Velon (Association for Teacher Educators in the Netherlands) is committed to the quality of individual teacher educators and to the quality of the professional group. Velon manages, among other things, the professional register for teacher educators. The aim of registration is a recognition of the quality of teacher educators’ work.
As chair of Velon, I couldn't stay behind. it was time for me to register and it seemed best to do that together with a number of colleagues. Fifteen teacher educators from my own institute and from our partner schools joined me. Initially I took the lead and guided the meetings.
Demonstrating that you meet the professional standard seems easy, but when you are working with the professional standard you come across all kinds of challenges.
During one of the first meetings I was already starting to feel the pinch. How often I (as chair) had not gone through all the information and seemed to understand it all well, until I had to work with it myself and had to explain it. Suddenly all kinds of questions arose: Am I interpreting the requirements for registration and the portfolio in the right way? How often do I have to refer to the aspects of the professional standard? What do 'they' actually want to see in my portfolio?
I realized that, at that time, I was not the right person to guide the group and I asked a colleague who had experience with this type of trajectory. She gave us explanations about the application and the requirements to which these must comply and clarified with examples. And - perhaps most importantly - we were able to ask questions, because they were plentiful. 'Stupid' questions as a colleague said: about the form that we honestly don't like to hear from students: How many words can I use? Where can I find this info?
Thanks to the explanation and the direction we were shown the line became clear and we found a thinking space. Freedom to make our own choices with regard to the content of the portfolio: how do I show that I am a teacher educator in a way that suits me? That's what it's about. In any case, I have retained that feeling very strongly.
While talking, we came to gain more insight and to conclude that his idea did indeed fit in with the objectives of the process. This was enough for my colleague to continue the process. Together we decided that it would be good to share this feeling with the rest of the group. That led to a rich conversation: becoming the owner of this process is important for everyone, the way in which that happens is experienced differently by each participant.
My colleague made a meaningful comment during the conversation. "I wanted to stop," he said, "because I realized that if I could not motivate me, I also won’t be of any help for others; in this process my contribution is important for all of you". I was quiet for a moment. Through everything that happened that morning, I clearly saw the importance of competence and autonomy, but also relationship.
In recent months, while working for my registration, I have experienced that it is not just about individual growth, but also about growing together as a team of teacher educators. On the blogs that I wrote for the Velon website during my trajectory, I received many reactions, very diverse in nature. I want to share some examples with you. A meeting with a former colleague: “Hey Miranda, how is Velon doing? You know, I'm registered now. It was an interesting process, learned a lot”. A short message via WhatsApp: “Yeah ... I am re-registered, yes!" A chance meeting at a coffee machine at a meeting location somewhere in the country: "Have to tell you, the peer review in re-registration is good! It was enriching to present my development as a teacher educator in recent years to colleagues”. Or e-mail: "Hi Miranda, I want to register but I am not working in a HEI or teaching school. I do work with starting teachers and I do a lot of coaching. Is it still possible? That would be valuable".
All these small questions, comments and encouragements are important for the big picture. All these things together make our quality as teacher educators. Above all, it has been made clear to me why, within Velon, we use the expression I - we - WE. I - we - WE is the shortest possible summary of what we want to achieve with the registration process and the professional register. "I" stands for me as a teacher educator, and how I work on my own development. By "we" is meant the team. If educators in their own team work together on their professional learning, this increases the quality of the team. "WE" is the logical consequence. The more teams work on their professionalism in this way, the higher the quality of the total: the teacher educator profession.
I have been a member of Velon for more than 15 years and have been actively involved in the association for some 12 years, in recent years as chair, so I cannot deny that I feel part of the teacher educator profession and I contribute to the quality of the whole. For a long time I have been very critical of the registration process and I felt that I did not have to show my teacher educator competences through inclusion in the register. I look at it very differently now, because working towards registration has added an extra dimension that I could not have foreseen in advance. Never before have I personally experienced what we want together. A special experience that I wish for everyone – a sense of being a significant part of our professional.
Thanks to Dr Mieke Lunenberg and Dr Elizabeth White for her feedback on the text.