New program supports fledgling teachers

The first few years on the job can be difficult for a new teacher – as many as 50% will leave within five years of their first day, many because they feel they’re not being supported to grow.

Media coverage surrounding Australia’s falling NAPLAN results has discussed teacher’s minimum ATAR levels, their rates of pay – even importing strategies from Singapore and Finland to ensure new teachers can access the support they need to thrive.

But a new joint project from Australian Catholic University and Sydney Catholic Schools is hoping to give university students the tools they need to excel in the teaching profession before they even begin.

The mentoring program, which students take on as one of their third-year placements, includes traditional elements, pairing students with a passionate, experienced teacher and involving all in workshops addressing topics like wellbeing and literacy.

I found this program really beneficial because the whole idea of it is collaboration. We were able to share ideas, observe one another, and really work together.

– Kate Archer

But instead of a standard one-to-one model, the mentoring program allocates two students per teacher in a triadic model – allowing students to learn from an experienced teacher and from each other.

“You read all those articles – they’re all over the news – that teachers within the first five years are leaving the profession. That’s not something that new university graduates want to see,” said Tyson DeStefano, who was involved in a pilot of the program at Five Dock’s All Hallows Catholic Primary.

He said the program is a helpful way to “ease teachers in” to the profession, and makes classroom management much easier.

“I had my first day of teaching today, and it’s very hard to get around to 30 students at once,” he said, “whereas if you have two or three of you in the room you can give feedback on just what students are doing and their achievements.”

As his mentor Tamara Stewart-Moore explains, the program also teaches students to take on feedback – to think critically about how they’re performing, and learn from other’s strengths.

“Even when I was giving feedback on a lesson, I would give it to both of them,” she explained.

“Someone might be really, really strong in behaviour management, and the other might be really strong in content – so learning from each other is really important.”

Fellow third-year student Kate Archer, who was paired with Mr DeStefano and Ms Stewart-Moore at All Hallows, said the placement was the most beneficial she’d been part of during her time at university.

She said having a peer with her and watching her mentor interact with her colleagues brought new light to the previously theoretical concepts of team teaching.

Learning from each other is really important. –

 Tamara Stewart-Moore

“At university we learn all this theory about collaboration and things we need to do in the classroom…I found this program really beneficial because the whole idea of it is collaboration. We were able to share ideas, observe one another, and really work together, because collaboration is such a big part of teaching now,” she said.

Mentoring includes plenty of hands on teaching time, as well as a number of university-led sessions, which mentors attended alone and with their students.

The aim is to encourage teachers to become highly accomplished, and provide well-rounded learning and leadership to the Catholic school system.

Following a positive response from students, supervising teachers, Principals and ACU personnel, the pilot program will continue in the latter half of this year and into 2018. In addition to All Hallows, four other schools are currently involved:  St Charles Catholic Primary, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary, Domremy Catholic College and Trinity Catholic College.

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