Angela O’Sullivan, BSc(Hons), PhD. PFHEA, NTF, IFNTF, CATE, Emerita Professor of Inclusive Practice in Teaching & Learning, De Montfort University
We are only days away from the first face-to-face Association of National Teaching Fellows (ANTF) symposium since March 2020. Little did we know that we were about to enter one of the most difficult time periods of our lives. The pandemic and lockdown challenged all elements of our lives from all directions; physically, mentally, emotionally, and practically. For those of us in education we were plunged into a very different way of working, but as creative innovators we rose to the challenge, and we can see evidence of this from the amazing work that will be disseminated at our April 2023 symposium.
One of the things that came to the forefront in these difficult times is the collegiate nature of the ANTF community, especially around supporting technology. Networks grew rapidly and have become stronger and are now embedded in our culture. Similarly, we recognised the pressures that landed on us so quickly, the compassionate nature of our community flourished and supported staff and students through wellbeing events and resources. These are the real positives that we will continue to nurture as outcomes from a very tough time. It is the resilience of the community that binds us together and drives teaching excellence.
When I reflect to the days of chalk, I remember transitioning to written acetates and the joy of being able to re-use them. The only stress was whether the bulb blew in the overhead projector, but many had a reassuring spare sellotaped inside. Then came photocopiers and printable acetates, a complete revolution. We learnt all about the inside of photocopiers and the secret places they can conceal that scrunched up paper and the importance of using the correct acetates, or everything came to a halt. We moved on to PowerPoints and digital projectors, which can be troublesome, but we have wonderful IT support staff to rescue us. For me this happened over decades, and I hadn’t realised the full potential of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) until I was immersed in home teaching, with my cat walking across the keyboard, innocently turning my screen upside down! It wasn’t a learning curve; it was a sheer rock face. Many who were forced into this digital transition are now the pioneers of a new era of digital innovation and are sharing their expertise at the symposium.
The Committee of the Association of National Teacher Fellows has grown to include twelve members from January 2023 and as Chair I am delighted to welcome these new members and to see them embracing their different roles. Those who have served the committee for longer are supporting the newcomers and continuing their own hard work on a range of different projects, alongside symposium planning. At our AGM we reached out to the NTF community and CATE winners through a Padlet for ideas for themes for the symposium. The WISER themes emerged, and we hope that everyone comes away from the symposium not only wiser but also having made strong networks to support aspirations and future challenges.
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