Chloë Hynes reflects on the year she undertook Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) and the emotions that came with it, from initial feelings of being overwhelmed to a pride in challenge herself and pushing boundaries.
This time last year I had just been given access to my Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) e-portfolio and had attended my first webinar with the Society for Education and Training (SET) team. It was an intense start to the new academic year because of lockdown 2020, and it felt like information overload, coupled with the ‘new pencil case excitement’ of a new course.
I remember the intensity of the beginning and the overwhelming feeling of ‘What have I signed myself up for? I don’t have any time for this!” However, I also remember the excitement, how empowered I felt when a colleague told me to go for it, the commitment to myself and the focused development of my own practice during the year to come.
It was all too easy to become overly focused on ticking the right boxes, rather than doing what was right for me, my learners, my colleagues and my organisation. I had to keep reminding myself that this was my year to focus on me, to challenge myself and to push boundaries.
"My first observation within six weeks, a 360-degree reflection inviting feedback from my learners, peers and manager, a rationale, a personal reflection against the professional standards, a personal SWOT analysis, and finally a Personal Development Plan (PDP). How was I logistically going to achieve it all in the first three months whilst also working? With that and more acronyms to learn; It was like a new language.
I remember the intensity of the beginning and the overwhelming feeling of ‘What have I signed myself up for? I don’t have any time for this!” However, I also remember the excitement, how empowered I felt when a colleague told me to go for it, the commitment to myself and the focused development of my own practice during the year to come. It was all too easy to become overly focused on ticking the right boxes, rather than doing what was right for me, my learners, my colleagues and my organisation. I had to keep reminding myself that this was my year to focus on me, to challenge myself and to push boundaries.
Upon receiving my ATS e-portfolio, I reflected on the professional standards as part of another programme. Could I recycle that information, even though it was for another programme? This thought came up a lot during the year as I was involved in numerous activities and the answer that I settled on was a resounding, yes. ATS was a magpie for the academic year 2020-21 and it meant collecting the stories I wrote for APConnect, the articles I read that sparked inklings, and the awarded practice I completed on the Enhance platform. It was all part of my development journey during that year, so of course it could be added to my CPD log, reading list or reflective diary. This eased the to-do list somewhat, because it meant I didn’t have to start 100 per cent from scratch and I could reduce my workload, Ultimately, ATS wasn’t an additional extra, it was the storyteller of my year, interested in the holistic whole.
However, there was something that did throw me, and that was that the 20 professional standards had become 31, and each was split into three boxes including self, others and organisation. Upon emailing the team at SET, I was reassured that even though we need to demonstrate these standards in our activities, we won't have to provide explicit 'evidence' for each one.
For example, imagine you read a journal article about inclusive practice online, this then promoted a change to your approach in using breakout rooms. You find the approach to be effective, so you share the idea with a few colleagues in the staffroom. Maybe you add the journal article to your e-portfolio, write a reflective diary or CPD log about the experience. Which professional standard/s would you tick? Additionally, would you say this also had an impact on yourself, others or your organisation?
As I went through the year, I found that when I selected a standard in the e-portfolio I was ticking all three columns (self, others and organisation) because the impact had ripples beyond my own practice. If I had a time turner I would go back in time and tell my past self: “Don’t get caught up in ticking those standards off because you will easily cover them throughout the course of the year.”
The 360-degree feedback is a huge part of the initial process. I remember thinking: I’ve just asked my manager and a colleague to write a statement for my application and now I have to ask them to do more? They don’t have time! How can I ask my students when most of our courses are one-offs or two sessions, maximum? The logistics of doing this, along with asking people to give me some of their precious spare time gave me a little anxiety. A colleague of mine regularly uses the phrase: “Push at open doors” and that’s just what I decided to do. I emailed, tweeted and texted practitioners who had engaged with my training practice in a multitude of ways and asked them to complete a Google Form. This form contained all of the standards, slightly reworded to be more grounded and authentic. I found that when I explained what I was doing and that it was part of my own development, every single person completed the form (thank you to those of you who did!).
This made me realise how many of my peers were on my side, wanting to support me through the process. However, no one in our team was doing ATS or had experience of it. I looked to the ATS forum and Facebook ATS group for support. I also put the feelers out on Twitter and through the APConnect Constellations Slack space and found a few other people who were also doing ATS. I’m sure I’ll talk more about them in later blogs but suffice to say, being a part of a community of fellow ATS practitioners and having a good mentor who understands ATS, was the most valuable thing to me during the process. I honestly don’t know if I could have done it without them. As such, this year I am continuing the ‘ATS Staffroom’ alongside Phil Green (ATS alumni and current ATS mentor) as part of APConnect’s Festival Fridays.
I’ll be sharing a little vulnerability with you all. It’s something which nearly stopped me applying to do ATS altogether, and which I spent most of the process batting off: imposter syndrome.
ATS is a Professional Status recognised in the Education sector, which is gained after successfully completing a 12-month period of Professional Development and maintained through membership to the Society for Education and Training.Take a look
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