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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). 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.
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 here was 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. Being under my tutelage, I feared that Florence might misinterpret my suggestion as a forced decision. Hence in order to effectively develop as a mentor it is necessary to have 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. 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 her lesson plan. With regard to Appendix I, it was only suggested that prior to start the class, she would emphasis on the lesson objectives both visually and verbally. Reviews in literature has confirmed that sharing the objectives with the students help them to understand the main purposes of their learning and what they are aiming for and consequently they are more likely to grasp what they need to do to achieve it (DfES, 2004, 12.p2). When I reflected upon this suggestion, I had never applied it in my own teaching. Personally I felt, that, if I had made use of such practical suggestions, it could have helped many students in understanding my lesson. Nonetheless, we know, it is never too late to learn and there is always room for improvement in teaching. 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.
As for her teaching style, I could not underestimate her as proved to very effective in her explanation. I praised her for that quality as she her own way of teaching. 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. While conversing with Florence, I was able to make her realise that she spent too much time in her explanation and that she needed a proper balancing in her explanation as well as evaluation of her class. Regarding this experience, if I would had recorded her lesson, I fink we would have discuss more concerning the latter. Harford et al(2010, p.63) commented that student teachers re-structured their subsequent class and pace the lesson more effectively after reviewing their video footage. However, we could consider this option in future mentoring process. 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 ). Eventually, at the end of our first meeting, we worked on a proposed targets for the next class.
The subsequent week, the second observation took place in the Biology where Florence had organised her practical session (Appendix II). 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, p. 295) 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, p2), 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 unusual because it made me ponder if Florence was just trying to get an easy way out for short term. Larose et al, (2010, p127) 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.
Florence already knew that I was going to talk on class management. 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. I could feel that Florence felt deterred after that class explanation (Appendix III). But instead of raising that issue of class management, I prompted her to see how she could overcome this problem by reflecting on her previous experience as a learner. Even I had been in such situation in the past but with the help of my senior teachers, I succeeded in overcoming such problems in my future classes. However it was not an easy task but with a proper class preparation and experiences. Harford et al,(2010, p57) commented that teachers were expected to work effectively with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and deal effectively with students with learning or behavioural problems. I decided to share my own experiences of dealing with problem and I expected this could inspire her to venture for a solution. As a mentor, I needed to raise her moral by supporting her. We talked lengthily on that issue and she recognised 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. But this was challenging, she decided to take new initiative to get rid of this problem. She proposed that as a trial she would carry out a class in the Biology laboratory and she would make the students work in group of three. Furthermore, I also iterated her to that she needed to plan her class according to time allocation.
Final Feedback Meeting
With reference to Appendix III and IV, Florence designated the seating plan for all the students and she knew that classes in the Biology Lab is always arousing curiosity among students. It is known that to many teachers if we separate the group which make most disturbance in class, this tend to create better class environment. As suggested by Ofsted.( 2005, p16) pupils with the most difficult behaviour have positive response when classrooms are well organised and changing seating plan also help students with the most challenging behaviour to settle quickly. Furthermore, Florence also discussed with those students who was always making noise in the class and her approach really inspiring to me. When I had to deal with such situation, I had the tendency to change my approach and become very severe and I would scold the students on the spot. I realised that this was inappropriate and I learnt that I could also improve my methods to deal with such situation. In that context, I laid more emphasis on the class management as I felt, that this was a major handicap in her teacher development. However, when I discussed my mentee story line with other mentor colleague, I receive several comment pertaining to my mentoring. Many colleagues suggested that I focused mainly in one class of my mentee. But personally I felt that mentoring is a process of nurturing where I could not only focus in only one class but I should select different classes and get an exposure of different problem that my mentee could face in the future.. We have to take into consideration that the mentee does not have only one class but she is subjected to students with different age group as well as different social and intellectual background. At every step, the mentor must provide appropriate advice and support as the mentee develop the inner confidence. After evaluating and discussing the mentoring experience with my mentor colleagues, I found that there was room for improvement in my overall approach. As future target, I aimed at improving my teaching skills in general and to become more reflective in my work.
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