As a mentor to new teachers, it can be easy to feel lost in defining your role - sometimes you can feel as if you are guide, teacher, coach, mentor, example, parent, ego-booster, tissue-provider, listener, truth-speaker and many, many more all at once! Navigating this role takes resilience and reflection each time you take on a new mentee, not least because every teacher that crosses your classroom or office threshold brings their own unique mix of worries, strengths and possibilities. Bearing this variety in mind, we have considered some of the possible scenarios you may come across in your time as a mentor and some approaches you could try.
You are younger than your NQT
With more and more training programmes encouraging mature study for teaching, this is happening a lot. You may find yourself decades (literally) younger than your mentee! Sometimes this is unimportant to either of you, but for your own confidence it is important to remember that, when it comes to teaching, you are the more experienced professional. Speak to older NQTs with the same respect as you would to someone younger but ensure that you expect the same back from them too. In this setting, whatever their previous experience, you are the relative expert. That being said, make the most of their previous life and professional experiences by asking them to reflect and bring what they have learned into their teaching practice.
Your mentee has taken your ‘open door’ policy to heart and is dropping in almost daily
Firstly, never make an ‘open door’ policy! The early stages of the mentor-mentee relationship are the time to set clear boundaries, for the benefit of both of you. If you haven’t already - it’s not too late! The important message to get across from now on is that you are there as their support but you are also a busy professional with responsibilities beyond the NQT. Set times for your meetings (as far as possible, make these at a regular time in a regular place) and also clarify which times in the week you would be available for them to drop in. It is not only acceptable, but vital to your wellbeing and theirs, that they know that in an emergency they can speak to you (or anyone in the school),but beyond that you are not endlessly available. Be firm early - it will help the NQT in the long run as they will start to self-manage and decide which issues are worth waiting to see you and which they can solve alone or with help from another.
Your NQT seems to require a significant amount of regular, emotional support
Different people respond to the process of teacher training differently. Some take everything to heart, some nothing, and every spot on the spectrum in between! It won’t take long for you to see where your NQT falls on this spectrum. Providing emotional support is an important role for a mentor, and you must know that you are robust enough to deal with the fallout from a personal or professional crisis. However, if this support is more regular than rare, then it is time to consult the professional tutor, the NQT Service, your headteacher etc. In short, don’t carry the load of an emotionally vulnerable NQT alone - you need professional support, whatever your experience, and your NQT will benefit from the involvement of others.
You find that you need to keep rescheduling or cancelling your mentor meetings
Things happen - especially in a school! Add in a home life and on occasion you will find yourself needing to reschedule or even cancel a mentor meeting. However, this last-minute change must be an exception and not a rule. These weekly meetings are vital for the NQT’s development and wellbeing and it is your responsibility to ensure this stability for them. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the regularity, your first job is to look at your own time management - can you change the meeting to a more suitable time? Also, these meetings can and should be shared - who else could run a session for your NQT? Planned in advance, sessions with colleagues such as safeguarding leads, trip planners, RQTs and behaviour managers can allow you time to get back on track and are superb CPD for your NQT.
Ultimately, if mentoring is the role for you, it is a hugely rewarding experience for all involved. The successful mentor is there to provide support, guidance and encouragement, whilst maintaining professional boundaries and modelling work-life balance.
Remember the Sussex NQT Service provides a multitude of resources, support and advice and all our blogs are available on www.fulcrumlearning.co.uk/blog. To listen to this blog go to: https://youtu.be/Wk-zIoWhQh4