Should new teachers read lots of books and blogs?

I was pulled up short by this Tweet yesterday.

Needless to say, I disagree with the sentiment. I can only go by my own experience here, but reading books and blogs have exposed me to so many ideas and made me think more deeply about what education, and particularly history teaching, should be about. If I was confused, it was at the start, when I was having to re-orient myself to the educational landscape which has changed immeasurably since I left school. One year on since I discovered the edu-twitter community, my thoughts on education are beginning to coalesce into a much clearer vision. I am anything but confused now.

To be fair, I have spent a year and a half in the classroom as a teaching assistant. This means I can make better sense of a lot of what I’m reading about. Perhaps a very inexperienced new teacher, who hasn’t gone through this kind of induction, would indeed find things confusing. I would be curious to know how many new teachers go into the profession without first having done a significant amount of classroom experience (more than the two weeks often mentioned as a requirement). From my anecdotal evidence, it seems that many people follow the route of TA/LSA or cover supervisor, before applying for teacher training. If this is the case, then I don’t see why they shouldn’t be reading as much as possible during this time. To be honest, I think books like ‘Why don’t students like school?’ (D. Willingham) or ‘Making good progress?’ (D.Christodoulou) should be essential reading for any new teacher.

So I must confess to being puzzled by the sentiment in this Tweet. If it is trying to say that nothing beats actual teaching experience, then I would not disagree. But surely that doesn’t preclude the new teacher arming herself with as much knowledge as possible before starting out. Why would anyone think knowledge is confusing? Is it that some people are unhappy with new teachers being exposed to the ‘wrong’ type of knowledge? Is this really an argument about orthodoxy and trying to stop new teachers encountering views counter to those they may be taught on their PGCEs? I hope that is not the case. I hope we can be trusted, as new teachers, to navigate the many different ideas online and in books and to reach our own considered judgements.

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