Sunday, 13 September 2015

Lack of mentor suppport - what you can do

Following from my last post, the biggest let down of my year was poor mentoring and I have been asked a good question about what others in the same situation as me could do in the future.

This is a very hard topic for any student to get over and in the end led to my failing - but is there anything that can be done about it?

When I was going through it, I felt like there was simply nobody to talk to - after all as a student what did I really know? Who was going to believe a student complaining about a fully qualified teacher who has been picked as a mentor due to the trust the school already has in them.

In the end I took the opinion to keep my head down, work through it and hope for the best. That plan failed!

Looking back I wish I had done something sooner and at least tried to make a difference. I made notes during this period of when I had felt let down but I kept them to myself, instead I should have taken this as evidence to a more senior teacher as a concern. I will never know if it would have been taken seriously but at least I could have looked back knowing I had tried.

It is important to add that if you are thinking of doing this, you should have evidence to back it up - such as examples of when you have been let down. That way you have substance to your complaint and are more likely to be taken seriously.

I believe this though is simply making the best of a bad situation, I think the actual answer lies at the responsibility of the university. A process should be put in place and largely advertised to help with the student-mentor relationship.

Whether it be the mentor's fault, the student's fault, or simply if the two just don't get on, there should be a way to have a change of mentor. Now I'm not saying it is the answer to every problem - a lot should just be worked through, however if this has been tried and not worked then there needs to be a quick way to get a new mentor,

Just to finish, I reported back my issues to the course leader with the hope that others don't have to go through the same mentors as me - I just hope this was taken on board and new mentors put in place for the following year's intake.

My story - 3 years on

It has taken me three years to tell this but reading about the latest intake of PGCE students has inspired me to tell what happened on my course and why this blog has gone quiet for three years.
I have so much respect for every teacher out there and anyone who is going along that career path, all of whom I hope has a lot better experience than what I went through below.

As you may have gathered by now, my PGCE finished in an awful fashion - I was let down by my school and mentors, all of which led to me leaving what could have been my dream career in tears.

It all ended so quickly at the end of my second teaching practice (TP2) which was based at a partner school, a school with no character and a very hypocritical mentor who seemingly had no interest or time for me.

After two weeks of my TP2, all seemed to be going fine (if not enjoyable), we broke up for February half-term and on that last day had a long discussion with my mentor who was ticking off all the traits I had shown in those two weeks - nearly all of the necessary teaching points were covered and at the end of the discussion there was just a couple that needed to be completed in the final week when we returned from the holiday - all usual stuff.

That half-term was spend working everyday so I could finish successfully and finally wave goodbye to my partner school. However everything changed the first day back.

I was greeted by my mentor from my main school (who wasn't much better), she pulled me aside and her tone changed, from having been passing all the points prior to half-term, the bombshell came out that in fact she thought I hadn't even done enough to pass and raised me as a cause for concern - even making out she was doing me a favour by extending my TP by a week to give a chance to pass.

If that change in tone wasn't enough of a shock to me, the worst aspect was the points she was bringing up that I was failing on. The biggest of which was her reference to me having not provided work for a statemented child in my class for English and Maths. This was a child who was so low was taken away every lesson for one-on-one time with the TA and was never part of my class. I had never been told that I had to create work for him at any point, and even when I was shadowing - no part of it was ever with him as I was told that he gets on with his own stuff. If I was simply told I needed to provide work then I would have.

I drove home in tears and back to school the next day crying in the car thinking what was I going to do (I never cry!). The career I had fought so hard for was getting away from me and I had a decision to make. Do I carry on, battling in the vain hope that the vast amounts of work they told to do on top of my original workload would pay off, or do I admit defeat and look elsewhere.

It was one of the hardest decisions I have made and the reasoning why I took it may not be what upcoming PGCE students want to hear - but the whole point of this blog is honesty.
The honest answer is that the crazy workload simply didn't outweigh the small amount of reward that you get from helping the children.

I signed up to a PGCE and teaching due to having worked with children before and the tremendous amount of joy that can be gained from helping them achieve, however I found that the PGCE zapped all of this reward out of the job and turned the role into a constant monitoring to ensure you have ticked every lesson box, rather than do what is right for the children.

By this, I mean things like ensuring a 'warm up' challenge was precisely 5 minutes, every 15 minute or so the whole class had to be stopped for an 'appraisal' again the ending had to be 5 minutes - no less, no more. Gone was the option to go with what was working - the class could be really involved in their work but it still had to be stopped just so you were ticking a box in an observation.
The kids learning seemed to be of secondary importance in any grading, with those kind of steps above the deciding factor between satisfactory/good/outstanding lesson.

I have decided to reopen this blog and write more about my experiences as I feel it will be of use to a lot of you out there battling through the workload and thinking why I am doing this.

Take this ending as you want but my view is that I wish teaching was what it should be in terms of a rewarding role and a lifestyle to be proud of. However the happiest part of my whole PGCE year was the day after I quit as all the stress had been lifted and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

I now am lucky to have worked my way up into a job where I work less hours and get paid more so I can spend more time with my family, which for me is a lot more rewarding than all those hours in a classroom.