What I know now – Memories of a first year teacher.

classroo teacher marking

I recently hopped back on to Twitter and have been delving into the #edutwitter, #edchat areas looking for like minded folk to follow and get their perspectives on the world of education (partly for ideas/inspiration, mostly because I am nosy).

One thing I have noticed is the number of beginning teachers on there getting fantastic advice from educators with a variety of experience, from fellow first years, NQT’s, HOF’s and even Principals. I never thought to go to Twitter to seek advice in my first year, although now I wish I had! Such a gold mine of information!

Reading these first year teachers current conundrums and queries got me feeling reminiscent of my first year. Granted it wasn’t that long ago, I’m currently technically in my 4th year of teaching (including my training year), but already I feel so far away from who I was in that first year. There are a few challenges from my first year, that when I reflect on them now, I see them in a brand new light. Mainly regarding my mentor…

In my training school I had both a subject mentor, and a professional mentor. They both had different roles for helping me out, but my subject mentor should have been the one that I had most contact with. Regular meetings and observations were required for me to collect necessary evidence to gain QTS. However, my subject mentor was already the Second in Charge of Science and Head of Key Stage 3, a pretty busy teacher. I would schedule meetings, only for them to be cancelled. I got an observation about once a fortnight (I was supposed to have 2 a week to pass the course).

As you can imagine, for me as a new teacher, struggling to get any time with my mentor for meetings, barely hitting the required observation numbers each week, I felt like I was falling behind and became resentful. Why were they not helping me and doing their job?! I had meetings with my professional mentor about this, airing my concerns, they agreed that I was not getting enough support from my subject mentor and would look into it (side note: the professional mentor was a paid role, given an office, had dedicated time and resources and very few teaching hours for their role).

Christmas arrived, and for the first 6 weeks of Term 2, I was scheduled to be on placement at a different school (I had a different, crazy experience there – but that is a whole other blog post). So I stopped worrying about my mentor at my home school, and cracked on with the job at hand. When I got back to school after the 6 weeks – I had a new mentor! A teacher, with barely any additional responsibility, but who was experienced enough in the classroom that they were able to spend time with me and help me gather all the required evidence for my evidence folder. I felt so lucky to have my new mentor and was assured that my original mentor had not been told that I had complained about them, but instead given an excuse as to why they were not mentoring me anymore (although, from the frosty feeling in the office in my first week back, I suspected otherwise…).

Fast forward to June, I had passed my QTS, my folder of evidence was barely even looked at by my University (I am definitely not bitter that I spent hours on it, only for it to be ignored….). I got my certificate, I was finally a teacher! Legit!

Looking back on it now, knowing how much work you have on a full teaching load, knowing the pressures of student data collection and analysis, knowing how hard it is to get cover to observe other teachers, I feel so awful for my first mentor. There was no financial incentive to be a mentor, it was more a case of being told at the start of the year ‘you are doing this’. No extra time was given. Some training was provided, but due to a communication breakdown, my first mentor did not attend this (believing it to be the same training already attended in the previous year – alas no, they had completly changed the programme). This meant we spent the first month recording our meetings and evidence completly wrong and I had to go back and change it all…

I guess what I am saying is… Mentors should be taken a bit more seriously. I am not sure how the mentoring system works in other schools, but I believe that if you are expecting a teacher to give up their non-contact time to effectively train a new teacher, there needs to be more incentive to do so, otherwise they resent it and the trainee feels unsupported. More training needs to be provided too, if mentors were provided with additional CPD to make them confident in what they are doing, this would positively impact on the trainee teacher too.

I am glad that I was able to build a positive working relationship with my original mentor in the years that followed, I think we both had a mutual understand that it worked out better for both of us in the long run…

Despite this experience, becoming a mentor myself is something I would really like to do. I am considering joining onto TES’s mentor training to upskill myself incase the opportunity arises. I see mentoring as a way for me to keep my own skills sharp and have the best impact on future teachers. Hopefully, given my own experience, I would be able to provide the support required. We need more teachers, and I am happy to do my bit to help out!

Do you have any experiences as a mentor or trainee teacher that resonate with mine? Are there any other training programmes available for wannabe mentors??

Thanks for reading! 😀

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