Although many elements of my teacher training attributed to my successful completion of the course, perhaps the most valuable moments of all were the open, effective and professional conversations that occurred between myself and my mentors. Upon reflection, I am struck by the way in which I developed the skills necessary to effectively engage in this dialogue. Despite originally assuming that the feedback meetings would be wholly led by the mentors, the way in which these sessions occurred evolved throughout my practice as I became more confident in discussing myself as a practitioner – a notion that was initially rather nerve-wracking.
The feedback I received during my first placement was thorough and clear. It revealed the aspects of my teaching that I had consciously attempted to implement, such as the use of puppetry and songs to engage the children. However, it also highlighted elements of my practice that I had failed to consider whatsoever, despite them being incredibly obvious elements, such as having an overall awareness of the classroom’s atmosphere, as opposed to wholly focusing on the guided group I was working with at the time. I would nod and agree with all the feedback that was provided and targets that were set, yet never really commented on or questioned the feedback. It was certainly not the case that the mentor made me feel uncomfortable in doing so, but I was just glad to have the opinion of a professional, as at the time in my training I felt merely like a teaching “imposter” and so allowed the mentor to fully lead the evaluation.
By my second placement, I was settling into the role of the teacher more comfortably. I was teaching sequences of lessons which allowed myself to feel more in control of the progression of the children’s learning and I was also occasionally leading an extra-curricular club. During feedback meetings, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was being praised on elements of my practice that I had not consciously intended to incorporate. Some strategies and approaches were becoming natural to me and this allowed me to stress less about constantly demonstrating “good practice”. Instead, it provided me with an opportunity to really focus on the areas of my teaching that were mutually decided to be the most in need of addressing. I was certainly beginning to trust myself to contribute more to the professional discussion.
My final placement mentor was an incredibly supportive individual who constantly sought for me to better my practice. She would frequently question my decision to implement certain strategies and ask for my opinion in regards to my teaching. Although initially my heart would skip a beat as I tried to think of the correct response, I soon came to realise that these were not tests she was setting me. Instead, she was encouraging me to truly interrogate my practice, thus setting me up for my future endeavours as a teacher.
Before I knew it, I was driving the discussions, stating the strengths and areas to adapt that I had observed during my own lessons. My mentor would provide any additional comments she deemed necessary, yet the majority of our notes corresponded with one another. Finally, I had learned to not only look to my mentors for support, but also to to rely on and believe in myself. During my placements, I quickly realised the vitality of instantly self-reflecting upon lessons prior to having a discussion with my mentor. It was incredibly valuable to realise that over time, my judgements and my mentors’ correlated. It was rewarding to discover that my judgements as a practitioner were akin to those of experienced teachers and really allowed me to believe in myself as a teacher.
In my opinion, this was the most beneficial strategy throughout my training as it required me to instantaneously address my practice which would inform my next steps in terms of pupil progress and my own trainee progress. However, I believe I was only able to truly utilise these strategies by essentially scaffolding the way in which feedback was discussed throughout my training, thus the way in which feedback was addressed during my first and second placements were just as vital in order to inform my practice and help me achieve QTS.