the Institute for Teaching if schools didn’t value the development (and retention) of their existing teachers over the upstream battle to find new ones.

A headteacher (and accomplished jazz musician) at a very successful Rochdale school captured this brilliantly as he drew parallels between the journey that teachers must take towards fluency and mastery in their work, and the journey taken by jazz musicians towards effortless improvisation. Most evenings he will check into his school’s music room around 7 pm for a round on the drums and to replenish his energy levels.

And every year he sees incredibly low turnover of staff, all of whom are on a dedicated learning pathway to ensure that they can keep getting better. We are really looking forward to working with this particular school next year.

This year we are working with 18 schools across Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, London and the south-east, each making a very tangible investment in the development of one or several of their high-performing teachers.

Next year we’re upping our efforts to meet and get to know more schools. If you’d like us to come and visit yours then just drop us an email.

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Before joining the IfT, Ed most recently worked as a director at Teach for All where he helped establish and scale new variants of the ‘Teach First’ model around the world. Prior to this he led a growth and transformation team at Teach First. Ed is also a qualified teacher, and co-founder and trustee of East London Arts & Music Academy.

Ed Butcher

Talent & Partnerships Director, Institute for Teaching