Mentoring programme  for new teachers

Issue: Volume 100, Number 12

Posted: 23 September 2021
Reference #: 1HAPq8

A nationwide mentoring programme provides advice and support to teachers whose practicum placements were interrupted by Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, and who began teaching in 2021.

In 2020, Covid-19 interrupted learning for initial teacher education students, particularly those in their last year and completing their practicum placements. 

Jillian Shearer-Rowe, manager of the Kohia Centre, the University of Auckland’s professional learning hub, says teacher education providers worked hard to give student teachers as much valuable practical experience as possible, but some programmes needed to take advantage of the Teaching Council’s temporary 25 percent reduction in practical experience requirements.  

To support these teachers, the Enhanced Induction and Mentoring (EIM) programme is offered by Aotearoa’s seven universities to every early learning centre, school and kura that has employed newly qualified provisionally certified teachers (PCTs) whose training was impacted by the pandemic.  

Yali Zhang is teaching Year 4-9 Mandarin and Year 7 mathematics at Wentworth College.

Yali Zhang is teaching Year 4-9 Mandarin and Year 7 mathematics at Wentworth College.

Yali Zhang is working as a teacher of Mandarin and mathematics at Wentworth College. Her EIM mentor,  Ian McHale, observed her teaching and supported her to reflect on her teaching practice, including formative assessment. 

“Mentors are there to provide suggestions so that we can grow as teachers. With the extra support provided by the Enhanced Induction and Mentoring programme, new teachers will become more confident and comfortable in front of students,” explains Yali.

Adaptive and flexible mentors

The University of Auckland is responsible for contract management and coordinates the provision of the programme across the country. 

“The Council of Education deans collaborated with the Teaching Council and the Ministry of Education to design an enhanced induction programme, to mitigate the effects of the reduced practicum time, and support newly graduated teachers in their progress toward gaining their practising certificate,” explains Jillian. 

“We have been very mindful that this extra support needs to be highly relevant for each teacher and contextualised for their situation. Our mentors are very adaptive and flexible in their approaches and their aim is to work alongside and support the early learning and school-based mentors,” she says.  

Each PCT receives two structured half-day face to face visits from a university-based mentor. The PCT and mentor/s work collaboratively to plan constructive learning opportunities including feedback/feedforward conversations aimed at supporting the PCT’s ongoing growth and development. 

A chance to fine-tune your skills  

Rick Ussher is an EIM mentor and also works with University of Canterbury student teachers in Nelson who are doing the three-year Bachelor of Education (BEd), or the one-year graduate programme.  

With 40 years’ experience as a teacher and teacher education advisor and mentor, he says that practicum placements in classrooms help teachers work out their strengths and weaknesses. 

“Those practicums are where you really fine-tune yourself as a teacher. In the three-year BEd programme, you’d have lots of different practicums – so you work with all kinds of learners. You might work with some intermediate-aged kids, and then younger children in a play-based learning environment. Really it’s an opportunity for them to see if they can practice what they preach.” 

In-class practicum placements during initial teacher education provide the opportunity for student teachers to integrate theory and practice in context.  

“When our new PCTs start their careers with reduced practicum experiences,” explains Rick, “they must think, ‘it’s actually me. Now I’m suddenly in front of 25-30 learners and I’ve got to manage all these kids’.

“The first thing that comes to mind is classroom management – if you can’t manage the classroom, it’s difficult to teach anything,” he says.

Mentors have your back

Rick says that primary school teachers have to be jacks of all trades, which can be daunting and exhausting for PCTs. This means that as an EIM mentor, he may look at a range of aspects of the teacher’s role in the school setting. He has supported PCTs with elements of planning, classroom management and support systems within and outside the school. 

Support systems are crucial for beginning teachers, says Rick, and he is full of admiration for the current crop of PCTs coping in a Covid-19 pandemic environment. 

Tailored for you

Jillian says that all of the EIM mentors across New Zealand seek to support and enhance what each school/centre values and does to support teacher learning in their context, and so they are keen to work collaboratively and flexibly with both the PCTs and their work-based mentor teachers.   

EIM mentors bring a wide range of experience and skills to their role. They apply educative mentoring strategies in line with the Teaching Council’s Guidelines for Mentoring and Induction and MentorTeachers and are knowledgeable about Professional Growth Cycle approaches. 

The EIM team is available to help PCTs make links between theory and practice by supporting goal setting, observing teaching and providing feedback. 

The team is very aware of the continued impact of Covid-19 on PCTs in 2021 and so any time of the year is a good time to enrol.    

For more information and to enrol, visit www.auckland.ac.nz(external link).

 

Taylor McGifford, a first-year teacher, loves the outdoor learning opportunities in Twizel.

Taylor McGifford, a first-year teacher, loves the outdoor learning opportunities in Twizel.

Practice and preparation for new teachers 

TaylorMcGifford

In her first year of teaching, Taylor is a Year 7 home room teacher at Twizel Area School, where she enjoys being part of the close-knit community.  

Like several hundred other 2020 teacher graduates, her practicum experience was cut short by the lockdowns of 2020. 

“Covid made 2020 so stressful. My first practicum was three weeks long instead of seven. Fortunately, I was able to return to the same placement school so I managed to have 10 weeks in-school experience at one school over the year, but others weren’t as lucky,” she says. 

The staff at Twizel Area School have been very supportive, as has her University of Canterbury mentor Heather Matthews. 

In particular Heather has provided valuable perspectives as someone outside the school, including modelling effective strategies to foster positive relationships in the classroom alongside some literacy interventions that have made a difference for Taylor’s Year 7 students.  

Being secondary-trained, Taylor has found the most challenging and interesting aspect of teaching at Intermediate level is negotiating the social dynamics of her Year 7 class.   

“We weren’t really taught how to teach students to build social skills or develop positive relationships. But in Year 7, students need to understand that positive relationships, even with those you don’t particularly like, are the key to success,” she says.  

Yali Zhang

Yali is teaching Year 4-9 Mandarin and Year 7 mathematics at Wentworth College. She had one practicum placement and says she would have felt more prepared with more exposure to classroom teaching.

“As a first-year teacher, I am still in the process of learning about the syllabus, which makes it difficult for me to see the big picture of the course. Also, everything is new and it takes time to get to know my students and structure teaching and learning to the needs and interests of students,” she says. 

Yali’s mentor, Ian McHale, is contracted through the University of Auckland for the EIM programme and other PLD work. He has helped her identify areas to work on and reflect on in her teaching practices.  

“Ian opens my eyes to get a big picture of what is going on in the classroom and challenges me to try alternative ways to engage students. I have gained new perspectives to examine my teaching practice and improved behaviour management skills,” she says. 

RhoEspenido

Rho Espenido is a first-year early learning teacher in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

Rho Espenido is a first-year early learning teacher in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

Rho is a first-year early learning teacher in Auckland, who is being mentored by Justine O’Hara-Gregan, a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland. 

Rho says the practicum component ended prematurely because of the August lockdown and the remainder of the course was then online.  

“My mentor helped me to look at my own professional experience along with the teaching standards. She is guiding me through the process – helping me journey towards full teacher certification.

“It has helped a lot. When you finish your teaching qualification, you have ideals of how you want to teach. In the real world, you realise you have to be flexible and compromise and be real with good practice. It is great to have someone there to ask if this is normal or what’s best/ideal practice especially now that all teachers are coping with the challenges of teacher shortages,” she says. 

Rho would recommend the EIM programme to other PCTs. 

“As a PCT, you are still finding your way. With a mentor, there is someone to help guide you and it’s free which is great! Why wouldn’t I take advantage of the help being offered to me? 

“The programme provides you with the opportunity to have that person challenge your present practice and provoke your thinking,” she says. 

Adding to this, Rho says the programme has helped with her self-reflection as a teacher, understanding what best practice is, and not being stagnant.  

“There is another person to question you about your practice and provoke your thinking. This is important as it is easy to get lost with the paper-work when you start out in your career as a teacher.” 

 

Poipoia te kakano kia puawai – Nurture the seed and it will blossom.  The Kohia Centre at the University of Auckland is the Faculty of Education and Social Work’s professional learning hub.

Poipoia te kakano kia puawai – Nurture the seed and it will blossom. The Kohia Centre at the University of Auckland is the Faculty of Education and Social Work’s professional learning hub.

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

Posted: 9:22 AM, 23 September 2021

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