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Education Quandary: 'My teaching mentor at school is always criticising me and talking to me as if I'm an idiot. What can I do?'

Hilary's advice

As a newly qualified teacher, you will be in the middle of your year under an induction tutor, which you will need to complete successfully to teach in England. And it is not uncommon for this delicate relationship to go wrong, although your problems sound particularly bad.

Your tutor should be supporting and helping you, not undermining and criticising you, so if this is what is happening, you must take action. But remember; you are a professional now and you need to deal with problems in a professional way. Whining and moaning to colleagues is neither a good nor a productive way forward.

First, ask yourself whether the situation really is as bad as you say. Newly qualified teachers can feel vulnerable and oversensitive, and it could be that you are reading too much into your tutor's manner. If you feel brave, speak to your tutor about this and ask if the two of you can sort the issue out. If you don't think you can do this, ask to see your head. Note down precise instances. Be calm and reasonable as you explain them. If you're concerned this may rebound on you, remember that you have a right to expect a certain standard of help and support from your tutor, who may have received specialist training in how to provide it. New, young teachers are often scared that complaining will harm their careers, but showing you expect high standards should not reflect badly on you.

Readers' advice

Being criticised in public and talked to like an idiot amounts to workplace bullying. Go straight to your union rep and ask their advice. In my experience, this sort of thing happens quite a lot. There are too many small-minded people in schools who see newly qualified teachers as fair game.

Jo Pierce, Derbyshire

Point out to your tutor what he or she is doing. Say things such as: "I feel this is a personal matter. Could we talk about it in private?" Or: "I'm sorry, but I really would rather you didn't speak to me like that." Bullies almost always back down when they see that the person they are bullying is not intimidated. Think of it as providing a good role model for your pupils. Good luck.

Heather Welland, Buckinghamshire

I, too, was unhappy with my induction year. I felt I was given no support or help whatsoever. My tutor cancelled meetings, and brushed aside questions as if they were too trivial to deal with. In the end, because I was getting nowhere with the school, I complained to the local authority. I was really worried that this would backfire on me, but the school did not dare fail me. And now I can see from my current school, where new teachers are given every encouragement, that I was right to do what I did for teachers coming in after me.

Dee McIntyre, London NW6

Next Week's Quandary

I want promotion, but I wonder if I've got what it takes to be a good school head. I know what sort of school I'd create and feel sure I could do it if I was left alone, but I'm worried about whether I would be strong enough to hold to my vision against the constant government interference.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.