1 Strategic mentoring
It can be hard to strike a balance between being an effective mentor and keeping up with the paperwork and your own teaching workload. If the mentee is making good progress then they can be a huge benefit while, at the other end of the spectrum, some mentees will double your workload and present multiple challenges. As a mentor you may be the difference that stops a talented student quitting when the going gets tough, or you might find yourself having to have a difficult conversation about alternative careers. But, overall, if you get the balance right there is nothing better than enabling others to succeed.
As a mentor, you must be available: ensure you make time to see how things are going and if any planning needs tweaking. But you must set boundaries: perhaps you will allow the beginner teacher to contact you at evenings and weekends, but only when you say. Be strategic, because both you and the beginner teacher are human.
You will give feedback that sometimes will be challenging and could be seen as negative. While it is important to highlight the strengths of your beginner teacher, as they can often be hard on themselves, honest feedback is needed, especially when the beginner teacher is struggling with a class or group of learners. It is important not to over-exaggerate positive features to compensate for significant weaknesses. Be sensitive when a lesson goes horribly wrong: as long as it’s not a regular feature, teach your beginner teacher to chalk it up to experience. Encourage self-reflection and reiterate what a challenging (yet rewarding) job it is.
Being strategic is also about recognising when the beginner teacher’s needs would be better met by someone else within or beyond the school. Mentoring should be seen as a whole-school job and the whole school should celebrate when they succeed. Look for opportunities for the beginner teacher to develop: if the school up the road has amazing English as an Additional Language (EAL) provision, organise a visit. If they need to see PE in another key stage, encourage them to organise it. Do not do everything for them. Check their folders and paperwork regularly in mentor meetings, but they must check they have taught/observed the right lessons for writing up assignments or meeting standards themselves.