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Mentoring gives new Wellington teachers a strong start

Issue: Volume 98, Number 4

Posted: 11 March 2019
Reference #: 1H9ruy

Beginning teachers at Newlands College are getting the best start in the classroom, thanks to an innovative induction and mentoring programme.

Richie Miller (centre) and his Year 10 science class.

Richie Miller (centre) and his Year 10 science class.

Principal Grant Jones and his teaching team have developed a programme where new teachers at Newlands College are teed up with a subject-specific mentor, and all meet together with the principal and lead teachers for a support group-style session each week. They cover everything from the curriculum, practising for parent-teacher interviews to managing their workload and wellbeing.

One of 13 first and second year teachers at Newlands College, second year biology teacher and former environmental scientist Richie Miller says, “Having your own individual mentor set up for you, with time set aside each week to go through individual questions that you have, to really nut down into management strategies you want to take, is really valuable.

“We also meet once a week and we go through challenges each of us have had and have a discussion and I think that’s one of the greatest parts of it, to see other people’s experiences, because it’s always going to be different for different people.”

Trust is key to the programme

As well as mentoring a beginner teacher, specialist classroom teacher Catherine Ryan supports the new teachers outside the curriculum, for example coaching them for their first parent-teacher interviews and giving them practical advice on how to plan and prepare for the ebbs and flows in their workload over the year. 

She says trust, open conversations and celebrating successes are crucial to the success of the programme. 

“Trust is really important and that trust is definitely here. I would like to think that that really helps, working through things.

“That’s why it works so well here – the staff room celebrates.” 

For second year maths teacher Jagriti Choudhary, who was new to New Zealand from India, both the group and individual aspects of the mentoring programme played an important role in helping her gain confidence in her new home and role.  

“It was very different for me. I was new to New Zealand, as I had just changed country. Also I was not trained here, so teaching here in New Zealand was very, very different... We have different kinds of names so pronunciation, method of teaching, and the content is very much different.

“It was ups and downs. Together with this group of PRTs [provisionally registered teachers] we celebrated our successes. It is a place where we can shed our tears and cry as well. Everyone is just so supportive.” 

Jagriti Choudhary (right) with a Year 12 maths student.

Jagriti Choudhary (right) with a Year 12 maths student.

New teachers bring spark to the classroom

After 17 years as principal of the college, Grant sees his beginner teachers bring value to the school community every day. 

“These young people [beginning teachers] show enthusiasm, and they show a real interest in our young people that they teach. 

“Quite often you used to find people were interested in their subject but not so much in the pedagogy of teaching. Now a lot of them have really good content/subject knowledge plus a real passion for pedagogy and how to improve young people’s learning, and that’s what I see.

“They also have an understanding that teaching is not just about delivering lessons in a classroom, it’s about a bigger involvement with young people.” 

While Newlands College benefits from the passion and ideas their enthusiastic new teachers bring, helping them learn to manage their workloads while maintaining work-life balance is an important part of their induction. This means helping them learn to prioritise and to understand that they can’t take on everything.  

“Sometimes you have to say, ‘No you can’t do that, you’ve got too much on and it’s going to fill your day or week up too much.’

“We’ve got a strong wellness perspective in our school now. So we do lots of things with the staff to make their workload manageable.”

He says all teachers and principals have a professional obligation to look after beginning teachers. It’s something he tackles more broadly as the principal representative on the Victoria University advisory for the induction of new teachers, a role which has led to a valuable relationship with the university and its pipeline of graduates. 

“If we don’t look after them properly and train them properly, what’s going to happen to our profession?

“It’s got to be a two-way thing. We put a lot into them, but if we do it right, we also get a huge amount back.” 

Grant says mapping out beginning teachers’ careers with them also helps him plan for the future.  

“We’ve got a growing roll, and I know I’m going to need more teachers in the years to come. I’ve already employed two maths, two physics and two chemistry teachers, plus a teacher in te reo Māori. 

“In the next few years, I hope to look at promoting them in areas of guidance or curriculum and I am confident that they will do well.” 

Newlands College students.

Newlands College students.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:09 am, 11 March 2019

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