Posted by: markhowell101 | August 30, 2010

Your PGCE Mentor

Having gone through the PGCE process I had 2 mentors at 2 different schools who were chalk and cheese in terms of their expectations of me. I also worked closely with several other PGCE’s and saw how other mentors operate. I therefore feel reasonably well qualified to comment on the relationship between trainee and mentor and how this can made to work for both of you.

In all probability you will become very close to your mentor during your time in school but you will probably meet them before you start. This first impression is important. My first mentor has since openly admitted to me that he thought I would be rubbish at teaching from the moment we met right up until the point I taught my first lesson. He said when I walked in the room with unkept long hair, ripped jeans and a lip piercing he feared the worst. Thankfully I was always enthusiastic and so he kept faith in me long enough for me to demonstrate that I was probably going to be better than rubbish. On first meeting be confident and enthusiastic about the challenges ahead but avoid being arrogant which obviously never goes down well with someone who has much much more experience than you. Try to learn about the school, the department and the catchment in that first meeting.

In the early stages, before you start teaching, try to spend as much time in class with them as possible. Firstly be helpful, help students out, help keep an eye on or even manage unruly students and ask questions after lessons as to why certain things were done in certain ways. All this will be helpful when you come to taking the class for yourself.

You will be likely to see your mentor teach a number of times before you start. They are likely to be an experienced teacher who is held in some regard in the school and it is very easy to just want to copy what they do. Whilst you should take notes on how they operate and try to pick up as many tips as possible do not try to be just like them. You need to be yourself in a class and have your own style and so therefore avoid acting just like them.

My 2 mentors were very different and as such I had to be quite a different teacher in my 2 placements. Possibly this was down to experience, possibly down to them trying to get me to fit into the ethos and requirements of operating in very different environments and possibly this was just down to their very different styles. My first mentor was very relaxed in class management but also a really interesting guy who the kids really liked. He emphasised getting along with the kids and teaching really interesting lessons (I remember him saying “if I am bored so are they, so make it interesting”) but by OFSTED standards my lessons in first placement were well short of the mark. He did fill me with lots of confidence and that was a good thing in the early stages. My second mentor was by the book and had been training teachers for 20 years. Lessons plans, learning objectives, class management were all dot every I and cross every t. Whilst it took a little adjustment I realised this was what I needed after my first one and the combination of the 2 made me better than had I been with just one. Barely a day goes by though where I do not remember some piece of advice or wisdom passed on by both of them. My point to take from this really is regardless of the extent to which you get along with your mentor and regardless of how much their style may differ from yours you will learn a great deal just from operating around them. You may not even realise their impact until you begin NQT fending for yourself.

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