Liam Rutherford says some PRTs (provisionally registered teachers) are too frightened of rocking the boat to ask for support in their schools, and mentoring programmes vary a lot

I’m coming to the end of my first year teaching and I’m up to my ninth whiteboard marker. I know this because I used part of my PRT budget to buy a pack of 12. I have gone through about 2,250 black and white A4 photocopies.

All in all I have felt very well supported in my school. I have an approachable principal, a team leader who is not afraid to tell me when I am doing something wrong (constructive criticism of course), and a mentor teacher who is never short on advice and prepared to give it before school, at interval, lunch, technology release, after school and even a 10pm text-message conversation.

Liam RutherfordWith all this support on offer I should now be describing my firm but fair classroommanagement style, my perfectly succinct lesson plans, and the ability to pinpoint students’ abilities … well, not quite.

Instead, my days are filled with constant second-guessing, and even second-guessing my second guesses. My catch phrase seems to be, “I can’t wait to do that differently next year.”

As I fight my way through the constant barrage of assessment, I wonder how other teachers manage. They seem to be able to get through running records a lot quicker than I can. I hope my students are still enjoying school and learning.

PRT courses held by the local university are my release from the burden of the classroom. The courses are valuable not necessarily for content, but more for interactions and networking with other first-year teachers. It is here that I have come to appreciate the school, staff and working conditions I have. I seem to be luckier than most.

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There has to be some way of regulating the mentoring programme to make sure that PRTs get the support they need to get them through the first few years of teaching.

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I hear stories of colleagues still not being given PRT time that we so desperately need for development. My colleagues are too frightened to ask for it as the principal can be a very intimidating person for a year-one teacher—and most don’t want to rock the boat as they are on one-year fixedterm contracts because of “roll numbers”. Well, that is what their contracts say anyway.

Most of my colleagues do get some type of mentoring programme. But anecdotally, they vary a lot: from teachers who are there to collect the money, to teachers who go out of their way to make themselves available to their PRT.

There has to be some way of regulating the mentoring programme to make sure that PRTs get the support they need to get them through the first few years of teaching. Mentoring courses do not seem to work as mentors who have been in the business for a while consider themselves capable so do not attend, and principals who choose not to support their PRTs will not send the mentors anyway.

All in all, it has been an exciting year and I am confident that public education is where I want to be. I keep being told that I just need to get through my first two years and then everything is fine. I guess at that stage I’ll then be looking at being an associate, mentor or team leader.