One of our history ITE mentors likes to talk about the way she and I often perform a ‘pincer movement’ on the beginning teachers we share. This sounds much more aggressive than the reality! Our ‘pincer movement’ most often involves both of us praising the student for the same achievement or seeking to offer support if we have concerns about their well-being. Sometimes it involves both of us providing complementary advice, reflecting our differing perspectives, to allow the trainee to find their way through a situation. This pincer movement only works because the mentor and I both believe in and are committed to partnership. We understand the value of a quick email or phone call at the end of the day to put each other in the picture. We see ourselves as a team. We know that our beginning teachers’ experiences of teacher training are enriched by their exposure to both of their teacher educators – the school based mentor and university based tutor.
A community of teacher educators
At the University of Nottingham we are fortunate to have a community of history teachers committed to the mentoring of the next generation of teachers. During our first mentor development session of 2019/20 I found myself smiling as I looked out on the assembled history mentoring team, reflecting on how fortunate our new batch of history PGCE students are to have these teachers ‘in their corner’. Our mentoring team comprises a range of experience. We have a number of experienced colleagues who both mentor their PGCE student and also support those taking their first steps into mentoring. We are also fortunate that a significant proportion of our mentors were trained through our programme and have continued to engage with our subject community, and so understand first-hand our ethos and approach. We also have mentors who trained elsewhere but who have ‘got on board’ with our vision for subject specific partnership in the training of history teachers. All of our mentors offer insight into a range of school settings, helping us to develop our course to prepare beginning teachers for a range of different experiences in specific contexts.
Partnership in teacher training is vital, and the building of a thriving subject community is central to that endeavour. Ways in which we seek to do this are through initiatives such as our Subject Interest Group, where we have joined with UoN History to support our teachers in their subject knowledge enhancement, whilst also maintaining a focus on developing this into subject knowledge for teaching. Our mentor development meetings seek to be exactly that – development not just information giving. It is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of mentoring approaches and also deepen our appreciation of what makes great history teaching – both in terms of pedagogy and engagement with scholarship in the classroom. Our Subject Advisory Group includes mentors and former students who help us to develop our course and support the coherence between our university and school-based elements. We also seek to build strong relationships between the university ITE tutors and school mentors through our regular communication about the progress of our students; all of us are teacher educators involved in the process of growing beginning teachers to make a difference to children. In all these ways we work together and make the theory of partnership become a reality.
A new year of partnership
As we begin the new academic year with a new cohort of beginning teachers, I just want to say thank you to all teacher educators who join us in this endeavour. Raising the next generation of teachers is vital for the young people of our country, and it is you who will be such an important influence in their teachers’ lives and first forays into the classroom. Thank you for your partnership.
Burn, K. and Mutton, T. (2014) ‘Inquiry paper 4: review of ‘research informed clinical practice’ in Initial Teacher Education’ in The Role of Research in Teacher Education: Reviewing the Evidence. Interim Report of the BERA-RSA Inquiry, BERA. https://www.bera.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/BERA-RSA-Interim-Report.pdf