With just 13 weeks training up their sleeve, the ambitious program sees high-achieving university graduates and career changers thrust into secondary classrooms around Australia.
Their prerogative? To slice up the cycle of disadvantage, lead change, and brighten learning outcomes in low socio-economic areas.
Structured over two years, the program fast-tracks its ‘Associates’ from student to fully-qualified teacher via a rigorous Leadership Development Program, in conjunction with a Master of Teaching (Secondary) degree undertaken with Deakin University.
Michael Witter, Teach for Australia’s Director of Teaching and Leadership, says the targetted leadership program is one of the key reasons why 65 per cent of all associates have chosen to remain in the profession in the long-term.
Initially, it’s about tapping into participant’s inner potential, Witter notes.
“The most important thing is that our teachers become progressively more aware of themselves, so they have to explore their own personal biases and also be aware of their strengths and how those strengths are going to inform the way that they work with others and their values as well.
“We consider values and vision to be at the core of the kind of leadership we want to see both in the classroom, but also beyond the classroom.”
The process of shaping a new wave of educational visionaries – that double as highly effective teachers – is broken down into four key areas.
“One is around personal sustainability and long-term commitment to addressing educational disadvantage,” Witter says.
“Another is around creating a connected, collaborative community of practice as well as purpose amongst our participants.
“Another is building … metacognitive skills and self-awareness skills, in order to become increasingly effective as both a teacher and a leader in different spaces.”
The fourth component drills home myriad teaching and design techniques via ‘micro sessions’ to ensure associates are not just classroom ready, but classroom savvy.
This is just the beginning. Once associates are posted to their regional schools, local PD teams step in to continue their professional growth.
Indeed, if figures are anything to go by, Teach for Australia graduates are doing the program proud.
In 2015, 90 per cent of principals reported that associates had greater or significantly greater impact on student learning outcomes than other graduate teachers in their first two years on the job.
The Turnbull Government seems to agree, having pledged this year to spend $20.5 million to fund another two cohorts through the program.
Sticking true to their mission statement, Witter says Teach for Australia isn’t just priming its teachers to enact positive change at a school level.
If you are to become a teacher, you are also to become a leader, he shares.
“You need leadership across a variety of different sectors and spaces in order for [disadvantaged schools to flourish].
“We need classroom leadership, we need school leadership, we need leadership through entrepreneurial activity, even policy.”
Although most graduates probably never thought they’d end up a teacher, students emerge from the experience moved and empowered.
“They become passionate about the kids and the communities they are working in and genuinely convinced that education is the most important way that we can create opportunities for kids.
“I think they hold onto that, they feel that connection,” Witter says.