Supporting trainee teachers requires extra attention right now, says Rachael Rowden – as she outlines questions to ask.

Teaching during Covid-19 has often felt like completing an assault course while juggling burning batons. So take a moment to consider how your trainee has coped. They will need as much support as possible during this period, and you can make sure you do that with four simply phrases.

Coronavirus: Ways to support your trainee teachers

1. ‘Are you OK?’

It’s a simple enough question, but have you asked it? Have you taken the time to put targets and videoed lesson observations to one side in favour of checking in with your trainee about how they are feeling? How are they coping? It’s easy to assume that they are OK if they are in the building and they’re getting on with things – but if you don’t actually ask and give the time for an answer, you won’t really know.

2. ‘What do you need?’

In a usual climate, you’d be working with your trainee in a completely different way; dropping in on them to both observe them and to just poke your head into their classroom offering ad-hoc support. It’s often the case that this just hasn’t been happening, so can you find the time to ask them if there is something they need that you might not have thought about? It’s easy to get caught up with structured mentor meetings, targets and making sure the evidence bundles are coming along, but have you checked that they don’t need something small in the day-to-day that would really impact their experience?

3. ‘Does video calling work for you?’

I hate video calling. There, I’ve said it. It makes me self-conscious and it breaks up all the time. If I can’t hear something, I find myself unceremoniously leaning into the screen to try and hear better (why!?) and more often than not, it’s a disaster. If I was a trainee and having to do this, my weekly video-called mentor meeting would be something that I dreaded. Have you asked your trainee if they are OK with it and whether it works for them? Have you explored other options that could make them feel at ease? After all, can you make a safe space for a trainee to share their feelings and reflect on themselves if they’re already feeling uncomfortable?

4. ‘You are doing a great job’

Trainees hear this a lot. They are surrounded by people who, with nothing but good intentions, tell them over and over that they are doing a great job. When it’s said often enough, it starts to become whimsical. So, have you taken the time to say, “Well done,” and sincerely mean it. Learning to teach during a global pandemic, a national lockdown and the Christmas term is something that not much could rival in terms of stress levels. Take the time to say, “Well done.” and mean it.

Rachael Rowden is a primary school teacher, mentor and RE/charity lead in South-East England

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