This scenario Kilgour playfully refers to as an ideal ‘try before you buy’ for teachers contemplating going rural, and schools who are looking for fresh teaching talent with the program offering both schools and teachers a crash course in rural teaching.
“I think for principals it’s a really clever ‘try before you buy’, and I say that to the pre-service teachers because there’s nothing worse than a principal or for a graduate … they’ve been there for a couple of months, and the gloss has worn off a little bit, and that cabin fever can hit and they just go ‘oh my gosh, this is not for me’, ‘this is not what I thought it was going to be’, the distance is too far away from family, or its just claustrophobic…”
“All those sorts of little things, that can sometimes bring a graduate undone, they’ve already had the opportunity to experience that, without being locked into a one-year contact, then all of a sudden come midyear, it unravels and it’s a difficult situation for the graduate and principal,” Kilgour says.
While the program serves to protect against this worst case scenario – it also introduces many teachers who might not have thought about working rurally the opportunity to explore those interests within a set window of time – 45 days – and with ample support.
The schools, Kilgour explains, appoint additional mentors to help ensure new teachers get the best out of their rural time.
“They’ll appoint a mentor, as you would in any standard teaching round … but additionally, they are also provided with another integration mentor; someone that gets them out and about and into the community, outside of just the standard teaching duties.”
Kilgour says that this process is all about offering trainees “a taste of what it is to be a graduate in a rural community,” and exposing them to the highly visible role teachers often have within rural communities.
“We’ve had them go [and] join up and join in netball training, football training, darts nights.
“The schools that do it really well often provide a regular in school mentor but they also provide someone whose almost like a welfare officer, someone to make sure [teachers] get to go to a barbecue, all those out of hours things that are really important and make someone feel like they’re a part of the community.”