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Was my mentor allowed to do this?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by FlyingFoxBat, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. FlyingFoxBat

    FlyingFoxBat New commenter

    I've been advised to move this post to the Workplace Dilemmas section because it's more likely to be seen here.

    I'm a pre-service trainee Further Education teacher. I know this question might seem a little strange, but here goes...

    On my last placement, my mentor would often go home early while I was teaching the class (this would have been his final class of the day if I wasn't teaching it for my placement. Plus, because I'm pre-service, my mentor was paid for teaching this class.)

    Anyway, I've talked to some school teachers I know and they think my mentor was 'breaking the rules' by doing this, as they were required to remain on site (though not necessarily in the classroom) while trainees taught their usual classes. However, because I'm training to work in Further Education, I'm not sure whether or not the same protocol applies.

    I haven't asked anyone at college because they would probably make the connection or ask awkward questions, and, despite having a few issues with him, I don't really want to get him into trouble. If anyone asks me about my mentor going home early, I'm not sure how to answer. I had planned to play dumb and say something along the lines of "I don't think so'', but then I thought that this (leaving early) might be permitted if mentors informs their trainees that they won't be around during that session time. If that's the case, I'd need to say that he always informed me when he needed to go home early.

    Please could someone from the Further Education sector tell me where placement mentors stand on this issue? Was my mentor allowed to leave me teaching a class he was paid to teach to go home early, or did he break the rules?
  2. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    Even in Secondary, sometimes PGCEs are left alone for short periods!

    I would see your mentor leaving early as a sign he/she can see you are doing a good job! As long as you are passing, I wouldn't bring it up with anyone!
    FlyingFoxBat, wanet and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  3. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    In secondary I think the main reason mentors are required to be 'around' (which depending on the provider means the room or the site) is linked to student age that the mentor remains fully responsible for the class.
    I've been more inclined to give a trainee space if they have an A level class because sixth form is by default different.

    Take it as abpositive because I know I've had trainees where ive stayed in the room each lesson! If you're being left alone and feel happy then it's a good sign. I don't think anyone would ask and if they do 'I don't know where they work when I am teaching' would suffice.
    FlyingFoxBat, wanet and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  4. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    for me, the leaving you alone with the class for a period of time is acceptable. The idea of going home early though is not.
    Dragonlady30 and FlyingFoxBat like this.
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    I agree leave well alone. Put your energies into concentrating on doing your job well, delivering the best lessons for your students.
  6. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I think usual practice is that if the mentor is not in the room, you should know where they are so that you can get hold of them if needed. If they're not in the building, there should be someone else you can go to. Although the chances of a serious issue arising are small, the teacher is technically responsible for the class.
  7. Brunettegirl

    Brunettegirl Occasional commenter

    I agree that the mentor should be gradually able to leave a trainee to manage the class as the course progresses, but I'm not sure that going home is acceptable, although it may be completely different in FE.
    What are your strategies if something goes wrong or there is an emergency? I know it is unlikely, but it does happen occasionally. I also don't think 'playing dumb' is a great idea if you. If you are asked, tell the truth as you see it What if you had fibbed by saying you didn't know that they had gone home, and then your mentor said 'Flying Fox Bat knew where I was'.
    FlyingFoxBat likes this.
  8. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    They are, but they are not meant to be left completely alone, meaning that the mentor or another teacher has to be available should they be needed. In science this generally means hanging around in the prep room drinking coffee with the techs :) (only joking).

    With regards to the OP's question if you are not having a problem then don't mention it. If asked about your mentor's movements don't make any commiting comments along the lines you mentioned. Its not your job to monitor your mentor's hours and wrong of anyone to ask you to do so.
  9. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    I agree that you can take it as a positive that your mentor felt happy enough with your performance to leave you to it. It is an important part of learning to teach that you experience being in sole charge of a class.

    However I think it is very unprofessional on his part to actually leave the premises because In this case he is more than your just your mentor. It is his class that he has been contracted to be in charge of, so there may be insurance implications if something were to happen, just to mention one problem.

    I am not sure what opinion I would want to give in this matter. On the one hand I think you are probably right, to try and avoid dobbing him in. The world is not perfect and there are many things going on around us all the time that are wrong, that we have to ignore. We can not carry the world on our shoulders. And of course he will be appraising your work so you don't want to upset him.

    However on the other hand, we have to take a stand on certain things we think are wrong but may not be our responsibility in the first place. But once we recognise them, they become our responsibility.

    Having taught in both secondary and FE, leaving my secondary school whilst your class was in the hands of a trainee would most certainly have been an un-official warning at the very least and certainly would not have gone down well amongst my colleagues.

    In FE however, things were much less formal ( and consequently less stressful, but that is another story).

    If you are not in the union, I would certainly join, allowing you to speak to the union rep. I certainly think you have to find someone who you can trust to speak to. That is what you are trying to do here of course, but don't forget you don't really know if we know what we are talking about!

    Good luck with your future career. At the very least when you are in your mentors shoes you will know what it looks like to do what they are doing.
  10. FlyingFoxBat

    FlyingFoxBat New commenter

    Thanks everyone for your replies :) .

    I'm no longer working with this mentor but I do still see him around at college.

    Just to clarify, I was fine with him leaving the classroom, but I wasn't entirely comfortable with him leaving the college before the end of the class (which he tended to do on a fairly frequent basis.)

    I apologise in advance for the long-winded post! :D

    I have ambivalent feelings towards him because I felt that I was expected to deal with areas of the job where I lacked the necessary knowledge/ experience. Although he did provide me with some information, I really needed more specific guidance. I often felt unable to ask for this because (a) I worried that I should be able manage independently (it's difficult for me to gauge whether or not the expectations were somewhat unreasonable or if I simply lacked the competence/ initiative expected of a trainee teacher and (b) he has a lot of demands on his time (including family stuff), and I felt guilty about making extra demands on his time (he was generally only willing to meet in the one hour per week time slot between our respective classes or to discuss things by email.)

    Additionally, I was provided with the most jumbled registers imaginable (he said he would sort it out, but I ended up compiling my own) and I had to provide a lot of my own equipment (folders, bilingual dictionaries etc.) Finally, when I reported a concern relating to the safety of one of my students, he suggested that I contact the student in question because I knew them better. However, he didn't tell me how to access the student's telephone number and it later emerged that it was his responsibility to do this as I didn't have the necessary authority.

    I was initially sympathetic towards my mentor because I sensed that he was suffering from stress and had too much to deal with. Also, at this point, I thought he was really nice and liked him. However, when he got pretty 'arsey' with me before a lesson and then complained about my lack of organisation in certain areas to my personal tutor (which I acknowledge and have apologised for), I felt pretty irked by the double standards. Also, when I told him I was suffering from stress and considering leaving the course (I suffer from mental health conditions that the college are aware of and was also helping to care for a sick elderly relative at home) he became really defensive and we eventually decided it was better for me to find a new mentor.

    On the other hand, (before things came to a head), we had a friendly working relationship and he provided good pastoral support and encouragement. This is partly why I don't want to get him into trouble (plus I'd feel guilty about doing this anyway.)

    Admittedly, I'd also quite like to know if he broke the rules because this whole incident has knocked my confidence. If this is the case, I'd feel better vindicated in my view that I wasn't entirely to blame for the breakdown of the working relationship and that he did let me down in some respects. I've already acknowledged and apologised for my faults but he has yet to do the same.
  11. RedQuilt

    RedQuilt Star commenter

    When I was a PGCE mentor for PCET students I never received instructions to the effect that I had to be on the premises whilst they were teaching. In fact I was timetabled to lecture at the university whilst my mentees were teaching. My role wasn't to supervise, unless specifically instructed to do so, but to mentor through the course. At the colleges I was involved with, 4 of them, the trainees were expected to be teaching independently but with support. There were, of course, other members of management who could be called on emergencies.
    My experience of Pgce students in FE is that it's quite different from mainstream education (which I also have experience).
    The mentor mentioned in the OP wouldn't have been doing anything wrong as a mentor although they may well have been doing wrong as a college employee by skipping off early. Without knowing the specifics of their contract it's hard to say definitely though.
    FlyingFoxBat and wanet like this.
  12. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    Oh Dear, Welcome to the world of education FFB! You were lucky in some ways with your mentor and unlucky in others, He sounds a bit of a lazy B. but at least you managed to get through it. I think many here have seen a lot worse. I suppose the answer is what you have done -- a bit of give and take on both sides.

    I didn't want to introduce an element of paranoia or barrack room lawyer into the discussion, but it occurred to me today that if your ex-mentor was going to mark you down in any way, you actually had him. How could he leave the premises whilst you were with the class he was responsible for if he didn't think you were 100% acceptable? I learnt this late in my career, but if you are worried about some aspect of your colleagues' behaviour which might affect you, then keep a diary and document it, to use to argue your case if you need to. Been there, done that -- but it wasn't pleasant.

    As far as what the actual rules were concerning him leaving the college premises, they will be in your contract. Again, it was late in my career that I realised that I should actually read my contract (when I eventually found where I had put it!) and try and understand it. But there were so many other things to worry about when I started teaching that this was something that I didn't get around to until I actually needed it. - and then I realised it would have been useful much earlier in my career.

    Re your point about being worried about asking a question because you felt you possibly should have known the answer. It is easy for me to say just ask the question, but I know it is not so easy for me to follow my own advice. I always ran my classes with the ethos of there being no such thing as a stupid question and I think it worked. However I always warned my students that this policy would not necessarily be safe outside my classroom. You never know when someone may want to stab you in the back! Oh Dear, Paranoia again! But if it is really getting in the way of you making progress, you have to ask for help. The sooner you ask a question, the safer it is. Again, been there, done that.

    Got to go and make tea now, but in summary -
    Read your contract.
    Have a bit of give and take.
    Use common sense.
    If something is puzzling you big time, ask the question.
    Umm-m -- Watch your back. (sorry)

    All the best with your career.
  13. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    Just thought, --- if you are a student teacher, maybe you don't have a contract the same as your ex-mentor. So in that case a possible solution may be to go to HR and ask if you could see a specimen contract because you want to understand the full range of responsibilities you will have to take on when you get a teaching job.

    And join the union.
    FlyingFoxBat likes this.
  14. davidbowiefan

    davidbowiefan Established commenter

    As the previous poster says, welcome to the world of education. This isn't a personal relationship, it is a working one. You seem to be afraid of asking for what you need, or of offending the mentor. You need to speak up and have your training needs met. The role of mentor is an official one and it carries certain duties with it. Even if he didn't choose to be a mentor and was simply told to do so by the college, he needs to fulfil that role. If he isn't doing so then tell your tutor.
    FlyingFoxBat likes this.
  15. davidbowiefan

    davidbowiefan Established commenter

    On my first teaching placement one of the class teachers left me alone from day one because he said he trusted me.

    Once he'd set things up he would announce to me and to the class that he was going out to the car park for a smoke!
  16. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    It sounds as if his leaving the premises was not actually the real problem in your working relationship, though, and maybe you're just clutching at something that you can label as a definite error on his part. I'm sure there were things he could have done better - most of us make mistakes, and it's unlikely that the breakdown in your relationship was entirely one-sided. Not everyone is going to self-examine and apologise.

    If the situation was still going on, I'd say that the best thing would just be to ask him what you should do in the event of anything you can't handle once he's gone home.
    As it sounds as if you're no longer working with him, then just move on and concentrate on relationships with other people and developing your teaching.
    FlyingFoxBat likes this.
  17. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    Hi Flying, If you are still following this string.
    Two things occurred to me which I remember as good advice to me.
    You mentioned that your confidence has been affected by this thing. Confidence is a problem for many of us, particularly as we have to stand in front of a bunch of people, engage and retain their attention all day, day after day. It is not natural. It is worse when you are trying to learn to do it. I'm afraid I had to do that corny thing of metaphorically looking in the mirror and tell myself I could do it, no matter what. Many of the established teachers don't know what they are doing! So why should I worry about it. Just get on and face it down. If you make mistakes chances are that they won't be noticed. All the rest of us are occupied with our own problems.

    I always remember Eric Clapton saying he wasn't that good a guitarist. I knew exactly where he was coming from as I am a musician as well. He wasn't being falsely modest. His problem was that he knew what he COULD'NT do as a guitarist and was forgetting what he could do. The rest of us had no idea! I actually remember the time when this hit home to me. Lack of confidence was a thing that got in the way, and in any case was very often unmerited.

    Urmm-m -- mind you you still have to be careful about being over confident! Lol!

    The other was from a colleague and good friend, when I was having one of my rants about the political situation and education. "Deal with what you have control over, and ignore what you have no control over." Life would have been so much easier if I could have followed this advice! But there you go. Still, it helped me a bit.
    FlyingFoxBat likes this.

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