Steph Rees didn’t know much about Teach First before she became a mentor for a new trainee teacher at her school, Little Mead Primary Academy. She’s seen how driven her new colleague is but has also helped her to maintain a better work-life balance. She’s found it rewarding to witness the progress of her mentee first-hand. And after her first year as a mentor, she’s learned that the progress hasn’t all been one-sided.
“I’d heard of Teach First, but I didn't really know much about them until last year when they came in for three weeks of training with us at the start of the Leadership Development Programme. I’d never considered mentoring before and probably didn’t think I had that much to offer. However, my school mentioned it and I thought, ‘why not try and help out and support someone else?’
I wanted to build a strong relationship with my participant from the word go and make sure she knew there were no silly questions. I went with the mentality that we’ve all been there and wanted to show that people are willing to help. I think more people should become mentors, it’s been so rewarding.
The participants I’ve seen are high-achievers and I think they truly want to make a difference. They’re very motivated. Our school supports children and families from very low-income backgrounds and that seems to match the Teach First ethos. It’s quite a natural fit, with that same driving force of providing these children with a great start to their education.
The staff, university tutors and Participant Development Leads (Teach First staff) have all been very helpful, friendly and supportive. Not only for the participants but also for the mentors, especially because I’m new to the role! I must say that my participant has been amazing. But even if I need to contact the Teach First South West team, or my participant needs anything extra, they’re always ready to email back or available to talk to. They’ve been very helpful, it’s been great.
The most challenging thing I’ve found for my participant is that she has struggled at times to sort out her work-life balance. I’ve tried to help her with modelling that. Things like not taking your laptop home, and asking ‘what are you doing tonight? Make sure you’re doing something nice’. I think because she’s so driven, she definitely wants to make the biggest difference she can, and therefore has to work all the time. It’s a case of learning to switch off, that it’s okay to think about other things outside of school.
She’s made loads of progress, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her, and hopefully vice versa. I think we’ve worked together well. By forming a positive relationship, the children have kind of bounced off that and the whole experience has been really rewarding.
I think we’ve worked together well. By forming a positive relationship, the children have kind of bounced off that and the whole experience has been really rewarding.
When she first stepped into the classroom she was quite hesitant and didn’t want to make a mistake. Now she’s making an impact on the lives of the children here and she’s made a huge difference already. And I know one of her assignments focused on greater depth of learning. Our SATS results this year showed the greater-depth learners, the area that she had looked at, had a huge amount of progression. They really look up to her as a role model, which is great to see.
When she first stepped into the classroom she was quite hesitant and didn’t want to make a mistake. Now she’s making an impact on the lives of the children here and she’s made a huge difference already.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had two new participants in class as part of the School Centred Learning*. Again, they’re high-achievers and what’s really nice is that they genuinely want to learn. They take your constructive criticism on board and by the next lesson, which literally might be after break time, they've applied that within their teaching. They’re extremely motivated and friendly too. They've always got a smile on their faces and that's what exactly what you need. Not only to me, they act completely the same with anyone who’s walking around the corridors and say ‘good morning’. Being approachable like that in a school environment is vital really.
For anyone considering working with Teach First I would say that it’s a good experience because all the participants are so driven and they just want to make difference. And from the experiences we’ve had at Little Mead they make brilliant teachers. And it’s also helped me within my new role. It’s allowed me to move forward and become part of the senior leadership team at the school. I think one of the main reasons I got the job was because I had that leadership and mentoring experience. Becoming a mentor and developing a coaching and leadership role actually set me up really nicely to become an SLT member.”
Becoming a mentor and developing a coaching and leadership role actually set me up really nicely to become an SLT member.
*School Centred Learning (SCL) refers to the initial training days that participants spend in a different school (separate from their school of employment). This represents our commitment to a school-led approach to Initial Teacher Training, as recommended by Ofsted and Estyn.