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Are inadequate mentors to blame for poor teacher training experiences?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jun 25, 2018.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    One supply teacher recalls her experience with a nightmare mentor, which demonstrates how poor teacher training could be helping to fuel the recruitment crisis:

    ‘Some of the biggest headlines revolve around the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. A big part of this is the state of teacher training. And we don't talk about it enough…

    My mentor was nothing short of evil. She did not provide even one of the obligatory one-hour mentoring sessions to support me. During normal lessons, when she would casually observe me, her feedback was positive. However, when the formal observations came round she proceeded to ridicule my performance, each time providing the exact same feedback.

    At first, I was distraught, thinking that my teaching performance was inadequate, and I considered leaving the profession.

    …I sought assistance from my university staff. The head of the course told me to “play the game” and essentially get on with it. My tutor completely disregarded my issues and sided with my mentor. He did nothing to help my situation.’

    The writer is a supply teacher in the South West of England

    What are your thoughts on this issue? Are poor mentors having a detrimental effect on the profession and on recruitment? What measures do you think need to be introduced to ensure that the right people are put forward/utilised as mentors? Did you have a good or bad experience with your mentor? If you had a poor mentor what made you decide to stay in the profession? What do you think made your mentor a good one?

    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  2. peter12171

    peter12171 Lead commenter

    Poor mentors during training definitely have an impact.

    Poor mentors during the NQT year is another issue that needs addressing.
  3. grumbleweed

    grumbleweed Lead commenter

    I think there is something in that. I remember many moons ago being an NQT mentor to a teacher who had a class of 14 and couldn't cope with the fact that she had to differentiate her planning. She was equally shocked that she had to write reports and sometimes stay at school after 3.3pm. It was down to her training, she was completely unprepared and out of her depth. She quit half way through the year saying she wish she'd known how difficult it was. How she passed of course was a different matter.
    Equally i've mentored amazing student teachers and NQTS who have had really good support so I think it makes a huge difference.
    stonerose and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  4. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    I think that mainly poor behaviour of kids + publicity over lack of respect from parents, media and government leads to poor recruitment. The poor experience that trainees have in school due to this and the sheer amount of work required leads to poor retention. And let’s not forget the poor pay progresssion compared with other careers, if they get in and stay in for 3 or 4 years.
    There are good and bad mentors. Some are forced into being so ( ups or lead practioners) why should they make an effort ( devils advocate) ? There are no incentives to being a mentor in our school, 1 extra ppa which is devoted to the trainee’s mentor meeting. Classes disrupted by trainees initial attempts. No one wants to mentor student teachers; we’ve got too much else to do. Anyway some of us just bumble on and do our best in the little time we can devote. The trainees deserve a better process, I just don’t know what it is though.
  5. carterkit

    carterkit Occasional commenter

    I wonder whether some people are becoming mentors at too early a stage in their own careers. I am aware of people becoming mentors in their RQT and even NQT years. The problem with this has been that they have very little experience to go on and sometimes have tended not to value students whose teaching style is very different from their own. There is very little or no training for mentors in some places and people are forced to make it up as they go along which is hard if you have little or no experience to fall back on.
    Another issue is subject knowledge among students. The weaker the subject knowledge the tougher the job and the more time spent in preparing and planning. I have out of necessity spent the majority of mentor sessions coaching students in their subjects rather than in how to teach. I have also had to step in - tactfully - and take over lessons because the student was teaching pupils something that was just plain wrong. This was not a comfortable situation for me or my mentee and I am aware that I am not the only mentor who has had to do this.
    Last year I mentored two student teachers and was given no extra time at all. One was extremely weak and took up a good 4 or more hours of my time each week. (Their next placement school actually kicked them out after three weeks.) This then comes back to the issue of workload. I really enjoy mentoring and coaching and have done so for several years. However an overworked and therefore potentially stressed mentor is not the ideal and this year I just refused as I felt I simply could no longer offer my best.
    stonerose, hammie, chelsea2 and 4 others like this.
  6. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Likewise I have mentored some amazing teachers, one of whom became head of my dept and my boss! One or two deadbeats who didn't really try or were just not suited to the job. I recall my main teaching practice where I was put into the charge of some strange wild woman. I taught about 50% of her TT which as far as she was concerned meant she was part time so she went home when I was teaching. She was as mad as a box of frogs. Last I heard she was on trial for murder!
  7. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    I recall one young lady who was big on confidence but very short of subject knowledge and life in general. She took over one of my yr 7 classes. I gave her a choice of topics to do with them but she insisted that she wanted to teach the reproduction topic. I suggested that she should start with something a little less controversial but she was adamant. So she prepped her first lesson and and I sat in the office at the side of the classroom with the door open. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud as the kids just tied her up in knots asking all sorts of personal and inappropriate questions. At the end of the lesson she was very chastened and agreed that perhaps photosynthesis might be a better topic to start with!
    stonerose likes this.
  8. Ex-teacher

    Ex-teacher New commenter

    Story from the school I left last year....
    This year, they had 2 students in the same block, similar subjects. Both were mentored by rqts, who both knew it all.

    Both students ended up complaining to their college's about the lack of support they were getting. All the mentors were interested in was whether their student was doing better than the other mentor' s...

    College then complained to the powers that be at school.... Mentors were removed form post, but kept all the benefits (students teaching their timetable, extra free time to mentor and so on) and more experienced staff were put ín place as mentors. Still the rqts couldn't help themselves...

    Students went on 2nd placements, and college agreed they could finish the course there.
  9. Jamvic

    Jamvic Senior commenter

    The mentoring provision that trainees receive is like everything else in schools today, pot luck.
  10. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    I agree with Jamvic and would add that the dreadful start that some people have had could be taken as an example of how bad things can get when they get through it, it might give them a heads up about some of the issues seen on workplace dilemmas by serving teachers for example.

    In addition I wasn't sure if this was for ITT on site or via offsite provision, but I have said before that although schools can provide excellent classroom practice they are not always the best place to learn to teach for a number of reasons I won't go into here but may be linked to issues like the story in the OP.
    Jamvic likes this.
  11. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    In my experience of primary in the South East, I am certain that we are now reaping the consequences of many years of low quality recruitment into teaching. The first generation of weak recruits that I saw come into the workforce are now headteachers - subsequent generations are filling the majority of other roles. We're in a bit of a pickle.
    stonerose likes this.
  12. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    In my experience (a few years ago now) the real problem is that too much training of teachers is placed onto schools at the same time as the very same teachers are having more & more pressure out on them to improve standards etc.

    Do most people being made (coerced sometimes) to be mentors have the training and time to do the job...?
  13. Xtinelove

    Xtinelove New commenter

    There should be an minimum experience requirement of at least 8 years teaching experience before one decides to become a mentor. There are so many younger teachers who do it for the experience who cannot possibly have a wealth of experience behind them.

    There are also people who are extremely negative about the school who become mentors and pass this negativity on to the PGCEs/NQTs so they end up feeling even more deflated before they even start!

    Plus the constant loading up of the poor student teachers with unrealistic tasks in a short amount of time is another issue. I wish my mentor had drawn me up a small timetable or manageable list of when to do the marking and how to plan a lesson - has anyone been taught how to plan a lesson by their mentor? I remember faffing with powerpoints, worksheets and videos till 1am until a brilliant colleague of mine sat me down and told me about the 5min lesson plan structure which none of the mentors I had bothered with. I felt like such a div afterwards!

    No one teaches you how to plan a lesson, they just expect you to somehow magically know this!
  14. Schifoan

    Schifoan New commenter

    I have not long finished my PGCE. My mentors were fabulous, but I heard some horror stories, and indeed had to deal with someone else's dreadful mentor.

    The bigger problem is universities taking little interest in where students are placed, mainly because some have managed to alienate so many schools that they are short of placements they can offer.
    stonerose, needabreak and Jamvic like this.
  15. abacus1982

    abacus1982 Occasional commenter

    I can only really reflect and comment on my own experiences. I have been part of mentoring of a number of students over the past 10 years from GTP, NQT, SCITT. Personally I have noticed a change in the training these students receive. There seems to be less teaching on the craft of teaching, subject knowledge, pedagogy and trainees and NQTs instead have banks of lessons they just reproduce. There is also an issue, in my opinion, with resilience in a number of trainees and they find it hard to take any constructive criticism especially as many have been graded as 'outstanding' in their and feel they have nothing to learn. Finally our local SCITT used to be notoriously hard to get a place on to train. The interview process was tough, requirements tough and every year they were full and rejecting applicants. This year their numbers have dropped down and they now have more schools than trainees. Ultimately they have targets to meet and therefore people are getting onto teacher training courses who would not have 10 years ago.
  16. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    From what people are saying here, it seems that TTCs are not preparing students for the job any better than they were when I went through he system, in the mid-seventies. I went to my first TP with my head stuffed with Piaget, Skinner, and Bruner but nobody had told me anything practical to help me do the job.

    I take @Xtinelove's point about the way NQTs and GTPs are loaded up with a ridiculous amount of extra tasks, writing essays, etc., when they should be concentrating on learning their craft. I remember one GTP who simply put his head in his hands and started crying, not only because the workload put on him but also the confused an frankly bizarre way his mentor dumped it on him. We went through the course requirements and picked out those that were statutory from all the rest. Most of what he had been told to do was unnecessary.
    stonerose, tenpast7 and Xtinelove like this.
  17. simonCOAL

    simonCOAL Occasional commenter

    I have contact with 3 HE ITT providers.
    Last year they put on free training days for mentors. Two of them covered supply costs. Free lunch as well.

    Hardly anyone turned up.

    The HEs then get hundreds of emails from schools wanting to know what to do and complaining about lack of information.

    So the University blames the school. The school blames the university. And the one who suffers is the trainee who gets stuck in the middle of the ‘it’s not our fault’ culture that seems increasingly prevalent.

    I will add that I’ve met some very odd characters in both sectors.
    stonerose likes this.
  18. carterkit

    carterkit Occasional commenter

    This again comes back to funding and workload. Schools often will not let teachers out to attend training during the day because they can't or don't want to pay for cover. (Did the supply cost offered meet the actual cost? I know from experience that it sometimes doesn't ie cover supervisor rates offered rather than teacher rates and agencies cannot supply staff at that rate.)
    On the other hand teachers - including me - do not want to attend training a considerable distance from home late in the evening because we have too much other work and/or families we would actually like to spend time with occasionally.
    The solution would be for the government to fund sufficient release time for teaching staff in schools with additional roles such as ITT/NQT mentoring/Sencos/DTs so they can undertake proper training and make training statutory so that any awkward heads could not refuse. Maybe they could do this instead of this bizarre sabbatical plan which is being mooted. It would probably benefit more people.
    stonerose and Jamvic like this.
  19. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    You forgot Vigotsky.
    stonerose, nomad and yodaami2 like this.
  20. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    And Maslow.

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