3.2 Pastoral support
Teaching practise is perceived as a particularly stressful and demanding period, which involves considerable amounts of distress, changes in psycho-physiological patterns and an increasing sense of weariness and ‘vulnerability’.
Although we have separated identity and pastoral support for the benefit of this section, it can be argued that they are inextricably bound together (Timostsuk and Ugaste, 2012). Some authors suggest that the expression of emotions are external expressions of ‘self’ (Beauchamp and Thomas, 2009).
Sutton and Wheatley (2003), suggest that emotions affect learning in a number of ways. Firstly, ‘negative emotions attract attention and focus… Emotional occurrences are remembered more than neutral ones [and] intense emotion…overshadows background information’ (Timostsuk and Ugaste, 2012). Secondly, ‘a person’s mood at the time of receiving information influences its memorization… high anxiety, for example, can reduce the resources for working memory’ and finally ‘teachers who experience more positive emotions may generate more ideas and strategies … and [generate] … different ways to solve problems’ (Timostsuk and Ugaste, 2012).
This linking of a person's emotional state to their ability to learn is reflected in Stephenson’s findings (1995). He found that ‘the quality of trainees’ school-based experience depended principally on their emotional condition, which was itself related to the quality of the mentoring process.’ (Stephenson, 1995). This relationship between mentoring and emotional state suggests that the pastoral role of the mentor should involve interpreting the student teachers’ emotional state, providing opportunities for the student teacher to face, reflect on, step back from and ultimately change their emotional state and thereby support them to learn as effectively as they can.
Activity 3: Effects of support
Read the vignette below and note down why you think the mentor suggested co-teaching the class. What effect did the mentor hope to achieve in terms of supporting Jaime’s developing sense of identity and her pastoral needs at that moment in time?
Jaime had a successful first few weeks in her final placement school. As the weeks progressed the timetable was increased a year group at a time. By the sixth week, Jaime was beginning to show signs of stress with lesson planning becoming less well thought through, and her ability to reflect on lessons was dominated by negative reactions. In particular there seemed to be negativity towards teaching the year 9 group. Her mentor, realising what was happening, suggested that in week 7, she co-taught the year 9 class with her.
These co-planned lessons enabled the student teacher to focus on specific parts of the lesson, planning thoroughly and feeling positive about the outcome. This positivity enabled her to reflect more effectively about the difficulties she was facing, which turned out to be a lack of confidence in the subject material being taught and concern at the level of differentiation needed for the class, both of which had been modelled and discussed in detail through co-teaching.
By allowing Jaime the space to concentrate on planning and facilitating part of these lessons, the mentor gave her the opportunity to experience positive outcomes with the class, thereby changing her perception of the class but also to maintain her identity as their teacher.