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What do you want from us?!


Lou Phillips
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I thought I would start the ball rolling in this section with a general discussion about what do teachers and schools want from their trainee teachers?

Is it just a chance for you all to have a free lesson and catch up on your marking?

Are we a nuisance due to all the extra 'mentoring' you are required to give us?

Do you appreciate some of the fresh approaches and resources we provide?

Moreover, what do other trainees think about our teaching practices? What do we need from our experienced colleagues?

Any thoughts at all? Is anyone out there?!

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I do remember the time when to be allocated a trainee teacher was a welcome bonus in a less serious time. Being not much older than the trainnees at that time made the experience positive but not very concrete.

I now by necessity (and probably maturity) make a better job of helping student teachers in mastering the craft of teaching and learning. I also note the dedication of my fellow colleagues in ensuring that the experiences for the trainee teacher are as valuable as possible. The amount of support given far exceeds that of twenty years ago.

It is probably one of the best times to undertake teacher training in school.

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I thought I would start the ball rolling in this section with a general discussion about what do teachers and schools want from their trainee teachers?

Is it just a chance for you all to have a free lesson and catch up on your marking?

Are we a nuisance due to all the extra 'mentoring' you are required to give us?

Do you appreciate some of the fresh approaches and resources we provide?

Moreover, what do other trainees think about our teaching practices? What do we need from our experienced colleagues?

You ask some interesting questions Lou. I asked the same kind of questions when I did my PGCE in 1977-78.

The simple answer is that different teachers want different things from PGCE students. Some do see it as an opportunity to get you to take difficult classes from them. It is something I have observed taking place since becoming a qualified teacher. It is indeed a disgraceful thing to do. Although it gives them short-term respite from their troubles, their original problem does not go away. In fact, it becomes worse, especially if the student successfully develops a good relationship with the class.

There are other teachers, who although competent classroom teachers themselves, have no strong desire to help others develop these skills. As I said in another thread, the most important character trait in a good teacher is generosity.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=205

There are plenty of teachers who have a committed philosophy about teaching and are willing to use what influence they have to obtain converts to the cause. These teachers can also be a problem. Especially if they have a philosophy you do not share.

When I was training at Sussex University it was the policy of the course to insist that for the first two weeks in the school, you would spend your time observing teachers in the classroom. I found this extremely useful as it helped me work out the style of teaching that I wanted to adopt.

For example, there was one teacher who I liked a great deal. We both came from the same background (working class, late entrants to teaching) and shared a similar political and educational philosophy. He believed passionately that he was doing the most important job in the world and cared deeply about the pupils he was teaching. He was also extremely well organised and had a reputation for getting good exam results. However, I made no attempt to adopt his style of teaching. The main problem was that he had a very authoritarian approach to teaching. This was a style that most teachers urged us to adopt. The most common phrase I heard from teachers during that first term was “don’t smile in class until Easter”. (The more liberal ones said Christmas). This view was reinforced by what we were being told at university (to obtain good discipline you need to develop a mask of authority, etc.). My personality (and political philosophy) meant that this was for me an impossible thing to do.

Luckily, I observed a teacher who had a style that fitted in with my own philosophy of education. Discussions with him later showed that this was no coincidence as we both had the same set of values. Of course, you cannot just develop a teaching style by watching a good teacher in the classroom. What was important was that he showed me what was possible. I only watched him teach two lessons but he generously gave me a great deal of his time to discuss the process of teaching.

My advice to any PGCE student is to first develop a philosophy of education (one of the things that disturbs me is the large number of students who don’t seem to have one). Then find a successful teacher in the school who appears to share your philosophy. Then ask them if you can observe some of their lessons. If they refuse, they were not the right person to ask in the first place.

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Guest Adrian Dingle
As I said in another thread, the most important character trait in a good teacher is generosity.

To other teachers, perhaps, but if you are mean-spirited you can still be brilliant.

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Guest Adrian Dingle

I mean those who are not as generous (presumably with time, resources, ideas etc.) as John (Simkin) would like us to be.

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Can I just stand up for mentors. I'm not saying that they are all perfect, but in my experience of working in PGCE, the vast majority of them do it not for the money, or the chance to 'dump' classes on trainees, but because it is an interesting, worthwhile and rewarding bit of the job. They like working with trainees because most trainees are committed, bright and quick to learn and are good to have about the place. It is for this reason that trainees' overall professional attitude and approach are so important. Will they be good colleagues? Will they be a pleasure to work with? I think that you have to be strong in 'resonable human being' qualities to be a good teacher (or a good mentor). You have to be, in Tim Brighouse's words, to at leat some extent, 'a giver'.

Most of the mentors I work with give above and beyond the call of duty and the official requirements.

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Can I just stand up for mentors. I'm not saying that they are all perfect, but in my experience of working in PGCE, the vast majority of them do it not for the money, or the chance to 'dump' classes on trainees, but because it is an interesting, worthwhile and rewarding bit of the job.

Andy Walker makes some good points about the value of PGCE tutors in another thread:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=251

As Andy points out they help students "understand the history and sociology of education and indeed understand the sociology and politics of staffrooms... A properly educated teacher also needs an acute understanding of how children learn and of comparative teaching methodology. To achieve this they must have grounding in the psychology of learning and the philosophy of education.”

When I did my PGCE course in 1977-78 I had four PGCE tutors. Two were poor, one was very good and the final one was brilliant (Stephen Ball of Beachside Comprehensive fame).

When I was training at Sussex University it was the policy of the course to insist that for the first two weeks in the school, you would spend your time observing teachers in the classroom. I have to admit that a higher percentage of the tutors at the university were good teachers than at the school where I did my training.

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Guest ChristineS

MY PGCE tutors were not at all good. I was so fortunate in doing my long TP with a HoD who was talented, interested and a visionary. He taught me things I didn't know I was learning until after I started as a teacher and found myself recalling things he'd said and done and learning from them then. A gifted mentor and one I was very lucky to meet.

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As a SENCO in a large comprehensive school I enjoy mentoring trainee teachers. I particularly value the informed and flexible approaches that the majority of trainee teachers show towards the SEN students in their classes. Making lessons accessible by creative differentiation seems to be part of a trainee teachers lesson planning. Trainee teachers also seem to ensure they are well informed about their students by reading the student profiles issued by SEN. Could it be that some of our more experienced colleagues should adopt the same approaches?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've worked with lots of mentors and trainees over the years. Sure, there are bad ones who do it for the cash or a perceived easy life. It should be up to the provider to ensure these people aren't asked to do it again, since the mentor is a crucial partner in the training process. Unfortunately this doesn't always happen and the problem returns year after year.

The majority of mentors I work with are utterly dedicated professionals. These mentors do it because mentoring trainees gets them to evaluate their own teaching and to consolidate and develop their own educational philosophy which as John says, is sadly lacking in many experienced teachers. I s'pose the money's not bad either :(

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