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My mentee was one of my colleagues and friend at school, who had fewer years of teaching experience than me. He teaches prevocational students who are of low ability and are recognized as being troublesome. Mentor indicated that they considered the ability to provide criticism as imperative to fulfilling the role of providing professional support. (Hall et al., 2008). Therefore I was aware that my relationship with my mentee was going to change from a friendly to a professional one. In order to maintain the friendship between me and my mentee, I realized that I should not be too dominant since mentoring exists only in the context of a collaborative relationship based on a partnership in which neither party holds a position of power over the other. (Landay in Awaya et al., 2003)
The mentoring process is not always clearly understood in Education. I had to give my mentee a clear picture of mentoring and the mentoring programs and this was very important for both of us as a starting point. I explained to him that the mentoring process would be a journey where both of us would be learning from each other as Coombs stated "as we assist mentees to develop their own professional practice, we are co-enquiring into improving our own. (Coombs, 2005)
Mentoring is a process whereby a mentor guides, teaches, influences and supports a mentee, this was what I told my mentee about the role I would be undertaking along this journey. I also made him aware of my role as a "critical friend" and how this role would be helping him in his professional growth. What is important is the process of reflection by the doer, the mentee, so that they can learn more from the process and perhaps become their own "critical friend" (Peddler, 1983 in Wood, 1997, p.335).
Self-reflection has been identified as a major part of becoming a professional educator. So, I explained my mentee, the ALACT model of self-reflection to find solution to his problem. V appreciated being given a clear sense of direction, in terms of advice and ideas with regular time table meetings for the feedback and discussion. (Hobson, 2002 in Cain, 2009). Hence I had to inform V that it would be four weeks mentoring session with four formal meetings whereby feedbacks and discussions would be taken place. My mentee seemed satisfied with the clear overview he got and found himself psychologically prepared and enthusiastic. I felt happy since we were sorting the journey in a good and positive way.
My first class visit took place on the 21st June 2012.The class period was of forty minutes and there were fifteen students in all. It was a small group and I was greeted by nearly all of the students. I sat at the back of the classroom watching my mentee at work. We were already good friends may be that is why my mentee was at ease in my presence.
My mentee started straight away by drawing the plant structure and labeling the different parts namely the leaves, stems and roots without writing the topic of the lesson on the board. I did not find the starter effective since the objectives and the purpose of the lesson was not provided to the students. At the beginning of a class, the pupils' concentration are at the peak ad they are most receptive at that time, so a proper starter helps to capture the interest and concentration of the pupils and engage them fully in learning. We can refer the starter as a mental 'warming up'.
What I appreciated with my mentee was that he gave a clear, well structures demonstration of the plant structure using drawing on board as visual display. Sitting at the back watching the students was in itself a useful experience. There was one pupil yawning at the back and I could see one looking outside the classroom and a few of them looking at their fingers or at their friends. This clearly showed their disinterest in the lesson. Even if the students were not showing any interest, they remained quiet in the class as if they were respecting some rules that have been established. I realized that every classroom is different, because every teacher is unique. My mentee keep on his explanation. There was much of his talking taking place in front of the class. He did not move around in the classroom. At the end of the lesson, my mentee did asked some questions to the students to ensure if learning has taken place. But this was done without taking their names. Nearly all the questions were closed questions. Therefore pupils did not get opportunities to expand their ideas and engage in speculative discussion.
I observed that most of the students were unable to answer these questions. Questions should be structured to match pupils ability levels so that all are involved. But here, it was always the same pupils replying. There was lack of participation and lack of mental engagement from the pupils' sides. This may lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction from their work and disinterest for the subject
In my first review meeting with V, I had to provide him with feedback and ideas and also discuss them with him. Feedback is the most useful component of the program (Brandt, 2008, in Copland, 2010). I started with the positive aspects in order to build up his confidence. He listened to me silently. Then I moved on to the negative aspects. As Maynard (2000) said mentors appeared reluctant to say anything which might hurt their mentee's feelings, I did feel exactly the same
I explained to myself that if I wanted to help my mentee to develop professionally, I had to criticize his work. He started to justify for the lack of active engagement in the class, the reason being that the pupils were already of low ability. I listened to his justification, after which I asked him what according to him could be done to make the pupils engaged. I wanted V to undergo self-reflection because reflection is the ability to bring past events to a conscious level to make sense of them and to determine appropriate ways to act in future (Baornett, 1990 in Wovel, 1997,p1338).
But I was not ready for that. Bergnet and Holmes believe that the person is someone important, who has within him a great potential for change, who has the capacity to be a change agent. So I asked V whether he agreed to bring changes for his professional development he needed. For that reason, I explained him in detail the ALACT model: Action, Looking back on the action, Awareness of essential aspects, Creating alternative methods of action and finally the Trial. I also provided him the way to his solution. We parted away on a friendly and joking note after deciding the date of the next class visit and feedback meeting.
Afterwards when I reflected on the meeting, I felt guilty and was asking myself "wasn't I too harsh while listing the negative aspects?" Listing these aspects one after the other might have caused him to feel low and for that reason, V gave those justifications. I realize that next time I should be more careful with the way I listed the negative aspects.
During the second class visit, I was again greeted by the students. V was explaining on flower structure. This time lesson objectives were made clear and the topic of the lesson written on the board. He then drew a labeled diagram of a flower on the board and keep on explaining on each part of the flower.
Still I could see the pupils not paying attention to their teacher. There were some who were even talking when V was writing on board with his back to the pupils. All the behaviors were due to lack of participation of the students. If they would have been engaged with their learning, there would have been no talking and looking here and there. This time too, my mentee just talked and talked in his explanation on flowers. Teaching (like medicine) requires application of knowledge, interpretation of evidence and its application to real-life situations, suing critical thinking skills and previous experiences ( Harrison, J.K et al.,2005).Thus for teaching students on flowers and its structure, I thought V could have told his students to bring some flowers, which they could use to reinforce their learning and understanding, so as to get the students to an analysis level and make the learning active rather that passive and develop skills for lifelong learning. "Good teacher explanations, with appropriate examples will produce mental engagement and understanding. Understanding is best thought if as having a representation or model in the mind that corresponds to the situation or phenomenon being encountered. Engagement is about helping pupils to develop these mental models (Ofsted active engagement)
Concsiously, we teach what we know , unconsciously , we teach who we are.( Hamachok, 1999,p.209). teahcre's competencies are determined by his beliefs he told with regards to learning and teaching and these determine their actionsand every action that a teacher undertake has an effect on pupils. Feiman-Nemsec(1983) state that teachers have themselves spent many years as studnets in schools, during which time, they have developed their own beliefs about teaching, many of which are diametrically opposed to these presented to them during their teacher education . For example, they may have developed the belief that teaching is transmission of knowledge and most teacher educators find this belief not very beneficial to becoming a good teacher. Unless teachers act on their reflections of themselves and their beliefs then no development would take place.
I saw my mentee moving around among the students while explaining. Before ending the lessons, my mentee asked questions to the whole class to see if they have understood. But unfortunately the questions being asked to the pupils remained unanswered since the learners had not been engaged and learning had not taken place. V felts somewhat disappointed. Questioning is highly effective. It should be structured to match pupils' ability levels so that all are involved. It helps teachers to improve their teaching when they make an effort to learn their student's names and get to know them personally. Questions should have been asked individually by calling them by their names. V then shifted to closed questions. This time all of those who knew the answer replied in chorus. The mentee then gave a classwork derived from their textbook. V moved around in the classroom while the pupils were doing their classwork. He was checking if the work was being done. After completion of the classwork, V corrected it on the board. I left the classroom after fixing for the second feedback meeting
When we met, I asked my mentee how he found his class teaching. He showed his dissatisfaction with the lack of response from the students and asked for my suggestions. I could sense that v recognized that his teaching has not been effective and that he wanted to receive these constructive criticism, support and solutions. Mentors hoped to support their mentee while working together with them to learn new ideas that they could implement. (Abell et al., 1995, Koballa et al., in press in Bradbury and Koballa Jr, 2008, p.2142). There was a need to talk since talking is an important way of learning. So I talked about active engagement, making the pupils participating rather that the teacher kept on talking nearly the whole class period. I told my mentee to reflect on what could be done to get the students involved so that learning takes place. That was the advantage of having mentoring review meetings to enable mentee to reflect deeply on their experience of teaching and to arrive largely at their own conclusions (Martin, 1995, in Cain, 2009). V cam up with the same idea I had, of bringing flowers to demonstrate the structure of flowers. I smiled since our thoughts matched as if he had read my mind. I agreed to his idea and suggested him that he could form group learning, dividing the pupils in groups, where each group would discuss and talk about the structure of flowers which pupils in each group had brought. Group learning is beneficial since it get all of the pupils involved, there would be sharing of information and development of communication skills. But V showed reluctance for the group learning the reason being that such approaches of promoting whole-class interactive involvement may lead to misbehavior. I encouraged V to give a try and offered him my help in case of any risk of misbehavior. Anyway the students seemed afraid of V, so there might be no chance of misbehavior. By this time, he agreed to give a try in the next class visit. The mentoring process and the mentoring meetings are time consuming and demand lots of patience. So I should not rush my mentee. We would have to see the negative aspects little by little and bringing changes gradually. We then left for lunch
By this time of the mentoring process, my mentee and I were looking forward for the following class visits as we were about to experiment a new idea and the classroom was as if the laboratory. Unconsciously, my mentee and I were learning the mentoring culture which is a culture that encourages mentors and mentees to view each other as collaborators and follow decision makers rather than figures holding unequal positions in a hierarchical structure. V got the pupils into groups. Nearly all the pupils had brought all types of flowers indicating their eagerness and enthusiasm. The greeting I received this time was so different. It was warmer and full of happiness.