Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Necessity for a Good Mentor

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” - William Arthur Ward

As a teacher, I try to make analogies in my lessons. And I remember the analogy that my English teacher told me when I was 15 and that I like to think about in my classroom. As the teacher, I am the students' manager/coach. It is my job to ensure that I get every last inch of effort out of them when they are thinking so that they learn. Just as the coach has to ensure that they get their players to perform when it comes to match day. Just as the students are my players, I have automatically looked to colleagues to be my coach in a similar fashion.

The role of a mentor whilst you are learning to be a teacher is invaluable. Both in the teacher training and NQT year, a good mentor can be the difference between some teachers succeeding and some quitting the profession which I saw first hand with some of my coursemates during my PGCE. I was fortunate to have a great mentor during my PGCE and in my NQT year. Similarly, I experienced a few days back at my old school watching my old English teacher at work and see him as a mentor as well.

The mentor does not have to be an 'assigned' mentor that you are assigned to by the course/school. For instance, the person I see as my mentor on my PGCE was acting Head of Department at the time.  I was extremely lucky that he devoted a significant amount of time to help me out, but just someone who you can observe and watch could conceivably be a mentor. 

A good mentor usually holds some of the following characteristics:

1. Someone you can look up to - Both my PGCE and school mentor were young men. They were ambitious. They were funny. They expected lots from their students. They were forward thinking. They made their students learn. These were all the characteristics I wanted and could see myself having once I had established myself as a teacher. 

2. Someone who cares - There are assigned mentors who simply don't care about new teachers. They see their role as an extra burden or an added point and don't give up any time to help you become the teacher that you want to be. A mentor has to care about people; luckily a lot of teachers do (bit worrying if they didn't to be honest) but there are some who couldn't give a monkeys I'm afraid.

3. Someone you can learn from - This doesn't have to be their actual teaching behaviours. But instead, can they coach you to be the best teacher that you can be? My NQT mentor was fantastic at barely commenting on what she thought I'd done well/wrong but instead focused on what I thought went well. She was absolutely fantastic in steering me to be reflective at all times. Despite her being an aggressive Scottish lady and me being a mild-mannered Yorkshireman, I managed to learn so much from her coaching style rather than necessarily her teaching behaviours.

4. Someone you can relate to - Despite being men in a predominantly female department and fairly young, both my school and PGCE mentor were already driving the teaching and learning of their respective schools. They were respected by their colleagues and students. They were bloody good teachers. They were where I wanted to be in 7/8 years time and I could potentially see what I could achieve if I put in the same amount of effort and dedication as they did. used to work in Digital PR. I got out of the industry for various reasons but one was because I saw where a colleague, very similar to me, was and what type of work he was doing only ten years older. In comparison, seeing those teachers in their element made me ponder what on earth I was doing wasting all those years not teaching. 

5. Someone who can inspire you - Their lessons were brilliant and inspired the students. I wanted that. They inspired me to want to inspire others. 

Thanks to all three mentors.

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