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Andy Ford

atc training ATC Mentors: What Stops You From Mentoring?

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Andy Ford

Hi Folks,

Having just reviewed the stats for Q1 2018, despite being slightly up on the total number exams compared to this point last year, we are dwindling slightly on the number of mentoring sessions - especially at APP and CTR level. Whilst this suggests that we are possibly slightly more efficient in our training, we could certainly do more as a division if we had the mentors to facilitate it. We also recognise that our mentors are pivotal to ATC Training in the division and we would not be able to function without them.

Following the success of ATC Training Department consultation last month, this topic is the next in a series of public discussions to generate ideas for the future of ATC Training. In this discussion, we'll be focusing specifically on the questions:

  • If you are an ATC Mentor at any level, what motivates you to mentor? Is there anything that the department can do to facilitate you in your role and retain you as a mentor?
  • If you are not an ATC Mentor, but would consider becoming one, what is currently preventing you from becoming a mentor? Is this something that the department can change? Here I'm especially interested to hear from members who have been mentors in the past, but have stepped away from it or become less involved for reasons related to the way in which the department operates.
  • Generally, is there anything you would like to see the division doing towards the facilitation and retention of mentors?

In your answers, feel free to mention anything that you'd like the department to keep doing, start doing and also stop doing. However, please lets keep it civil and avoid personal mud-slinging - we get much more productive results that way. If you want to challenge someone's point, that's fine, just please do it respectfully. Conversely, if someone makes a point that you really agree with, feel free to give it a "thumbs up" so we know what the general sentiment is.

I look forward to your responses.

Andy

Edited by Andy Ford

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Adam Arkley

Lack of student engagement. I got tired of turning up and seeing students who have clearly made no effort to learn by themselves suck up my time and waste sessions where if they'd just gone and read something or practised in the ES simulator or something, they'd make far more progress. I was mid way through demonstrating what could be achieved if a student went and did their own learning between sessions and was making rapid progress, but things came up. 

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Callum McLoughlin

Historically, but a bit different now, unable to commit to times and dates.

I also forgot a lot of what I would consider “trivial” / irrelevant knowledge I perceive as required of controllers these days. I can control safely but I don’t have the knowledge of a NATS controller...

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Andy Ford

Ant - noted and that thread will also be used to corroborate opinions and see what's changed :)

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Oliver Gates

Students' lack of initiative

There are two types of students: those who want to actually learn and those who just want a new rating. Funnily enough, the former end up achieving the goal of the latter (and learn something in the process), and the latter achieve absolutely nothing at all.

Adam makes a valid point. I'll openly admit that I simply don't accept requests if a particular student has showed, during a previous session, that they are not willing to make any independent effort to learn. The theoretical content of the ATC training courses is not challenging; it isn't Galois theory or differential geometry. It is ATC training material. Yes, there may be a lot to learn, but you don't have to be a genius to learn it. It is (almost worryingly) easy to see, even from the first session, which students will obtain their rating in a minimal number of sessions, as opposed to those who will take dozens of sessions, simply to obtain an S3, for example.

If a student has made the effort to teach themselves the theoretical content of the course and has clearly used their initiative to learn as much as possible before mentoring sessions (whether it's for a Heathrow director session, or a Gatwick ground session), I will enjoy mentoring them, regardless of their practical competence. Of course, if students have questions about certain concepts, I'm more than happy to answer them during sessions. Questions such as "Why are the CPT departures on easterly operations at Heathrow handled by INT S?" are more than appropriate, as they are indicative of the fact that the student has clearly learned something before the session and wants to expand on their knowledge. However, if a student asks a question such as "What is the definition of QNH", this indicates a lack of initiative, as this information could easily have been discovered with a quick Google search.

Treatment of mentors

I'm not speaking from personal experience here, but I can think of a number of cases in which mentors have been treated in a completely unacceptable manner by the ATC training staff. I have heard staff belittle and denigrate mentors on a number of occasions, even swearing about them, and there have been a handful of situations in which mentors have been denied mentoring rights for no valid reason. Just to be clear, most of the time, mentors are treated respectfully by the staff, but some ATC staff need to be aware of the fact that people are giving up their time to share their knowledge (and to help the department); at a bare minimum, at least show the mentors some respect and courtesy.

Length of mentoring reports

This issue has been addressed at S2 level. The reports are of an acceptable standard and can easily be completed in a short period of time. I hope that the ATD has similar plans for the S3 mentoring reports. To make something abundantly clear, mentoring reports do not need to contain any sections which address the student's knowledge of theoretical content. It is simply unnecessary, and it is pleasing to see that this issue has been addressed (with the S2 reports). These sections also need to be removed from the S3 reports; students should be expected to teach themselves the relevant content outside of mentoring sessions, bringing any questions or uncertainties to the sessions. This has been alluded to in the recent consultation. Their knowledge can be assessed in a quick discussion with a mentor before they are submitted for their practical exam. It's simple; if a student doesn't make the effort to read outside the sessions, they won't be submitted for an exam until they do.

Lack of coordination between mentors

Before I conduct a session, I always make an effort to (on TeamSpeak) speak to the mentor who conducted the previous session, to learn about the student's weaknesses and strengths and areas of focus for the session. A lot more can be discovered by speaking to the previous mentor, rather than reading the previous report. This is not encouraged by the ATD. There are no organised mentors' meetings, and there isn't enough discussion between mentors regarding specific students. Issues need to be addressed on a specific level as well as a general level.

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Andrew Macleod

I'm an S1 and I'm free to Mentor a lot for OBS-S1 but I know this is impossible because of sweatbox.

 

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Trevor Hannant

Similar to Adam and Oliver's experience of lack of initiative/engagement, simply got fed up of writing mentoring reports which were clearly either:

- never referred back to by the student or
- referred to and brushed aside

Alongside hearing similar views from other mentors with the same students, I didn't see why I should give up my (limited at the time) time to help them when they wouldn't help themselves.

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Alex Ashley

I've been particularly lucky with most of the students I've mentored as they have often wanted to put the work in (in both TGNC and TG2) - but a student who just doesn't want to learn can be quite demoralising. I tend to find this more at S2 level rather than TGNC, but the students we see during OBS_PT2 sessions have already completed the Moodle course and therefore have shown the 'initiative' already - indeed, I've found that far more constructive questions are asked by S1 students now - in most cases, they genuinely seem to care about achieving the best (although waiting times might play a part in this!)

This, however, did not use to be the case. Pre the implementation of CT S1, students were often expecting to be spoonfed absolutely everything - while the documentation situation did not help, we often ended up having to tell a student how to set up Euroscope. I'm noticing something similar in S2 training, however, I expect this to disappear rapidly once students get used to the new training syllabus.

I'd like to do more Tower sessions but I find there's hardly any to pick up... 

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Jim Johnson

I generally found S2/S3 students keen to learn but often bogged down with the amount  of theory knowledge needed, and often lacking, whilst at the same time being being taught  controlling skills which placed an unacceptable burden on the mentor to cover this deficiency. I was also frustrated with the different procedures being taught by some mentors without reference to any reference source, what I refer to as not 'singing from the same hymn sheet'.This was often accompanied by large sections of cut and paste knowledge sections placed in the progress reports which made for tedious reading. When I mentored I designed S2/S2 specific SB scenarios which emulated realistic  situations for the student to practice their skills and this was accompanied by a playback of the scenario that I had done as a reference for the student showing how it could be done. Alas, I sent all my S2/S3 scenarios with scripts etc to the then management and heard nothing back, hence stage left and resigned. Perhaps why mentors have left should be added to Adams list?

Edited by Jim Johnson

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Harry Bickerton

If we being honest, I have wanted to be a mentor for a while. But sadly I cannot right now as I do not have enough hours, but I'll keep working towards it.

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Lewis Corcoran

I'd love to be a mentor, ive always wanted too. But i have noticed that there are practically ZERO sessions in the bookings calendar. Also ive been told that there are too many mentors. So it looks like a No for that for a while.

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Adam Farquharson
On ‎21‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 16:23, Andrew Macleod said:

I'm an S1 and I'm free to Mentor a lot for OBS-S1 but I know this is impossible because of sweatbox.

 

I am in the same situation. I have lots of time and am excited to get into mentoring but due to the number of s1 rated mentors on the Gatwick course and the inability to control OBS-S1 until s2 rated I find myself waiting for a training place in order to get my s2 and begin mentoring.

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Andrew Macleod
On ‎21‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 18:37, Alex Ashley said:

I'd like to do more Tower sessions but I find there's hardly any to pick up...

Increase the amount of students allowed in The Training groups? If there are more mentors available then why aren't more students allowed in the course?

 

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Calum Towers
39 minutes ago, Andrew Macleod said:

Increase the amount of students allowed in The Training groups? If there are more mentors available then why aren't more students allowed in the course?

Because there may be students without session requests in the system.
If we just add more and more people and they all put in a request, that won't work.

The policy for how we issue training places (and deal with those not engaged in training) has been outlined here: 

 

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Andrew Macleod
1 hour ago, Calum Towers said:

Because there may be students without session requests in the system.
If we just add more and more people and they all put in a request, that won't work.

The policy for how we issue training places (and deal with those not engaged in training) has been outlined here:

Oh right okay cheers

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Richard Pitt

Time constraints, work getting in the way taken off mentoring list after system change and not gone back on yet. Would try again though.

Richard 

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