There are a great many books available for teachers who need to mentor and help those new to the teaching profession to learn more about it. Often these kinds of books can be directed at mentoring for a specific type of teaching course or area or language. This book instead has no particular framework of reference and is therefore useful for any teacher who has just adopted a mentoring role or who will need to take on a supporting role for others in the future. That aside however, the book is also full of insightful reflective comments, tasks and suggestions for even the most experienced trainer.
At the start the authors ask the reader to consider their underlying belief systems about teachers and what a teacher’s role should be. This analysis is expressed via a series of short anecdotes or stories to highlight just how many different perspectives there are on teacher learning. The authors do not take a particular position on teacher education but instead encourage the reader to make informed choices from the range of options available to them.
The authors state how good teacher knowledge can be categorised into three main areas, KA knowing about, KH knowing how and KT knowing to and encourage the reader to work through a series of brief tasks to see just how these perspectives can be applied to the classroom reality. These three threads of ‘knowing’ are a kind of leit motif woven throughout the book.
As an experienced trainer I found the chapter on how teachers learn from each other particularly interesting, especially the different ‘modes of mind’ that the authors explore, starting from Claxton’s (1997) d-mode conscious way of thinking as well as his unconscious way of thinking or ’undermind’, something I shall be reading into further in the future.
The authors explore teaching as a complex open skill and give varying models for the reader to work through, such as the pendulum model that shows how hand head and heart can and should work together. There is very good coverage of topics of importance for all teachers such as identifying needs, planning, observation, preparation which is sub-divided into concrete preparation and preparation of self. All very thought provoking!
The real strength of the book however, lies in its ability to also look at teaching from its more humanistic side, something which I feel in most books is not given nearly enough emphasis, and this is the part the experienced mentor will find most interesting. I particularly liked the chapters on the importance of helping teachers to listen to notice the management of a process to then be able to scaffold appropriately as well as the importance of listening to the people involved in processes and understanding from this how they are feeling.
The authors have provided some well-known and less well-known games for team building, varying models to work from when observing and some useful and very practical suggestions for those teachers who may, for whatever reason, need to manage their development alone.
The concluding chapters provide more excellent ideas and input about assessing and evaluating teachers’ progress. There is an exhaustive list of reference material at the end of the book, as well as at the end of some chapters. I know, I for one, will certainly be buying some of the books mentioned.
I would highly recommend that anyone involved in training or mentoring read ‘Teaching Teachers’.
Norman Cain – IH Rome Manzoni