September usually brings new staff into our schools, some may be new to education while others may have moved from one educational establishment to another. Whichever is the case, all staff need a mentor. The purpose of a mentor is to help the person quickly learn the rules, culture and the role of their new position. The idea is to help the person feel at home, understand what is and what is not acceptable and this will result in them becoming an effective member of staff in a much faster timescale.

A good mentor should be a good listener and also a good communicator. They should be approachable, diplomatic and honest. There should be trust between the mentor and the mentee so that the mentee feels that they can ask any questions and know that they will be answered accurately with compassion for the other person’s feelings.

For a teaching assistant it would be wise to appoint a more senior teaching assistant to fulfil the role of mentor. At the school where I am AHT, teaching assistants have a wide and varied role. They are the backbone of the school and they have so much to learn in the first few days in school. They have to be up to speed very quickly so there is little time to repeat things. This is not an exhaustive list but our level one TAs are expected to feed children, tube feed children, administer oxygen, administer seizure medications, hoist for changing, teach children to swim, drive the mini bus, clean physio equipment, assist the teacher in class, and so the list goes on. Quite a lot to learn for a new person. A senior TA at our school has the role of mentor for TAs and she goes through all these points one by one and arranges training where necessary. Each new TA must only shadow and work with the mentor until the mentor is confident that they have received enough training to be around and work with our very special children. We have a mentoring file and all new TAs are listed in the file. When they have received the appropriate training for tube feeding, oxygen administration and all the medical procedures they are signed off by the school nurse and myself as AHT and they are able to partner other TAs and make decisions according to their level of training. Learning from books and gaining qualifications is encouraged and it is a requirement that all our TAs are trained to Level three before they start the role or they must undertake the qualification whilst in post. That said, ‘hands on’ experience is extremely valuable in the role of teaching assistant.

For teachers the mentoring role is rather different. As the teacher mentor I may be quite busy this year as we have two NQTs and we always have many student teachers throughout the year. With the NQTs I always take the stand that they can teach and they simply require experience to bring them up to speed. I trust our ITT providers to have done their job properly and so far this has always been the case. Once again I have a file which is full to bursting with information that they will need. This is all practical information such as when they will receive a school email address, how to access any plans that are there ready and waiting for them, how to access Google Drive to see how other teachers plan their curriculum and general timetables for themselves and their class. I also point them in the direction of all the policies that we work to in school starting with the most important ones first. Most of the mentoring in the first week is very practical. It is an established routine that I have worked with over many years and found a formula that is right for our school. The NQT is entitled to this mentoring over and above their allotted NQT time. That time must be protected for curriculum issues and should not be used for general mentoring purposes.

Apart from teaching a new staff member the finer parts of their new role there is another aspect to mentoring which should not be forgotten. one of the purposes of mentoring is to make the new staff member feel comfortable. The mentor should not neglect the every day things that strike fear into some people when they are new to a job. Examples of this are: where can I store my lunch, is there a tea and coffee collection, do I need my own cup, where should I park my car, what time should I arrive, am I expected to stay in school until a certain time and the list goes on. For anyone new to a job some of these questions are more important than the curriculum queries. In order to ensure I don’t neglect this part of my role I have added these questions to my mentoring file. Each year, as new staff bring new questions I add them to my list. I do my best to ensure a smooth start to their new role.

Good luck to all mentors and mentees for September 🙂

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