This year, for the first time, I stepped out of the role of classroom teacher and into the role of a specialist teacher (also known as a single subject teacher). To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it but I gave it a go because it wouldn’t have to be permanent anyway. Actually, it was probably the most enjoyable year of my teaching career!
In my primary school and many others, some subjects are considered specialisms and specific teachers take responsibility for their implementation across the school. These typically include music, PE, art, etc.
Technology specialists are often slightly different. It’s common for these specialists to take on a coaching role. In addition to teaching technology-rich lessons, their role is to upskill teachers with technology integration and ensure that technology is used across the school at any time that it can add value to learning.
This year, I joined the Technology and Innovation specialist team with a specific focus on STEM and design thinking. Here are eight reasons why it has been such an enjoyable year:
I get to focus on my passion
As general classroom teachers, we don’t have to be passionate about everything we teach. We just have to be passionate about kids and learning. But I’ve enjoyed an entire year of STEM and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s easy to get out of bed each morning (well, easier!) when your timetable is jam-packed with something that you’re passionate about. And I’m not the only one who loves STEM…
Kids cheer when I enter their classrooms!
When students see me and the other Technology and Innovation teachers, they know that they’re about to do something creative, hands-on and highly engaging. It’s not really us that get cheers, but STEM. The students share our love for STEM and associate us with it. It’s wonderful that my lessons are so well received and students always look forward to the next one.
I get to know students across the school
I teach every student from Y1-5 (and even a few in the secondary section). This has been a wonderful opportunity to develop relationships with more students. Of course, these relationships aren’t as deep as the classroom teachers have, but it’s wonderful that I know so many students now, and they know me!
I’m gaining experience across all age groups
In eleven years of teaching, I had never before ventured into lower primary. The opportunity to work with all ages and gain this experience has been really enjoyable and valuable. In particular, I have a better understanding of what we should expect from students in the lower grades – and it’s far more than I expected! I will never underestimate them again!
I get to learn from other teachers
I have really enjoyed visiting other classes and teaching alongside my colleagues. Everyone has their own approaches and strategies and I learn something new from every teacher who I work with. This has certainly informed and inspired my own practice. The opportunity to teach with others (or at least observe) is really impactful and I hope to get more of these opportunities.
I’m developing a whole-school big picture
Because I teach every grade, I’m more aware of the vertical articulation and how concepts and units build on each other. Whatever I’m teaching students, I have a better idea of their prior learning and what’s required for their next steps. The big picture that is forming in my mind informs my planning, teaching and coaching.
I can teach the same lesson multiple times
I really appreciate the opportunity to teach the same lesson (or a very similar lesson) multiple times because it allows me to make adjustments almost immediately. I’m not afraid to take risks because I can learn and adapt based on my reflections. Especially with technology, occasional technical problems are inevitable. It’s nice to learn from these and have opportunities to try again and hone my practice.
The professional learning has been immense
Unlike a general classroom teacher, my role has been very focused and so my professional development priorities have been too. I’ve learnt a lot about STEM this year, more than ever before. The drawback, of course, is that my professional development in other areas has been put on hold, but I’ve enjoyed the focus this year and benefited a lot from it.
As most of you know, I’m moving on next year to another new role in a new school (learn more here). My time as a STEM specialist has given me more confidence to lead in a whole-school role. If I enjoy next year as much as I enjoyed this one, I’ll be a very happy teacher indeed!