On Being a Mentor.

Just a few short years ago, I remember sitting in a fairly large lecture hall at university, listening to one of the lecturers ramble on about things like teaching styles and behaviour management.  I'm not the sort of person who picks up information through listening, so my notepads tended to be filled with doodles and a borderline obsessive-compulsive habit of scribbling my signature over and over again. Even though I enjoyed learning about education, some of those lectures weren't particularly interesting, and it wasn't just me who passed the time being distracted . . . there were a few of us who started zoning out after the first fifteen minutes of talking. There was one topic though, that awoke even the most disinterested student; and that was any sentence containing the words 'professional', 'experience' and 'placement'.

My first degree in Psychology didn't have any form of practical training; you were placed in the field if you completed your fourth year Honours in the programme. So while the theory and assignment half of my Teaching degree was nothing new to me, the idea of being on professional experience? Terrified the pants off me. We were told about some of the things to expect while at university, we were told horror stories of past student teaching experiences and overall, the lead up to the school visits was a pretty stressful time.

My first school visit wasn't spectacular, to put it mildly. We were placed on a class with a fellow teaching student, and I was placed with a stranger; a girl I had only recently met in a tutorial. Together, we completed our first professional experience with a teacher who was very open about the fact that she hadn't really wanted a prac student, let alone two. I remember my parents being overseas at the time (holidays, again!) and staying up until the wee hours completing lesson plans, getting resources ready, doing evaluations and stressing in general. Gah. Our teacher didn't give us any feedback, so we were actually panicking about failing at this stage, but then we were surprised by a glowing final report on the final day. I came out of that professional experience relieved that it was over, excited to have an 'Outstanding' final grade, and having made a good friend.

My final school visit also wasn't spectacular, and I was on my own this time around. My teacher was pretty high up in the school executive system, and didn't really seem to have the time for a student teacher, so I was often left to my own devices in preparing lessons and fitting in with her schedule. I remember many a day sitting on the demountable steps at 8am in the morning, waiting for her to get to school so I could get in the classroom and start planning for the day ahead. (I'm a paranoid freak when I'm not organised.) Again, by the end of the professional experience, I was also relieved for it to be over and done with, and pleasantly surprised by another positive final report.

All in all, I finished my work experience placements in teaching with positive and negative experiences. I had an idea of what sort of teacher I was turning out to be, and I knew what sort of teacher I would try my hardest not to turn out like. And most of all, I knew that I wanted to be the teacher in charge one day. I wanted to be able to give a student teacher a positive professional experience visit, to make sure they knew where they stood from day one, to share the positives and not focus on the negatives. I wanted to be the mentor.

Today marks the end of my first student teacher's reign over my classroom, and I'm thrilled to say that I enjoyed the role as mentor as much as I had hoped I would. It's amazing how much I've learned about my own teaching from watching the kidlets react to another teacher in the room. It's amazing to watch the kidlets 'act up' in ways they wouldn't normally try using on me. And I've learned a nice stash of educational games and activities that I wouldn't have thought to use in the classroom. I just hope that I've given my lovely student teacher the kind of experience that I would have loved to receive when I was at university, not all that long ago.

And you know what? Even though I know that student teachers aren't all sunshine and rainbows, I absolutely can't wait to be a mentor all over again. Maybe I'll get the chance to have another visitor later on in the year.

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Melanie Harris said...

Its all about observation Alynda, you learn by the positives and learn by the negatives and decide which you want to be.

Glad it all worked out for you too. I used to do Youth work so I know all about pracs and mentoring.

Kathy said...

I am sure you were a great mentor. It is a difficult job. So easy when they are good but when you get one who isn't it is so hard and heartbreaking. well done on being a great mentor - and from what I read I reckon you are a pretty great teacher too.

Jen said...

All my CTs (cooperating teachers/mentors for anyone reading) have been great. I think I've been really lucky, I've heard horror stories. I hope to be a good one too, one day. Right now I've gotta do internship... not really prac and not yet 100% teacher. Kinda shits me that this has dragged on so long, I could have 1 1/2 years experience like you if it wasn't for my stupid issues. I have to visit the school again tomorrow, and I have a cold and my wisdom tooth has swollen my gums. OH YAY. Sorry, I'll stop taking over your blog now ;)

Susan C said...

I don't qualify for a prac student but I've worked with enough of them to know that its a two way street. Its really great when you come across student teachers who are keen and enthusiastic who challenge me. Its wonderful (in an odd kind of way) when they comeback and do relief as graduates and you see them grow a little more.

I'm sure your 'old' mentors would be delighted to see how you've turned out!

Belinda Howlett said...

for $20 i will give you one in term 3

Operation Pink Herring said...

You are so nice. I would want a mentor just like you. If I were a teacher, I mean. My brother is becoming a teacher. Maybe you can be his mentor! He's kind of a stoner, though. That's cool, since you like to party all night, right?!!1!

Audrey said...

Oh, man, I sure wish Tim could do his student teaching in your classroom! But he's already complaining about his 30-minute commute to his assigned school, so somehow I doubt he'd appreciate a commute all the way to Australia. :)

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