Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tutor Teacher/Mentor - What Does It Take?

What does it take to be a good tutor teacher, associate teacher or mentor to a new teacher or a teacher in training? What are the most important information and support systems that we can provide to others who are finding their way in the profession?

  1. Be honest with student teachers/beginning teachers. Give feedback that reflects what they are doing well but also give them areas to grow in. Make it direct, simple and totally honest. We don't do anyone any favours when we make things appear better than they are. We cannot grow if we don't think we need to.
  2. Recognise their strengths - make sure you value what the student teacher/beginning teacher brings as strengths and help them to grow these areas to be even stronger. We all need to feel confident about what we can do and this really helps to raise teacher-esteem!
  3. Value teachers - people need to be valued, whatever role they undertake, no matter how big or small, how simple or significant, we all like to be valued for who we are and what can we can do.
  4. Model - model, model, doesn't always have to be YOU who is modelling a lesson, so encourage student teachers/beginning teachers to visit lots of classrooms so that they can take the best of everybody with them into their classroom. But it should always be your goal to be a modelling professionalism in everything that you do. Student teachers learn how we feel about our vocation through how we behave in AND out of school hours.
  5. Relationships - model how positive relationships work, advise on how to deal with relationships when things sour in the workplace, even if this is out of your experience-pool. It's more important to have a toolkit for when things go wrong than a banner for when things go right!
  6. Time - no matter how busy we get in teaching, if we are in a position where we are mentoring a colleague or working with a BT/student teacher, then they DESERVE our time. Not 5 minutes at the end of the day, but quality pre-arranged time when they are the focus and when we are able to concentrate, undisturbed on their needs. This gives real merit to number 3. You show someone their worth often by the time you give them.
  7. Eyes - be observant. It is often in the 'un-said' that we are able to observe how someone is feeling and how their professional relationships are and much, much more. So be vigilant with watching the person you are responsible for.
  8. Ears - listening is a far more important vessel than speaking when you are a guide. If we are available to listen and prepared to hear, then BT/student teacher or colleagues will likely talk about the tough stuff, especially if they feel that someone really wants to listen.
  9. Recognise the warning signs - when things go downhill they often gather momentum VERY quickly and the slide becomes a rip downward. Know what the person's weak points are and learn to look diligently for them. If you start to see the cracks then it is time to act. Don't wait until they have hit the wall to intervene, it's a long way back up the hill...
  10. Wise council - when you have done the listening, the looking and the modelling, as well as observing and giving feedback, it is the perfect time to give some words of wisdom. But be careful - we are NOT judge, jury and executioner. Remind yourself that you HAVE been exactly where they are and try to keep it in your mind that EVERYTHING is new and challenging, no matter how confident or competent a BT/student teacher may be. Be kind in your words but make sure you are very clear too when giving guidance. Try to remember the importance of HONESTY and that you are in a mentor's role where feedback and strong guidance are important.
And remember to enjoy this time - you are in a role where you are able to impact on the career of a teacher/future teacher which is such a treasure. One day they will hopefully look back and remember fondly what they learnt from you, just as you would want any former student to do, so treat them with the same respect that give to anyone in your classroom.

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