Image of Mikaela Dean
Mikaela Dean
Lead Subject Mentor of MFL (Leicester and Leicestershire SCITT)
Programme cohort
2023 ECF

For anyone thinking of becoming a mentor, I would say do it

Mikaela Dean, a mentor on the Early Career Framework (ECF) programme, shares her experience of mentoring early career teachers.

A career with purpose

I was the first person in my family to go to university. I went to Durham and studied French and Spanish.

I’d always considered teaching because I liked school and had lots of supportive teachers. I like learning new things and I needed to do something with a moral purpose.

So I decided to give teaching a go and I absolutely love it.

It is difficult, but I like the mental challenge it provides. I think in any other job I’d probably be a bit bored.

I did my teacher training through School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) and worked in a large secondary school for five years, before moving to my current role.

I’ve held a number of roles – as a classroom teacher, mentoring a number of SCITT trainees, assistant curriculum lead, curriculum lead and lead practitioner.

My current school is in an inner-city area. The proportion of pupils eligible for pupil premium is 48%, which is huge.

We serve a very diverse community with different cultures and points of views coming into play.

Mental ill health and persistent school absence are on the rise, so we’re having to face those challenges as well.

Sharing my passion for teaching

I wanted to be a mentor on the ECF programme because just as I love seeing the progress of my pupils, I also love seeing the progress of the people I’m mentoring.

I’m passionate about what I do, and I like being able to share that with others.

It’s forming those strong working relationships and seeing them go from fresh out of training to being excellent classroom practitioners.

Knowing that ultimately they are the ones who have done it because they’ve put the hard work in, but that it’s your guidance that has helped get them there.

That caring role is a big part of my personality, and this is where it gets to shine.

Ultimately, we’re all here to do the best for the young people we teach.

My first-year early career teacher (ECT) had a Year 10 group who were struggling with certain parts of the curriculum. Together, we looked at how we could adapt and plan the lessons differently, breaking down things even further to help them understand.

Cutting through the noise

One of the things I’m most passionate about the ECF mentor role is how we can develop staff wellbeing to make them the best practitioners they can be.

How can I help cut through the noise and keep them getting better and enjoying what they’re doing? No man is an island, and we all need to pull together.

I’ve felt really supported on the programme and there’s a lot of help available like the ECF induction tutor, conference days and modules to work through – which also means it’s not all on me. I’ve got places to refer to and other avenues I can use to support my ECTs.

Reflecting on my own practice

We had Ofsted in recently and I was asked how I was finding the mentor role. I said it’s actually my favourite thing. It’s rewarding.

My two ECTs are really strong in the classroom. They listen to me and get feedback. It’s very much a two-way dialogue.

My second-year ECT is an exceptional classroom practitioner already. She challenges me to really drill down into certain aspects of pedagogy. 

Seeing her grow in confidence and reflect on her progress is making me reflect on my own practice. When I went for all the different teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) positions I’ve had over the years, it was this that really helped me to get the role, as you know what an excellent teacher looks like.

The most rewarding part of being a mentor is that when I go into a lesson and see something great, I can say, “I’m taking that, I’m going to use that.”

Seeing them progress

Being able to listen to what my mentees are saying, asking the ‘why’ and ‘how’, is important to the role of a mentor – to unpick their thinking and guide them in the right direction.

It’s a challenging profession because of the emotional investment you put into it.

Since mentoring ECTs on the programme, I can see the clear progress they are making.

My second-year ECT has a TLR now. Seeing her develop in confidence has been amazing.

It’s not about destination but direction

For anyone thinking of becoming a mentor, I would say do it.

If you’ve been approached about being a mentor, you obviously have something about you – don’t let any imposter syndrome come in.

The workload is a bit extra, but you do get time given in your timetable to do that.

Contracting meetings are really helpful to discuss how you’re going to work together and lay out any boundaries, so they know what they need from you and vice versa.

It’s not about the destination but about direction. Perfect doesn’t exist. It’s about focusing on those little wins. Finding your work bestie or go-to person.

Tap into the people around you, as they will be your best support network.

I like what I do, even in the toughest moments

Don’t forget to carve out time for yourself. Look for those little things, having those anecdotes that help you focus on the good.

I had a really challenging group in my first year in teaching. I kept them all the way through to Year 11.

I remember it was the end of Year 10 and my head of department said, “Right, you can either give them up or share them.” And I said, “I’m going to share them and see this through.”

The pupils said, “Miss, remember how we were but we’re better now.” One wanted me to name my gerbils after him!

My job is tough, but I love it. I can’t think of anything else I would want to do.

I have a first-class degree, I’m trilingual. I could go and look for other work, but I like what I do, even in the toughest moments.

Help your early career teachers thrive with our fully funded Early Career Framework programme. High-quality, evidence-led training designed by experts with flexible online and face-to-face training modules.

Find out more about the Early Career Framework.

Copy to clipboard caution chat check-off check-on close cog-off cog-on down first-page home-off home-on info last-page mail minus mobile more next pdf person play plus prev question radio-off radio-on return search trail up filter facebook google+ LinkedIn twitter YouTube Instagram Share This TF_ECEF_lock-up_full col_RBG