Breaking down the Barriers

Within this short blog, I will attempt to provide a brief, philosophical reflection drawing upon Boud, Keogh and Walker (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985), in addressing emotions and recapturing, evaluating experiences of my supportive role as a mentor in co-teaching. The basis of this will be provided with an example with a youth exchange student on a recent Erasmus+ co-founded European Commission project who faces barriers of lack of self-confidence in his self-development due to his autism and anxiety.

(Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985), First and foremost, the student and I worked together focusing on three aspects in breaking down several barriers. The first being, how he as a teacher connected his feelings to this role? Secondly, recalling on his past experiences and using learnt strategies in removing any obstructive feelings of anxiety and then thirdly, role playing and evaluating and re-examining his experiences and integration of any new learnt coping mechanisms in supporting his delivery. To be reflective, I quickly realised that autism could come in a number of disguises, and I asked myself the question? “Am I experienced enough to mentor someone with autism in developing a change in behaviour, giving them new perspectives working towards a commitment of action, as well as providing that cushion of mental wellness, safety and support when the moment of anxiety is realised when reflecting on his feelings?” So, taking a philosophical view of his self-development and abilities I had to take the role of more of a guide in observing his rational thinking through his beliefs and working as an adaptable mentor with strategists that work for him.

Today the role of the teacher requires a more holistic approach in adapting with their student’s needs and wants. However, the importance of me recapturing my thoughts as a mentor and co-teacher provided the support and focus to his individual personal understanding and self-direction which also became increasingly challenging. (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985), that through turning experience into learning quickly became evident. I needed to focus on the young teacher in developing his personal understanding and how he delivered this to the class, with an emphasis on him as an individual and not so much on his capability of knowledge of the curriculum.

As part of my coaching, I based the emphasis of his individualism on the GROW model in a manner as an introduction to the curriculum as inclusive, adaptable, fun, progressive and reflective. (Whitmore, J. 2002) states “coaching for performance, is growing people and for a purpose.” Together we broke down the curriculum into bite size pieces incorporating and rebuilding a scheme of work that the young student could cope with and stick to. The curriculum comprised of the subject being taught along with modules, timetables and schedules that he could identify and relate too. I was also aware of the social justice element in terms of his distribution to his students and conforming to the laws respecting persons irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, religious beliefs, race and of course equality without prejudice for all. I gave the student a purpose to his delivery and the knowledge that he had me as a strategy for safety and I became his supportive background co-teacher as he delivered his subject to the class with a newfound confidence of empowerment.   


My role as a co-teacher and mentor faced many challenges supporting young people with disabilities wanting to become successful teachers. The challenges I faced supported my own growth and as a result I provided the young student teacher with aims and goals that were clear and evident to his personal individual dreams and growth. According to Petty (Petty, 2009:410) “Aims or ‘educational goals’ are clear and concise statements that describe what the teacher hopes to achieve.” This young teacher achieved the strategies that would empower him with a newfound confidence and a desire to overcome his anxiety.

Peter Beacock MSc