Looking for the next professional challenge as a computing educator

By Val Quaye. Posted

Mind mapping my potential next professional steps

At a certain point in our careers, we all ask what’s next; Val Quaye explores what the next steps of her teaching career could look like, and the power of conversations

I have been teaching ICT and computer science to students aged 11–18 for the last twelve years. During my teaching career, I’ve been a learning coach (focusing on supporting educators and sharing best practice) and a pastoral head of year. I’m now at the stage of my career where I’m getting itchy feet and asking myself the big question, “What comes next?” This article is a summary of my research and my thoughts on the pros and cons of each option. I hope that this article will help to show you some of the options available if you are asking yourself the same question.

More qualifications? 

I started by updating my CV to identify any areas for improvement in my professional development. I was looking to explore the different options that would refine my teaching practice and as a result, make learning even more enjoyable for my students. The first route I explored to do this was gaining more qualifications.

I first looked at pursuing a master’s degree in education. This is a globally recognised qualification which many teachers have, and is often seen as a desirable qualification when applying for a teaching position. A master’s involves a big investment of time and money, and I wondered if it would help me to develop my teaching practice and inject more fun into my classroom, or if it would be focused more on pedagogy and educational policy.

I looked to other formal qualifications, and a colleague suggested that I find out more about the National Professional Qualification (NPQ) for Middle Leadership. My initial reaction was, I’m not a middle leader, so I’m not eligible to even consider this qualification. However, my colleague showed me that the qualification is open to both current and aspiring middle leaders (for example, subject leads and heads of department). 

This qualification will be reformed from September and broken down into three specialist areas. The area which stood out for me was Leading Behaviour and Culture. I wondered if, through the NPQ, I could design a project that would intertwine my interest in coaching and positive psychology, and measure the impact on the whole school community. Some of the questions I had were: What would learning look like if coaching conversations and positive psychology were part of everyday language? What impact could this have on students’ mental health? How would individuals feel if when they asked for help, they were empowered to decide on their next steps? I believe that, through this route of the qualification, I could help raise academic attainment in the classroom, and could give students their own success formula.

Upskilling

With the route of gaining more qualifications being so costly and time-intensive, I also investigated upskilling myself in programming. As an educator who is an avid Apple (iOS) lover, I have dabbled with Swift Playgrounds and Xcode, but hadn’t invested much time into getting to grips with them properly. I found a free Apple Teacher webinar that introduced educators to the basics of using both. I found it really valuable to hear from educators about the strategies they used to overcome some of the hiccups their learners faced. They also shared how learning this language had given their students the knowledge and confidence to create their own apps and release them publicly. I thought that was really exciting, and could help learners see how what they are learning in lessons can permeate into life outside of the classroom. 

The power of conversations

With such a large selection of possibilities, I sought out a learning coach at my school to help. We used the GROW model to structure the conversation, which works through your Goal, the Reality of your situation, your Options, and your Way forward. For part of the conversation, I was asked to close my eyes, visualise myself twelve months from now, and answer questions such as:

  • If there were no consequences, what would you do?

  • Which choice energises you the most?

  • Imagine a friend came to you with this situation — what would you tell them?

The visualisation and questioning helped me to clarify what I wanted to explore. I felt that the most powerful question was: What I would do if there were no consequences? As a result of this blue-sky thinking I answered this question with many possibilities, which you can see in my mind map! From this list of possibilities, the coach asked me to identify three ideas that I would be excited to explore further. I also spoke to other colleagues about my options, including my head of department, who has been teaching for more than 30 years. I asked him what advice he would give himself, if he had a second chance. He reminded me that the terrain of computer science is constantly changing; new and emerging languages and technology are always on the horizon. 

What’s next?  

Before both of these discussions, I believed that the master’s was a compulsory requirement to be a successful teacher. However, the conversations helped me see that the three ideas I really wanted to invest in were my programming skills, coaching skills, and sharing ideas and resources online. I plan to work through the Develop in Swift professional learning course offered by Apple. To make myself accountable, I will create a range of classroom resources focused on teaching students Swift, and share these through Twitter, the Computing at School hub, and with the South East Asia Computer Science Teacher Association.

I want to develop coaching and positive psychology in my classroom and school community, so that students continue to strengthen their growth mindset and become empowered to make even more positive choices in their lives. In the longer term, I am going to find out more about the NPQ Middle Leadership qualification.

If you are asking yourself what’s next, take a deep breath and ask yourself the question, “What would you do if you could do anything?” You might just be surprised by your answer.


https://twitter.com/ValQuaye

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