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Scared of my mentor

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by maralex86, Apr 26, 2017.

  1. maralex86

    maralex86 New commenter


    I am a trainee teacher and I am currently doing my third placement. I am lucky to be placed in a lovely school, with nice students and great stuff, however I am not happy because I am really scared of my mentor. He is not a bad guy but he is totally unpredictable and he can be really scary when he is in a bad mood. He has a great personality when he teaches, he is been doing it for a very long time and I sometimes feel that he wants me to teach like him and he is not happy when I don't do it like he likes. I get really anxious when I have to teach his classes and it is affecting my life because I can barely sleep and I am nervous most of the time, especially when I have to see him in the morning and I don't know how he is going to be. He can be a really nice guy and supportive sometimes, but other times he can be a nightmare and I can't continue like that. The thing is I only have three weeks more to get my final report and I need to overcome this. Any advice?
    pepper5 likes this.
  2. Hopeful25

    Hopeful25 New commenter

    Hello, would it be ok if I PM'ed you?
  3. GirlGremlin

    GirlGremlin Occasional commenter

    What do you mean by nightmare?

    Unfortunately, I feel like you may need to get used to having a thicker skin; this is incredibly important in teaching!

    Are you at risk of failing training? If not, just take it on the chin as constructive criticism... you only have three weeks left after all :)
    Pomz, wanet, jarndyce and 1 other person like this.
  4. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Three weeks! 15 working days!!

    You're stressed. He's stressed.

    You're a baby. He's a dinosaur.

    I'm sure you'd know if he thought you were no good! Of course he thinks he knows best. And of course you're not him. You're you.

    Can you tell him? "You're great and maybe I'll never be half the teacher you are. I don't know. But you're so scary sometimes. You terrify me! Am I doing OK? I'm not really sure. You're a hard act to follow."
  5. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Just keep going the way you have and be pleased you only have three weeks left.

    You don't know what is going on for him in school and he may not 'be in a bad mood' but having to deal with things you are unaware of.

    Just keep on and pass your course.
    stonerose, Pomz, jarndyce and 4 others like this.
  6. maralex86

    maralex86 New commenter

    Yes, I think I may get used to that but... I can't help myself, I get so nervous on my way to the school...

    As I have said he seems to be a nice guy and I don't really have a bad relationship with him, but the way he can be sometimes with his unpredictable manners can really affect me and affect my teaching.
  7. Tinycat1234

    Tinycat1234 Established commenter

    Agree with other posters - you're nearly there. You can usually have a couple of sick days and still pass (check with your uni) so if you're ill from not sleeping, take a couple of days to get well! Then back on the horse! It's one of those jobs where you're always going to have to work with a variety of personalities...
    stonerose, grumpydogwoman and pepper5 like this.
  8. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    It is very much easier said than done but try 'detaching' your emotional response to his moods. Try seeing his mood swings as a passive observer!

    As others have said, he might be going through issues in or out of work (or both) impacting his mood! Maybe he is in a worse mood in the morning because the whole day is in front of him to 'face?'

    Lack of sleep and nervousness......... Modern life and teaching in particular does not exactly promote restfulness and an ability to switch off! Try going to bed at a reasonable hour (no planning/uni work until 2am etc) and leave the screens well away before bedtime - the blue light from an iPhone you are reading checking that Instagram message in bed actually disrupts melatonin and the circadian cycle! Try cultivating an attitude of 'my bedroom is for my rest and Ill deal with the challenges of the day in the day - a field does not get ploughed by thinking about ploughing it! Very much easier said than done though - try Nytol perhaps (short term) - it makes you drowsy and is not addictive! Youre nearly there - good luck!
    stonerose, wanet and grumpydogwoman like this.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Ignore his bad moods. You have three weeks until you are finished and have the piece of paper in your mitts.

    Just keep doing what you have done so far that has enabled you to pass.

    Get a large calendar and mark off the days.

    All the best for your new career.
    stonerose, Pomz and grumpydogwoman like this.
  10. rustyfeathers

    rustyfeathers Occasional commenter

    If he is being abusive/a bully, you need to speak to your ITT tutor or link tutor asap. Shouting or swearing or belittling you is not okay.

    If he's grumpy or stand-offish or blunt or short with you or such like, I fully sympathise with you because I get horribly anxious around people like this. Mantras help, or talking - professionally! - to other staff members who may feel the same way ("Oh, I some times find Mr Smith a bit intimidating" is a good lead, as it could just imply you look up to him). Arranging to see him at times of the day when he's less grumpy (if he's always a grouch pre-coffee-o'clock, for instance) might be useful too!

    With three weeks to go, you'll know if there are any serious issues; remember, everyone feels overwhelmed and anxious on their PGCE, and you're so close now! Well done! Try to take some time for self-care: for me, Fridays during my PGCE year (and other times!) meant I didn't work that evening after leaving school, I'd order a take away and watch a film; often, I'd make Wednesday my "choosing day" for film and food, which helped uplift that day too.

    Feel free to PM if you want
    stonerose, grumpydogwoman and gwest91 like this.
  11. maralex86

    maralex86 New commenter

    It is basically this. He is quite grumpy and I am not the only one tired of his bad mood.... I don't like people like that, especially when my work depends on them...

    I will try to follow some of your good pieces of advice! Thank you very much :)
    pepper5 and stonerose like this.
  12. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    I think sometimes it can be difficult for experienced 'old lags' (sorry!) to remember how intimidating it was as an NQT. Even more so to be an NQT in today's educational climate where there has never been more scrutiny.

    I'm sure that your mentor is just having a stressful time. I assume you are a secondary teacher. With just weeks until the exams, the stress levels can been high and he seems to be blowing of steam when you are around, leading you to feel intimidated by his moods.

    The advice to be direct and chat to him about how your feeling is good advice, but in practice it's very difficult for a new teacher to do this!

    Possibly you could try chatting to him about your progress: "Hi Mr Smith...I've got 3 weeks to go and I was just wondering if there's anything you really need to see from me in that time, so I know where to focus?". If this extracts any particular response, such as particular areas you need to improve, that's great. If he says "Nope, you're doing fine, keep on as you are" then you will know there's no issue. This could then lead to an opportunity to say something like, "Ok, that's great thanks...it's just you seemed a bit cross the other day and I wondered if I'd forgotten something or messed up in some way?"

    Gently gently.

    I suspect it's just exam stress and general knackeredness.

    Good luck with your final few weeks. Chin up!
  13. Happyregardless

    Happyregardless Occasional commenter

    I had some very lovely and fair mentors on teaching practise and also some complete and utter psychopaths! (NOT suggesting this gentlemen comes under the latter category. Please do not take anything personally. Most things in ife seem to be about relationships and it's easy to take them personally when you are in that situation. Almost every trainee and now teacher I have spoken to has had similar experience. As much as I was encouraged by the fair ones, I was taught as much if not more by the horrible ones who almost convinced me to give up. Sadly, there are some who will delight in making you jump through hoops, not for any kind of sort of 'tough love' to make you into a better teacher but to get some sort of powertrip kick for their own egos.
    You have to feel sorry for them, because healthy people don't seek to assasinate peoples' characters and especially those of who they are mentoring.

    In this case he's probably just stressed etc but your response to him is the most important one. YOU are not to blame for anyone else's reaction, mood, behaviour etc - by worrying about it and placing yourself in that position you are almost making yourself responsible for how he feels - codependence.

    Just continue with what you are doing, be fair, be clear, listen but keep your boundaries strong and remember that how he reacts to you is no indication of your performance as a teacher trainee or character as a person.
  14. mrmatt73

    mrmatt73 Occasional commenter

    A teacher I used to work with was the grumpiest, miserable sod in the whole school to many - especially the TA's who hated him. Was the best chap in the whole school with the most acerbic wit ... shame he emigrated.
  15. Jolly_Roger1

    Jolly_Roger1 Star commenter

    How things have changed. My first Head of Science, in the late Seventies , used to take struggling NQTs (LFAs, as they were called then) to the pub and poor beer down their necks until they felt more positive about themselves.
  16. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Not liking someone isn't a reason to complain about them.

    You don't like his grumpiness, he doesn't like your constant cheerfulness. However you are both adults who accept everyone is different and has different personalities.

    You say he is very experienced. There are plenty of threads on here to let you see that he could well be being put under a lot of unfair and unacceptable pressure and that his grumpiness is a cover for distress. A bit of tolerance is needed.
    wanet and stonerose like this.
  17. stonerose

    stonerose Occasional commenter

    Hang in there, M.
  18. chrisoakey

    chrisoakey Occasional commenter

    I am a mentor and I am sure I can be grumpy. However, your complaint against him contains no specific issue. Is it his tone? If it is just keep calm and carry on. Is it a specific criticism? If so act on it. Seek advice and specific steps for improvement. The rest is just personality. You say you don't like grumpy people? Well, you are now a teacher so, unfortunately, it goes with the territory.
    Maybe you need to see the bigger picture. Unless he makes specific criticisms on which you can act, it is just bluster. You will have to learn to let it wash over you. Think about why grumpy people upset you. That is probably the deeper issue you have to address.
    Next time he scares you keep calm and ask him, can you give me a specific step, strategy, task you would like me to try?
  19. Lord Snooty

    Lord Snooty Occasional commenter

    Welcome to teaching.....you've got another 35 odd years of this....you'll meet worse! :)
  20. drek

    drek Star commenter

    He might be in pain which can make one grumpy....:) comes with being older...

    Is he actually saying any of the things you think he's 'feeling' because he is grumpy.

    It's hard when you have to guess what somebody is thinking. So I agree with the other posters. You don't need to change who you are but you might need to communicate with him by asking the questions advised by other posters.

    These days he might be your mentor but as it stands he has to respond to several others about your daily progress and write out extended reports as evidence. And if there is a lot of exam groups and admin that goes along with it that he needs to take care of this could be a factor.....

    If someone has not said anything negative about your teaching then I would take that at face value. Once this is over you will be your own teacher probably teaching others how to teach next year as things currently stand....

    Treat him like one would treat a father, grumpy after a day's work!

    Three weeks.....good luck....not long to go. I'm sure you've done better than you think. By this time you probably need to be doing things more independently, not as reliant on your mentor for everyday help and advice.

    It's been a long hard grind..don't give up now. All the best :)
    maralex86 likes this.

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