NQT Mentoring: How to Build A Successful Relationship

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What should you be thinking about as you start the year as a mentor of a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)? 

Taking on the role of NQT mentor can be one of the most rewarding experiences in teaching. Whilst there is no getting away from the time-heavy investment, you are required to put into regular meetings and the supporting paperwork; the rewards that can come from working with a teacher at the start of their professional journey are not easily rivalled.

To get the most of out of the mentor-mentee relationship follow these tips:

1.Resist creating a ‘mini-me’

The best NQT mentors support a new teacher to develop his or her own style and identity in the classroom. As mentor you are there to help your mentee grow into their role with authenticity. Avoid trying to mould an impressionable mentee into a replica of how you were in your first year of teaching. Whilst certain methodologies may have worked for you, do not insist your mentee follow suit. Instead, try to strike a balance between imparting experiences and use open questioning to help your mentee devise approaches that work best for them.

2. Debunk the myth of the ‘perfect teacher’

If you think back to your NQT days, it will not be hard to recall teachers who worked alongside you that made the job seem like ‘little more than a walk in the park’. Look for opportunities to show professional vulnerabilities in yourself; you may be further along the line to reaching accomplished teacher, but make sure your mentee is fully aware that no teacher is perfect. The most successful teachers are those who can honestly reflect on what they do well and what they need to develop.

3. Empower your NQT to feel they really can make an impact

One the key factors in effective NQT engagement, is engendering a belief in your mentee that they really can make a powerful impact on the outcomes and experiences of the children they teach. NQTs need to take ownership for the learning and development of their pupils from the outset. Use specific evidence to highlight the impact of their practice and actions, both positive and negative, to support their understanding of the responsibility every teacher has to those in their care.

4. Encourage your NQT to get connected

It can be very easy for NQTs to quickly develop tunnel vision, inside their own classroom or department, as they throw themselves into life at their new school. Encourage your NQT to also look beyond your school and connect with other NQTs, professional bodies and online networks. Not only might this afford them an insight to some of the universal experiences of teaching, but also connect with some fantastic resources, support and examples of good practice.

5. Be positive about the profession

Teaching is hard work. It is demanding and can be pressured at times. Whilst it would not be helpful to paint rose-tinted view of the job, it is equally unhelpful to denigrate our profession to those new to its ranks. Share the positives you feel about the job and use these to promote optimism and camaraderie amongst your wider staff team.

6. Model and promote good teacher wellbeing

You cannot underestimate how much your NQT mentee will look to you to set the tone on all aspects of school life. One area you have the opportunity to draw a clear line in the sand is teacher wellbeing. Discuss time management with your NQT from day one; support them to manage their time effectively and talk to them about how they balance their professional commitments with life outside the classroom. Remind your NQT there are no prizes for working the longest hours.

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7. Do not limit your interactions

Difficult conversations are an inevitable part of the NQT mentor’s lot. Whether it’s delivering a hard message after an observation or following up after a missed deadline, there will be times when you will have to be firm and direct with your mentee. Wherever possible do this as promptly as possible and however uncomfortable it may be, resist shying away from your mentee in the aftermath. You are there as the senior professional and as someone who is primarily there to offer support and guidance.

If you have any concerns about your NQT, make sure you share them with your head teacher. Early intervention when problems arise is critical; for both the NQT and the pupils they teach. By the same token, make sure you do not pass over opportunities to praise your NQT for both formal and informal successes. Noticing their interactions with children in the playground, or the quality of new display is as important in building up the confidence of your NQT, as giving formal feedback after a lesson observation.

8. View the relationship as mutual CPD

Be mindful of this and instead try look at your role from a slightly different lens. Whilst you will likely have the years of experience under your belt, it is also likely to be a good few years since you were immersed in the world of teacher training. Treat the relationship with your NQT as one where the learning reciprocal; don’t let the opportunity to really share good practice and learn from one another pass you by.

Claire Boyd

Claire is a Head of Junior School at Sydenham High Junior School GDST. She gained her QTS in 2005 and started her career as an EYFS/KS1 specialist in a large state community infant school in Hounslow, West London where she developed an interest in EAL in EYFS, then moved to the independent sector where she worked in a variety of roles in large co-ed London prep schools including Head of Geography and English. In 2010 she took up her first SLT role as Head of Lower School at Ravenscourt Park Prep.

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