How to make the most of your mentor

Want to get your teaching career off to a flying start? Then you need to make sure you develop a good relationship with your mentor, say teachers Tim Potter and Rory Gallagher
NQT Mentor

Your mentor for your newly qualified teacher year doesn't have to be your friend – although many do become just that– but you do have to have a good working relationship with them: they will be key to your success for the year.

At the most basic level, a mentor is there to ensure you receive the support you need, and that you successfully meet the Teachers’ Standards. They are your first port of call when you have any questions – about your classes, about the school or anything in your personal life that could impact on your professional life.

Your mentor should also be responsible for ensuring that the school has attended to the basics. Your school must register you with the relevant local authority or appropriate body so that your NQT year can be correctly validated. It is worth checking with your mentor that this has been done, as well as confirming that you have the 10 per cent reduction in timetable compared with main scale teachers.

Your mentor should ensure that you are familiar with school policies, in particular those concerning safeguarding and behaviour management. If anything is confusing you need to get clarification.

How primary NQTs can ensure they get the most from mentors

Self-evaluation: Discuss your needs with your mentor. Remember, he or she will know how to help and will get you the support you need. It is then up to you to put their ideas and suggestions into practice.

Timetable: Obviously, the vast majority of your time in school will be spent with your class. However, your mentor must ensure that you are given the required non-contact time, which is in addition to the usual planning, preparation and assessment release from class. Possible uses of this time could be observing other classes, visiting other schools or attending courses that the local authority has provided.

Contact time: Time with your mentor is vitally important in your first term, as it will help you to form a bond as well as provide the opportunity to discuss strengths and areas for development in your practice. At each meeting a record should be kept of the discussion, which should include progress from the previous meeting and specific targets on which to work.

Observations: There will need to be half-termly lesson observations, agreed in advance with your mentor and these should form part of the action plan. Feedback after lessons should be on the same day where possible. An open discussion of the pros and cons of the lesson, with target setting, is the best way forward. Although it may be difficult, be prepared to argue your case if you disagree with aspects of the feedback.

Tim Potter, deputy headteacher at Gomer Junior School, Gosport, Hampshire 

How secondary NQTs can ensure they get the most from mentors

Self-evaluation: You will need a folder (online or paper) in which to keep your career entry and development profile (CEDP). These forms are no longer mandatory but provide a useful reflection on your year as a trainee teacher, and allow you to start the year with a clearly defined action plan and targets for development. In your folder you will keep records of observed lessons, including lesson plans and feedback forms (and your reflections on these).

Record keeping: Your NQT folders will be lighter than the ones you have been keeping during your training year. You will not need to record plans and evaluations of every single lesson, and you will not need to include three pieces of evidence for each standard. However, it is good practice to keep your folder up to date, and you will benefit from this reflective process.

Contact time: You will have a formal meeting with your subject mentor every half term, in which you will look at how you are progressing and where the school can offer you further support if necessary. You will also hopefully meet more often than that to look at how your day-today teaching is going, and perhaps to plan and evaluate lessons together.

Observations: Your mentor will observe you at least once every half term. These observations, together with feedback from your meetings, will allow the school to ensure that your professional development is appropriate to your individual needs.

Other sources of help: At the start of the year, it’s useful to have a reflective session with other NQTs at your school to go through a series of questions that will help you think ahead to when you may need support and aid you in preparing for those times. Building a support network early in the year will be crucial.

Rory Gallagher teaches at Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester