When I was training to become a teacher, my mentor was everything. She was not just my professional and subject mentor, but also my personal mentor.
Her leadership and encouragement shaped me as a teacher and made that year bearable. Two years later, I was asked to mentor my first trainee. My mentor made it look so easy, but it wasn’t until my first observation that I learnt the joys and challenges of mentoring.
We all remember how dreadful and nerve-racking our first lessons were. The projector stopped working mid-observation, the class register wouldn’t load and year 10 on a Friday afternoon was painful. But we all survived because of our mentor’s reassurance.
Remain optimistic and remind your mentees that teaching is a learning curve. They may have created a perfect lesson plan, but classrooms are unpredictable, and it may not always go as planned. So, onwards and upwards!
2. Give concise and specific feedback
Listing all of the things that did and didn’t go well throughout the lesson can be overwhelming. Instead, narrow your feedback to two or three overall strengths, and one or two targets for development.
Try and relate all your feedback to the teaching standards and provide evidence from the lesson. E.g. you plan and teach a well-structured lesson – there are clear learning objectives and outcome on the board.
3. Any criticism should be constructive
When giving targets, offer some actions for development, e.g. assessment for learning – ensure that all pupils are participating by using whiteboards and circulate throughout the lesson. You should use SMART targets which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Try to avoid saying ‘I think’ because feedback should be objective and based on evidence from the lesson. Just like our pupils, we learn from our mistakes, so make sure your targets are solution-based.
4. Encourage them to see outstanding practice
When training to become a teacher, it is easy to pick up habits, both good and bad. Therefore, it is essential that your mentee observes outstanding teaching and implements this in their own practice.
If time allows, go to the insights together and encourage your mentee to reflect on their teaching methods. This is also useful for you as a mentor as you can improve your own practice!
Mentoring is a privilege. But with great power, comes great responsibility. In the busy school environment, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and overshadowed, so give your mentee a helping hand.
You are their role model, leader and first point of call, so be compassionate!
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About our Community Expert
Over 5 years of experience in educational settings throughout London, Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst studying English Literature and Language at King’s College London and the University of North Carolina, she fell in love with her subject - both the study of literature and craft of writing.
After graduating, she completed the Leadership Development Programme with Teach First, whose mission is to provide equality through education, and attained her PGCE in Secondary English at Canterbury Christ Church University. She was then appointed as Deputy Head of English at one of the highest performing schools in England in a London inner-city academy.
Following this, she completed her Leadership and Management MA at University College London (Institute of Education) and became the director of an English Language company based in Barcelona.
Simi is our English Literature and Language Expert.