Why take on a teaching trainee?

I read this article about gender neutral nursery schools in Sweeden and good ‘gender practise’ and it reminded me of something from my PGCE. During my first ‘proper’ school placement I was at a nursery (not my ideal setting, I was hoping for Y2) and while discussing tidy-up time, my ‘mentor’ (I use the term in a loose sense of the word) recommended saying something along the lines of ‘I need some big strong boys to help move these blocks,’ which seemed a bit sexist but she was the mentor and I was to learn from her. A day or two later, at tidy-up time, I said to a few kids “I need some strong boys to help tidy up,” to which her immediate response was “Sexist! Big, strong children.”

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You actually listened to my advice and then implemented it?  Are you mad?

I was too dumbfounded to know how to respond.

I could write quite a few general moans about ineffectual teaching mentors but here are a few examples of her expert mentoring:

  • She once spent an entire planning session with her back to me.
  • My suggestions for the following day’s activities were often over-ruled, for no particular reason.
  • The first time she ever looked at my planning (during the final week of the eight week placement) her feedback was “You’ve not put your name on it.”
  • My plan for a sequence of three storytelling sessions (on which a large piece of coursework was based) was overruled after two sessions because the kids I’d done it with “wouldn’t be able to do it,” despite the fact they’d done it the previous two days.
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“I’m afraid, Mr Beckham, we can’t award you the World Cup as you haven’t put your name on the application.”

So, to pretend that this post isn’t just 100% rant (which it is really), it does make me think and wonder why teachers accept taking on teaching students. I guess there must be pressure from above to do so – and it must be a nightmare when you perceive the trainee to be ineffectual – but EVERY teacher should remember the pressures of training, what it is like and you would hope that they would been vaguely supportive. That mentor really made me hate the placement. The only thing that really got me through it was having a PGCE chum on placement at the same nursery.

I regret never having got to the point where I had a student as I really would have tried to support them. There were occasions where a trainee TA or work experience person came into my class and I always tried to help them because it is not easy and you need support!

I do rather wish that I’d had a friend in situ for the next PGCE placement though, things might have turned out very differently…but that’s another story.