Beginner teachers thrive with support and mentoring

Issue: Volume 98, Number 12

Posted: 19 July 2019
Reference #: 1H9w4J

Rangitoto College on Auckland’s North Shore, the biggest school in New Zealand, has long embraced beginner teachers and ensures they enjoy a comprehensive support and mentoring programme from day one.

It is an area of teaching practice the school has pioneered and there are 35 teachers on its provisional certification programme this year, as well as a number of overseas trained teachers.

All have mentors – experienced teachers from within the new teacher’s subject area – and the school also has two specialist classroom teachers, Becky Place and Andrea Smith, who run the programme. One role is Ministry-funded and the other is funded by the college. 

The school has 3,180 students and 198 teachers. Principal Patrick Gale says an effective mentoring and support programme is essential for beginner teachers (BTs).  

“We don’t want to just put a warm body in front of students, and do not expect new teachers to be the finished article. There is a range of support options to ensure each can become the very best they can be.

“People who enjoy coming to work, who build great relationships and take pride in the growth of their students whilst considering themselves as learners, add to our school culture. The willingness to contribute to the wider development of students by supporting them in activities outside of the classroom is very positive.”

A typical day for Becky and Andrea involves observation meetings and discussions, and meetings with mentors.

Mentoring is key

“Mentoring is crucial,” says Andrea, “as it provides regular support with a clear focus on pedagogy.” 

Before the school opens for students, all new arrivals have a full-day induction in which they meet key people and are introduced to systems.

Throughout the term there are meetings for all new staff to tell them about college processes and programmes, including a meet-the-tutor evening, parent teacher meeting, school reports, and learner support education.

Each term there are observations for new teachers, who are also encouraged to observe other teachers. Additional support for tailored professional learning and development (PLD), one-on-one support, observation and team-teaching opportunities come from their Kāhui Ako. 

“Our team leads schoolwide collaborative inquiry, helping to develop an inquiry mindset for all of our teachers,” says Jenna Spencer-Bates, Mid Bays Kāhui Ako across-school leader. 

“This support allows our ako to achieve success, within a culture of high expectations and best practice.”

Ongoing development opportunities 

Overseas teachers have an induction and mentoring programme like the one for new teachers, and a mentor who works with them for each weekly/six-day cycle, with a focus on The New Zealand Curriculum Te Whāriki and bicultural/multicultural contexts.

“In addition,” says Andrea, “all staff have a range of professional development opportunities, allowing them to continue to develop in all areas of their teaching.” 

She says the school has a culture in which people are happy to ask for help, and for new teachers the departmental buddy structure is an extension of this. 

“Everyone stumbles, but there needs to be openness to seek guidance, as well as the support structure in place. Our support is also ‘line of sight’, so the teachers can see all the various strands of support available.”

“A comprehensive support programme in the first two years for BTs sets them up well for the future, but it doesn’t stop there,” says Becky. 

“We support diverse PLD pathways that, for example, will create future leaders, including gaining practical skills such as problem solving, experience with principles of instruction, and how to run effective meetings.

“Recently, the teaching at the school has moved towards collaboration. In the past, inquiry linked to appraisal, but now it is towards rich learning.”

Patrick says the school is happy with its retention numbers but also encourages a growth mindset. 

“We know that teachers who leave are leaving for the right reasons – they have developed their skills as much as possible at Rangitoto and are taking the next step forward in their practice development.”

What teachers think

"I really like the regularity of the sessions, and having a buddy allows everything to be covered in a practical way, through regular check-ins. We are also observed twice a term. It’s nice to be in a school where you are so supported." 
First-year maths teacher, Jade Cattanach

"Rangitoto College has provided me with the best possible start to my teaching career, in large part due to the supportive and thorough provisional certification programme the college runs. The programme offers a range of professional development meetings, one-on-one discussions and opportunities to both observe and be observed by a range of experienced teachers. Having finished the provisional certification programme, I feel confident in the classroom and know that I am in the best possible position to support our students to achieve to their potential." 
Third-year teacher, Olivia Newman

"It’s such a positive environment because of the support. It is exciting just sitting around the English department table at lunchtime. Other teachers share the amazing things they are doing readily, and are very open about their practice. No one wants anyone else to fail, so if someone has a problem, or issue, colleagues jump up to help them find a solution. There’s a great love for teaching at this school." 
Fifth-year English teacher, Cameron Lacey

"I knew there was strong support in this school, and that was the reason I applied for the position. Cameron Lacey, my mentor, is always available for active supervision and helps me break down new information on a particular element of practice into small chunks to make it easily absorbable." 
First-year English teacher, Seth Davies

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:16 am, 19 July 2019

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