Estimated time required to complete this module: 8 h

Estimated time required to complete this unit: 4 h

Estimated time required to complete this unit: 4 h

Role modelling – case study 

Read the following case study demonstrating the pitfalls of poor role modelling for student teachers.

I feel as if Mr Grumpy doesn’t like me…

Simon walks into the staffroom for break to get a cup of coffee. He has been a student teacher with Mr Grumpy who teaches mathematics and he is regarded as a good teacher as his learners produce good results in what is viewed as a challenging subject.

However, Simon is struggling to settle in. He always feels as if he is an inconvenience and refrains from asking too many questions. When he did ask if he could look at Mr Grumpy’s lesson plans, he handed him a file covered in dust and remarked that he knows how to teach and does not need to plan any more. Simon noticed that the documents in the file are outdated and that there was no evidence of recent planning. On the positive side, Mr Grumpy is always on time for every class, clearly knows the content of his subject well and his learners are very disciplined.

Simon reflects on the past few days while adding water and sugar to his coffee. He is becoming bored. It feels as if every lesson is the same: the learners rush in, fearful of being late; Mr Grumpy starts teaching, and stops at the slightest distraction to give the learners the evil eye. When they are instructed to solve a math problem, there is a deathly silence. Sometimes a learner will quietly push his book over to a friend indicating that he needs help. Peeking to make sure Mr Grumpy does not notice, a few notes will be scribbled and the book is pushed back. If a learner is caught out trying to assist a friend, Mr Grumpy will shout in a deafening voice: “DO YOUR OWN WORK! YOUR FRIEND CANNOT HELP YOU IN THE EXAM!”

Simon takes his cup of coffee and joins the other student teachers for break. They seem to be on a much better footing with their mentor teachers. He mentions that he feels a little apprehensive around Mr Grumpy. They suggest that he strikes up an informal conversation to get to know Mr Grumpy a little better.

That afternoon at the end of the school day, Simon stays behind and starts closing the windows. He takes his chance. “Mr Grumpy, I am very interested in knowing what you find rewarding about the teaching profession.” Simon was not prepared for Mr Grumpy’s response.

"Young man, teaching is a thankless job! Many years ago, when I started out it was not as bad but now! It is almost impossible for a learner to fail and the responsibility lies with me to provide proof of what I did to assist those who perform poorly. Today’s learners are just too lazy to work hard. What is more, you cannot rely on the Department of Education to support you. Just look at how many times changes have been made to the system and every time there is more paperwork. Do not get me started on all the meetings and the moderation that is required! What is rewarding is the fact that I know with every year that passes I am a year closer to retirement.”

Simon slumps down on his bed when he gets home. He has never thought about all the things Mr Grumpy said. Maybe teaching is not for him after all.


  • Put yourself in the shoes of Simon. What has Mr Grumpy modelled to him about what it means to be a teacher?
  • Many teachers would agree that the demands on teachers are multiple and that the support that is received is not always sufficient. How should a mentor teacher deal with this in interaction with a student teacher?

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