What a good mentor needs to know about trainees teachers.

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What does a trainee teacher need? Essentially three things: the acquisition of subject knowledge, the understanding of a school’s systems and processes, and a sufficient understanding of pedagogy to begin constructing a sense of themselves as teachers. Most training of teachers, and certainly most school mentors, focus on those three aspects.But what about the wellbeing of those trainee teachers and their capacity to be resilient in that year and beyond?With such a large percentage of teachers leaving in the first three years, any research that provides an insight is valuable.

The investigation into teacher wellbeing during the teacher trainee year represents a small but interesting piece of research conducted by Sarah Turner and Nigel Zanker of Loughborough University. Their investigation drew on wider bodies of research but focused down on a small cohort of trainee teachers.

Turner and Zanker note the emotional impact of teaching on the trainees, and the vulnerability of teachers to the stresses and strains of such an interactive and demanding profession. ‘Teachers are vulnerable; interaction is at the core of the teaching profession, whether it is with pupils, staff or parents and many comments can be damaging and taken personally by the novice or trainee teacher’ (pp22).

Moving the training through levels of professional learning, from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence and in to conscious competence, demands a highly skilled mentor. For the trainees in this study the high points of that progression were related to gaining rapport with students, engaging in extra-curricular activities and developing the quality of the classroom practice.The low points were dealing with the workload. The strategies that they identified as helping them to progress were: keeping in touch with other trainees, getting involved with school activities, actually acting on the advice of the mentor and seeking to observe more proficient and experienced teachers.

The study noted that: ‘Mature trainees in both subjects were independent however appeared to lack confidence (and require reassurance) in their new workplace when carrying out lesson plans or associated tasks.’ (pp28)

The three conclusions of the research were that supporting the development of emotional intelligence, providing strategies to encourage wellbeing and having an alert sensitivity to the warning signs of a struggling trainee were the three most important functions of an effective mentor.

You can read the full research article in ‘Design and Technology Education: An International Journal (17:2)

Coaching is a proven strategy for supporting trainees but it can be a struggle for schools to provide it. Trust Me Coaching is available 24/7 and has the advantage of giving mentors supervisory access to check on the trainee's progress. Find out more.

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