Who needs a book for development? Don’t we learn new things along the way? Teachers who enjoy what they are doing grow naturally as they go about their daily work. With every new school year, every new group creates challenges that make us grow as teachers. However, this growth can go unnoticed. It can happen as a matter of course without us conducting our own development. It will have its benefits, but these are random and unsystematic. For the development to become conscious improvement of our performances as teachers, we should structure this growth ourselves.
Duncan Foord’s The Developing Teacher is a handbook which guides you on your journey of conscious development. It is a solid scaffolding that supports your growth, offering clearly organized hands-on activities. The book is divided into three chapters. Chapter A is a brief contemplation on teacher development in general. It gives the reader a brief overview of some key theories and models of teacher learning. It also presents the five circles of development which facilitate a more systematic growth.
Chapter B provides a rich bank of activities spread over the five circles of development. The innermost circle involves You and the activities proposed help the reader to gain a better understanding of the kind of teacher you are. It also highlights your beliefs about teaching and teacher development.
The second circle engages your students as well. The activities here will help you as a teacher through looking at, and analysing, your students’ representations and development. Doing the activities in class with your students will give you insights into your influence and effects as a teacher. My favorite activity in this circle involves four fast feedback formats which unveil students’ feelings and opinions of the lesson. The layer in the circle asks you to incorporate your colleagues. Visiting other teachers’ lessons and asking some of your colleagues to give feedback on your classes are some of the activities proposed here. Even though setting up the activities in that circle can be more difficult or time-consuming than those in two previous parts, they can be extremely rewarding and foster supportive cooperation among the staff.
The third circle activities involve more informal cooperation; the fourth circle gets you to the next level where you are invited to act with your school, colleagues, administration staff, and even your direct boss(es).
The final circle moves further away from your immediate institution and closer to the teaching profession in general. The activities proposed here range from applying to a teacher training course to trying writing material for a publisher. Even if some of these activities seem far too challenging at first glance, it is worth considering them as future possibilities. Knowing that one day you might give a workshop on a subject that you feel strongly about can make all your efforts and pains more meaningful and worthwhile.
The activities in chapter B are, on the whole, rather short and can be done even if your teaching schedule is extremely busy. However, if you are ready and willing to invest your time in longer projects, then chapter C has good support to offer. You might want to keep a teacher diary, create a teaching portfolio, or set up and participate in a larger teacher development scheme. You will find a detailed guide with step-by-step instructions for all three projects.
While following a teacher training course at the time of reviewing this book, I can see clearly how relevant and helpful the activities provided here are. Not only do they offer guidance on how to take your development into your own hands, they also push you towards creating a network of colleagues, which can provide support and valuable new insights.
Growing happens naturally, but if you wish to grow purposefully and use the daily teaching and learning situations to your own advantage, The Developing Teacher gives you the scaffolding you might need.