This time last year I was preparing for my Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) graduation (read about the process from beginning to end including the speech I made at our graduation in my third ATS blog) and the year has flown by. On reflection, I found the ATS process as intense, and sometimes as overwhelming, as a PGCE year. However, that’s where the comparisons start and end for me. I found my PGCE a means to an end as I tried to play to someone else’s tune of what good teaching looked like, whereas ATS encouraged autonomy and introspection that to some extent meant that you got from it exactly what you took. The ball was in my court, and I decided to play the long game thinking about my professional career journey (and potential destinations) despite what my role, responsibilities or even organisation was at that specific time. At times this was a little overwhelming, but it really helped me to see my future as an educator a little more clearly.
This is the last blog charting my ATS journey and I thought it would be useful to reflect a year since graduation, a year and a half since my Viva and nearly two years since I handed my portfolio in.
I didn’t want this blog to be all about me, so I also asked the ATS community for their views too. To start with, I asked them to describe the ATS process in one word and this was the response:
As you can see, there were both positive and negative responses with challenging being the most prominent. All these words would have resonated with me at some point, but the quiet stand-out words to me are ‘worthwhile’ and ‘worth it’. The process might be intense but it’s an important step in understanding your own practice and where your professional life might go in the future. As well as, of course, recognising your skills as an advanced practitioner now.
The final activity in your portfolio is arguably the most important one: the action plan. It’s 1-2 pages long and could be easily brushed over in favour of all the other lengthier documents and reflections. I argue this is the most important activity because it details your commitments to yourself in sustaining the development that you found ‘tough’, ‘insightful’ and ‘challenging’ beyond completing the process, getting the certificate, and wearing the silly hat at gradution! It is a commitment to yourself to continue all the incredible work you’ve just done, not at the same level of intensity of course!
My original action plan had a large focus on mentoring because my workload was increasingly geared towards mentoring and coaching on multiple projects. I proposed that in practice this CPD might include completing the Google Coach programme, being a part of the Coaching and Mentoring Collective and taking part in the ETF’s Advanced Mentoring scheme.
However, there were a few stumbling blocks: I realised early on that I couldn’t complete the mentoring scheme and my project workload changed so my development focus needed to as well. Additionally, I noticed that I wasn’t writing and reflecting as much on my blog as I had been during my ATS year and this made me feel like I was losing steam. There came a point when I felt like I was failing in my commitment to my action plan. It was at this junction that I felt it helpful to ask my peers what they had got up to since they completed ATS. Here’s a snapshot of their varied replies:
I don’t believe that an effective action plan has to stay static. Instead, I think it should be organic and grow with you (as an ILP might do with our learners) taking into account external life factors as well as internal organisational factors. If things take longer than you supposed or they look a little different than you imagined that’s okay, too. An effective action plan is just that - a plan, a draft, a starting point.
What is important, however, is to have some kind of regular pit stop to reflect. During the ATS process, it was this time to reflect that I really valued, as I felt like I’d stormed through since my PGCE and QTLS without a moment to look back. Last year, SET introduced the yearly ATS re- accreditation process which I think is a welcome and important event which will continue to encourage us in taking that moment to look back and reset ourselves before we continue on.
To finish (this blog and my whole series), I thought I would share with you some of the insightful responses I received when I asked practitioners: Having gone through ATS yourself, what would you tell someone who is about to start the process? Hopefully, these will inspire those who are thinking of applying whilst reminding those who are at the end of the process why they applied in the first place:
And a final thought from me: I’ve really enjoyed writing these blogs the past year as it has given me pause for thought to reflect on what was an incredibly intense time during my professional development journey. However, what I can say confidently from the other side is: it’s worth it. So, good luck with your application, your submission, and your viva - and see you on the other side with ATS (and the silly hat, too).