Education Talks: Teacher careers in the new age

Teacher careers are changing: but into what form, and for what reason? In this video interview from the Supporting Key Competence Development event, Margit Timakov, Head of Estonian Teacher Association, explains why a rigid, linear teacher profession is a thing of the past.

How do current perspectives on teacher careers differ from those of the past?

I think a teacher’s career has changed over maybe the last years or over the last decades because teaching in general and education has become more flexible, and that means that teachers’ profession also has to be more flexible. So maybe in twenty, thirty years’ time, it could be considered that a teacher would be a subject teacher just doing the class and that’s it. Nowadays, we talk a lot about collaboration on a school level, collaboration on a national level, collaboration on international level, which adds up different responsibilities and tasks for teachers. We have quite a lot of people in the labour market who are ready to step into school and do a class or two, maybe offer an elective course, but they’re not ready to fully commit themselves and do a full-time job as a teacher. Which means that we have to allow these people – who are ready to come and be part of school life and be part of education – we have to allow them to do so.

What is a typical trajectory for a teacher’s career?

Teaching definitely is not a career or a profession where it would be just moving upwards. It could be moving in or about, it could be moving back and around, it could be different perspectives. And also, very often, teaching is a profession where the career change or the career ladder actually is happening within the teacher. So it’s not vertical and it’s not even horizontal, it’s maybe, in a way, a hybrid or a kaleidoscope type. But it’s some kind of a change in career within the person: getting new competences, being acknowledged for these new competences, and then also, through these new competences, taking on new kinds of tasks and doing all kinds of things that are needed at school or even on a system level.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities for teacher mobility?

When talking about teacher mobility, it depends on: what are the language skills of the teacher who’s ready to go? It also brings out issues of: who would be the replacement teacher? Who would be the substitute taking the classes while the teacher is somewhere away? At the same time, it brings out all kinds of nice collaboration if there is collaboration already beforehand and schools already trust each other. It’s seen kind of as part of professional development and not as a mobility, which maybe sounds a little strange and maybe a little intimidating. It’s very important when we talk about mobility to find the reason for it. What is the purpose? What do we have in mind when we talk about teacher mobility? Is it only to show the teacher a different country, or is it seen as a professional development where the teacher can set themselves goals, can collaborate with the other teachers? And if we view it like this, if we present it like this, if we expect it from our teachers, it will become not something strange and awkward – it will become something exciting and awarding and needed.