Mentoring, on the other hand, can be more challenging, as it may need to be built into a longer-term enterprise. Businesses of all kinds provide line management arrangements, where a senior oversees the work of several juniors. It is the working of this relationship that determines whether it is mentoring and developmental or judgemental and purely target driven.
Both approaches exist, but, I would want to argue that the mentoring, developmental approach, supported by clearly articulated goals, has the capacity to significantly enhance an organisation, where more simplistic judgements may diminish.
For a number of years, as a Linked Tutor for two universities and as tutor and quality assurance with a Teaching School, I have taken a number of roles in developing mentors, from initial familiarisation with the role, to overseeing mentor development throughout the training year.
As a relative outsider, I have an interesting role within any particular school; bringing some expertise to share, which will then be enacted through the lens of the mentoring teacher and colleagues, within the context of class specifics and school resources. Anyone who’s been in teaching for any length of time will know that there is a need to adapt to changing circumstances. This, in itself, can be challenging for a new entrant, who may well need to be supported in this regard, especially if they have come from environments where they have been “in control” of their in-tray.
As a personal preference, I would wish to see any school taking trainees, from any provider, considering themselves as mentoring (training) schools, and I have, on occasion, trained a whole staff, particularly where they are entering a training partnership for the first time. In this way, everyone becomes a part of a mentoring team, sharing responsibilities and responding appropriately to requests from trainees for advice or information. It also helps to create a self-help, collegiate environment; the mentor does not then have to be a member of management.
Where the classteacher is the mentor, able to offer informal as well as more formal development commentaries, I use the idea of the “parrot on the shoulder” as an aide memoire. In other words it’s ok for a mentor to advise a course of action during a lesson, to embed specific skills in timely fashion. A debrief after the event is much less effective, as it may rely on remembering specific points in the lesson.
We start at 1.30pm, to allow for time to eat as well as travel to the venue.
All mentors and trainees come together in July, before the training year, to have time to converse, to consider the initial paperwork needs and familiarise themselves with the course demands, including the mentor and teacher standards.
It is helpful if annual diaries are planned with overview aims, so that all parties are aware of course demands as well as school requirements.
The training overview covers:-
September (Focus Teacher Standards 87143). Creating a positive training context; order and organisation; revisit the Teacher Standards and paperwork (tracking development), especially trainee using reflective journal effectively. Weekly developmental dialogue.
November. Focus on Teacher Standards 265; knowing the children, positive, supportive interactions and reflecting on outcomes (light-touch moderation). Starting to think holistically over a known timescale; weekly/fortnightly expectations. Term end reflections and summation of specific children.
January. Second placement Repeating the sequence of the first two meetings, especially for new mentors (identify individual needs for follow-up visits) Moderation in different key stage, annotated examples and reflections. Lead to summative dialogue. NB. During the short experience, the substantive mentor visits the short practice school to undertake a joint observation as a form of moderation and mutual support.
February/March Return to substantive placement, rapidly to 80% teaching load. Mentor support to keep up with paperwork and to provide detailed coaching advice. Looking at the learning needs of specific individuals and teacher interactions to enhance learning opportunities.
May/June. Whole year reflections, preparation for final reports and judgements, evaluation of mentor roles and training, adjustments for following year.
While there are formal elements of paperwork to be fulfilled, much of the experience hinges on the personal relationships that start in the July before the training year, between mentor and trainee and within the trainee group; the trainees seem to get together and organise a social media group as a support network.
Training to become a teacher is mostly down to supported self-development through guided reflection.
The day to day life of a teacher is a solitary, or small team existence, within their own classroom, so trainees have to become self-reliant, independent team leaders and members.
Within a well-planned structure, they have a chance.
Where trainees struggle, it is usually down to communication issues, of curriculum expectations/late planning details, in either direction. Schools can forget that they are hosting trainees right up until the end of the course, with the school providing much of the front-line practical training, whether HE or SD routes.
If I had to try to summarise the “steps to potential success, I’d propose:-
· Work in and as a team to…
· Plan effectively over different time scales, including timely meetings with support colleagues and appropriate in-house experts,
· talk regularly, communicate clearly,
· reflect and evaluate together; honestly,
· consider both subject knowledge and pedagogy,
· regularly discuss individual children using annotated outcomes as first-hand evidence,
· develop an investigative approach to anomalies,
· use feedback as support for reflection and enhancing personal approaches.
And always cognisant that it’s a human system, subject to human frailty.
Teaching is a challenging role, from time to time it will get tough, with issues inside or outside school control. Developing teachers is a mixture of challenge and support, by a colleague with the skills to balance both to good effect.