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In such uncertain circumstance, I believe that my mentee or any other "beginning teachers" (Harrison et al, 2005, p.420) must be finding themselves struggling to surmount the doubt surrounding the idea that theories learnt during a training might not be the final product which one can use in the professional teaching (Sundli,2007, p. 213). With such abstruseness in mind of a teacher, as a learning mentor, I firmly believed that 'mentoring' would be able to complement the professional development (Harrison et al, 2006, p.1057) and help to conceptualise new ideas of practice by a more knowledgeable and experienced person who would actuate a supportive role of overseeing and encouraging reflection and learning within a less experienced and knowledgeable person, so as to facilitate that persons' career and personal development (Robert, 2000, p.162). Likewise, Hobson,(2002) and Tomlinson (1995) also cited that mentoring had been increasingly acknowledged and used in the training of new teachers in school-based practice in the last two decades but it is a debatable issue that despite this increase in activity, there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of mentoring (Harrison et al, 2006, p.1056). Mentoring practice has not yet been formalise in secondary schools of Mauritius, but it has been stated in the Pay Research Bureau Report (2008), that any beginning teaching must follow a six months of theory course leading to an Educator's Licence. But nonetheless, it has been a traditional methods that the old and more experience teachers play the role of a guidance for the beginning teachers (Harrison et al, 2006, p. 1062). In the subsequent paragraphs of this assignment, I will expose my weaknesses and strength as a training mentor as well as the difficulties that I came across in this experience.
I teach Biology for almost five years now and Florence, my mentee, joined the teaching profession two years ago immediately after her graduation, without any professional training in education. However this was an opportunity to learn for both of us, as I would be developing skills while mentoring her and she would be benefitting from my teaching experiences. We know each other long enough to share a good friendship as we practise in the same department, but we hardly shared or discussed on our teaching experiences before this mentoring practice. When I requested her if I could provide her with some support in her teaching, she became very enthusiastic and ask me when we will be starting. When we embarked on that journey, our initial mentor-mentee meeting was obviously opening new horizon of thoughts and we could see the difference in term teaching experience. In order to progress with my mentee, Florence, I needed to judge my own practicability (Cain, 2009, p.58) as a mentor, and I needed a critical reflection of my own practices and skills in teaching so as to be able to evaluate her and promote an equitable relation in our mentor-mentee training. Besides, Maynard ( 2000, p. 25) also mentioned that mentors should not `impose' and they should not dictate the content of students' activities nor the teaching method used. He further stated that student teachers recognise that they were individuals who needed to form their own identity as a teacher and their own teaching `style'. Following this, I decided to review my perception and I decided to rather listen more to my mentee and to provide her with any help she would required.
Initial Meeting with mentee
Before the class observations, my mentee and I, had an initial meeting where we discussed on various aspect of teaching and obviously on our goals. In our meeting, I tried to draw a picture of mentoring experience by explaining her the mentoring process, and how my guidance could be helpful in developing her teaching skills as well as becoming reflective on her own work. Russels (2005, p.199) stated that many professional educators have recourse to pursue reflective practice as an important component of professional preparation which help them in focusing on their own aptitude rather than on the content of subject. We cannot doubt that beginning teacher are indeed knowledgeable person in their subject field but lack professionalism. Furthermore, Wallace (1991) recognized that teacher's reflection on practice will probably lead understand the actual and practical nature of classroom teaching and this will promote teachers' self-reflexive awareness of their assumptions about language instruction and willingness to explore how their implicit theories match or do not match their teaching" (Rodríguez, 2008 p.92). I wanted Florence to focus on her own teaching practice and to help her in a self-evaluation (Copland, 2010, p. 467) process. Moreover, we also discussed on the procedural steps in of the mentoring practice and how her collaboration (Awaya et al. 2003, p. 52) would be important for a successful outcome.
First Observation & Feedback Meeting
Prior to the first observation of Florence class on Biology for HSC, I requested if I could consult her lesson plan and apparently she was reluctant but I succeeded in re-assuring her that my aim was here to help her in achievement self-confidence in her work as well in herself. Korthagen and Vasalos (2005, p. 64) view self-confidence as core qualities which are essential in generating teaching and also in the private lives of teachers. They further assert that apart from self-confidence, other core qualities such as courage and goal-directedness characterise core reflection in teacher which aims at building on people's strengths, and positive feelings. Following her reaction, I made it a must that I needed to espouse better relation so as not to undermine her confidence. When I analysed her lesson plan, I noticed some weaknesses which definitely had repercussion on her actual lesson. I found that she had an inappropriate "starter" of her class in explaining the topic and her body language was not explicit. For she did not have much experience, I helped her by showing her with my own lesson preparation so that she could improve in her writing of lesson plan. Furthermore, I asked her about how she could stimulate students' interest in her class and what she can do during her lesson explanation in order to get his students' attention. Interestingly, Florence said that during her lesson, she might choose students and ask them instant question so as to make them more participative and to reward them appropriately with a praise. I recommend her that if students get focused at the start itself of the lesson, it would be motivating and students would be willing to know more. A proper starter activity, students would be better engaged and motivated as they would feel as though they've learned something (DfES, 2004, 1.p.15). Furthermore, Florence overemphasise on her explanation rather than allowing time to evaluate if students had been able to grasp the lesson objectives. In Improving The Climate For Learning, it has been suggested that teachers must clearly set the lesson objectives on the board and through this, the students can quickly identify the expected learning outcomes (DfES,2004,18,p.4). While I reflected on her practice, I compared it to my past teaching experiences where I was so engaged in completing my scheme of work rather than focusing on improving the skill of learning of my students. Lesson planning is a crucial for every teacher where he organise the time, lesson starter, explanation and evaluation for the class. I suggested Florence to apply some of my teaching techniques which was in line with BEM (beginning, end, middle) principle of Hughes (1999) as he explained that students learn more at the beginning and the end of learning experience than they do in the middle. Referring to Appendix I, I advised Florence that she needed to have a continual degree of talking throughout the lesson and considerable movement around the class (Harforda et al, 2010, p.65). In addition to that, I also suggested her that she needed to plan her lesson according to the time period allocated, use teaching-aids if available and that she must also works in evaluating her students. In that aspect, Crosson and Shieu (1995) claim that: `Evaluation is an integral part of the mentoring process and has an important role to play in achieving the aims and objectives of the practice (Robert, 2000, p.161 )Since Florence was under my tutelage, I feared that she might misinterpret my suggestion as a forced option. Hence in order to effectively develop as a mentor it is necessary to establish a an equitable relation with my mentee and also, I had to bear in mind that I should have non-judgmental attitude, patience, be supportive and have understanding as positive attributes on her teaching approach (Andrews and Chilton, 2000, p.556). Still, this was not the only contentious issue in my initial training as a mentor, I also had doubt on my own level of preparation and thoughts. Was I prepared enough to evaluate my mentee's teaching style? I had to compensate this lack of self-confidence and this required a new identity reform which would support me in demonstrating skills in appropriate for professional attitude, knowledge and good communication and the motivation to teach and support my mentee (Andrews and Chilton, 2000). Despite so much remarks, Florence remained open to my suggestions and seemed to appreciate these, suggesting that I had not undermined her confidence. She espoused my advices and the relationship remained very friendly. Eventually, at the end of our first meeting, she proposed the targets herself for the next class observation was very motivating for me as a mentor as she took the initiative to move forward to improve.
Second Observation & Feedback Meeting
The subsequent week, the second observation took place in the Biology where Florence had organise her practical session. I could see noticeable changes in her class organization as we suggested for the lesson plan, and in accordance with the main targets set in the previous feedback meeting. I was surprised to see such transformation in so little time. I assumed that Florence wanted to achieve higher aims in her profession. In this context, Larrivee (2000: p295) state that teacher must be able to create authentic learning communities and required to change and adapt their teaching styles that better align with emerging metaphors of teacher as social mediator, learning facilitator, and reflective practitioner. With reference to Appendix II, my mentee also grouped her students to work in pairs. My objective was to make Florence engaged her students in self-assessment and peering since this would bring enlightenment among the students aptitude in learning. As it is mentioned in the Assessment for Learning as suggested by English government policy (DfES, 2004, p.x), that students must be involved in peer and self-assessment which would eventually make the students themselves responsible for their own learning. Under such circumstance, the teacher's role would be very crucial as she must be able to give the students appropriate feedback on their performance and also review their work and advise them for further constructive work. Such interaction between the student and the teacher is an essential element of developing understanding and promoting learning. Subsequently, this interaction was not limited to only the teacher-student but we also focused on our relation as mentor and mentee. Initially reflecting on my approach seemed difficult because I thought that whatever criticism and feedback that I expressed was for the betterment of Florence. But how far I was right? However, when I discussed about this matter with another mentor colleague at the school, he said that generally, every person reflect on what they do, but this reflection differs from person to person. According to Korthagen and Vasalos (2006, p.48) said that when teachers generally reflect, it is often influenced by the specific school culture, and the pressure of work often encouraged a focus on obtaining a 'quick fix' rather than shedding light on the underlying issues. This reflection was unusual because it made me ponder if Florence was just trying to get an easy way out for short term. Larose et al, (2010, p.x) argued that the role played by the types of experiences may vary significantly based on mentee tendencies, needs and motivations, and program objectives (academic, social, or professional) and also how mentors manage to engage mentees during these experiences.
Third Observation & Feedback Meeting
Florence already knew that I was going to talk on class management (See Appendix III). She admitted that she had a few difficulties with some problematic behaviour in her lower class of Form IV Biology students and they were at time difficult to handle. But instead of raising that issue of class management, I prompted her to see how she could overcome this situation by reflecting on her previous experience as a learner. Many teachers have faced problem of class management and this much help in order to promote a good learning for students and satisfaction for the teacher. I could feel that Florence felt deterred after that class explanation (Appendix III). As a mentor, I needed to raise her moral by supporting her. We talked lengthily on that issue and she recognized that all problem encountered in class must have a solution. Awaya et al(2003, p.54) concurs that providing moral support tops the list of things that are critical to developing a strong mentor-mentee relationship. Florence has been struggling with these students having problematic behaviour for very long but she really had difficulty in that class.
There are incidental problems that arise during lessons for which the mentor can assist in explaining how to problem solve. Classroom management strategies, including managing student behaviour must be discussed with the mentee, especially as the mentor has insight into the various student personalities and behavioural traits. Effective teaching requires astute questioning skills for which a mentor can discuss higher and lower-order questions along with distributing the questions in equitable ways. Lessons have a structure and so an effective mentor can discuss the implementation processes (e.g., ensuring key learnings or concepts are apparent in the introduction, body, conclusion of a lesson). Mentors can provide pedagogical knowledge about assessment and also viewpoints about effective teaching practices that link curriculum, pedagogy, and
Final Feedback Meeting & Conclusion
Relationships between teachers and pupils are good; humour is used well, which helps pupils to enjoy lessons. The pace of lessons ensures all sustain concentration and
motivation. Wherever possible, oral instructions are
reinforced by visual clues and realistic time scales are set
for each task. Questioning is highly effective. It is
structured to match pupils' ability levels so that all are
involved. Staff allow learners time to respond.
Pupils with the most difficult behaviour respond positively
when classrooms are well organised, there is a cheerful
greeting from staff on arrival and routines for the start and
end of lessons are clear. Seating plans, especially in
secondary and special schools, help pupils with the most
challenging behaviour to settle quickly. Teachers who are
effective in reducing unacceptable behaviour are quick to
intervene and divert pupils' attention. They apply a variety
of strategies to engage and hold pupils' interest and so
minimise the impact of negative behaviour. When
behaviour is more difficult they adopt a consistent and
non-confrontational approach and they always show
respect for pupils.
The quality of the learning environment has a significant
impact on the behaviour of pupils and students. A
welcoming and stimulating environment tends to foster
good behaviour. In many schools senior staff are aware of
the impact that the environment has on behaviour and
they seek to ensure that the cleanliness and brightness of
accommodation are maintained. A high priority is placed
on the condition of the buildings and much thought is
given to how they are used. When damage occurs it is
quickly repaired. High-quality displays celebrating
pupils' achievement are evident in communal areas
Ofsted. 2005, p16