What sort of mentor did you have when you were a newly qualified teacher (NQT)? The super-organised kind who provided schemes of work, class lists and seating plans? Or the kind who handed over a pile of textbooks with a look of disdain and spoke no more than three words to you the entire year?
How we feel about our NQT year is heavily dependent on the mentor we had. Indeed, a significant portion of how we feel about teaching as a profession and what we think a good lesson looks like will be down to them.
From years of mentoring, I have learned a thing or two about how to offer the right kind of support while also getting the most out of the experience yourself.
If you will be mentoring a NQT in September, keep these pointers in mind.
- Coach, don’t preach
Try to avoid saying things like, "This is what you do with that class" or "You should teach it like this". You want to foster NQTs who learn to solve problems for themselves and don’t become reliant on you for answers. Instead, ask them questions such as "Why do you think that happened?" or "What would have made that better?"
- Be upbeat and enthusiastic
Subject mentors should be positive about their subject and teaching. You should be fanatical about longshore drift/reflexive pronouns/Magna Carta (delete as appropriate) and as a result so should your NQT. Model to the trainee how you go about developing your own subject knowledge and investigating new ways to teach. Steer away from comments like "I’ve never liked teaching about the Common Agricultural Policy – it’s just so boring!"
- Be professional
Show your trainee that things like being punctual and dressing appropriately are important. Impress upon them that their manner and appearance will have a genuine impact on how their students see them. They have a duty of care, real responsibilities and they are fully accountable; as such, they must act accordingly.
- Don’t do their work for them
It may sound unbelievable, but I know mentors who are so nice that they have offered to take some of their NQT's marking home with them because they can see that their trainee is struggling. This is incredibly kind – and above and beyond what is expected of a mentor – but ultimately it won’t help the NQT to become better at managing their own workload.
- Learn from them
Having an NQT in the department might sometimes make you feel a bit old and dusty, but it is a golden opportunity to learn new teaching strategies. They should have lots of ideas and knowledge of novel technology and resources. If they show you something you’ve never seen before, don’t pretend you knew about it already; be open to embracing it.
Chris Powell is head of Year 10, professional mentor and specialist leader in education at Parmiter’s School in Hertfordshire