"The Gift of a Lifetime": How it felt to be nominated for Practice Teacher of the Year
When a colleague contacted me to say she wanted to nominate me as SASW’s Practice Teacher of the Year, I was extremely touched that she thought that much of me professionally. It was out of the blue and took me by surprise, and it took me awhile to process how it felt to be singled out for recognition...in fact, I think I’m still processing it now! Add to this that two other colleagues and two previous students got behind this and added their views to support the nomination – I was truly humbled. I couldn’t believe that ‘just doing my job’ had meant that much to the people I worked with and alongside. I was forced to think about what ‘just doing my job’ really meant, and recognise that I have worked hard to build strong communities of mutual support; that my approach to teaching and learning is based on collaboration, valuing and respect and, ultimately, if you convey these values to others they come back to you. Never mind being shortlisted and then honoured by being highly commended, being nominated by people I respect, who clearly feel the same about me, was the gift of a lifetime.
It felt to me that being recognised in this way by others gave validation to the hard work of Independent Practice Teachers everywhere. I was nominated by some of the most hard working, ethical and dedicated practitioners in adult education, all of whom are self-employed and setting a standard of best practice in practice teaching without the benefits of a team, line management, paid holidays, travel or sick leave – even opportunities for CPD come at a cost. Regardless, we as a group have not just practiced to high standards, we have contributed collectively to developments, plans, growth and communication in and around practice learning in Scotland, just because we care.
So, kudos to the Independent Practice Teachers/Educators, and to all those who care and contribute to practice learning in Scotland, despite institutional and structural challenges – keeping alive the sacred light of learning, holding on to space for human growth and development, for recognition of individual abilities, capabilities and strengths against forces that push for conformity and rationalisation. The individual is at the heart of social work education; social work education holds and promotes the heart of social work values.
The experience of being nominated for the Practice Teacher of the Year Award has prompted me to reflect on my chosen career and its centrality to the social work profession. I wonder if there is more that could be done to develop the profile, recognition and validation of practice teaching as not just a specialism within social work, but a vocation and a calling. If anyone wants to think about this together get in touch, let’s collaborate!