Saturday, 24 December 2016
Chapter 16 Student teachers
It is an honour, privilege and responsibility to try to teach others how to teach. I was keen to have a go at mentoring student teachers as I didn’t feel that I was particularly well trained and I felt I had picked up a few ideas on what to do and what not to do during my time in teaching. Of course, mentoring students requires a similar set of skills to those needed for “normal” teaching, but applied to a radically different context – you have to be able to distil a set of principles from your experience, analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the student and try to offer helpful and personalised advice on moving forward. Just like pupils, every student is different and as a mentor you have to adapt in order to help them get the most out of their time and experience with you. I felt I was reasonably successful at engaging pupils and I had managed to guide assistants, so I as happy to try my hand at mentoring student teachers.
For a while we seemed to receive nothing but French students – native speakers who decided to make their careers teaching French in Scotland. Apart from the obvious areas of interest such as the structure of a lesson (the content and its delivery), I also focused on rapport and engagement. French students had a number of other hurdles to negotiate as well. It isn’t always easy to teach your native tongue as you may not be entirely sure of grammar, and as a native speaker you will not be as conscious of the pitfalls, difficulties and mistakes that foreigners often encounter when learning that language.
French students are educated in a different culture and environment but as I had some experience of that environment in Le Havre and Rennes, I felt I might be able to offer some insight and understanding – not just about what they knew, but about what they didn’t know in terms of the educational culture they were entering.
I oversaw six student teachers and only once did the arrogance of youth rear its head. Generally, students were willing to take on board advice concerning what to teach and how to teach it. Most went on to pursue careers in teaching (indeed, one became my “boss” when we developed Higher materials together several years later), and it is a source of considerable satisfaction to me to think I made even a minor contribution to these students’ professional development.