That’s the philosophy behind the not-for-profit organisation’s enhanced School Mentor Development program, designed to build teacher capacity for effective mentoring.
As most educators now know, Teach for Australia recruits university-educated individuals from backgrounds outside of education to teach in disadvantaged schools for two years while they complete a teaching qualification (a Master of Teaching).
Throughout their journey, training teachers under the program, or associates, receive support from trained leaders within TFA, as well as a dedicated in-school mentor at their placement school.
The benefits of good-quality mentor relationships for beginning teachers are well-known, including increased confidence, improved self-reflection, and enhanced problem-solving and classroom management capabilities.
But while the research around mentorship has continued to grow, the adoption of good mentoring practice has been slower to develop.
Diamond says TFA’s new program is designed to reflect research into best practices around in-school mentoring, while keeping the focus on the practical.
“[We want to] ensure that our mentor training is informed by research and the frameworks that we use are evidence-informed.
“[But we also want] to spend time with mentors in the practice and implementation so that the training is really focused about meeting them where their needs are and integrating lots of opportunities to learn new skills, practice those skills and get direct feedback on how they can improve [them].”
In addition to attending an initial intensive learning program, mentors are connected with their local peers in a regional online learning community, as well as undertaking continued professional learning through an online mentor portal.
Lana Salter has been teaching for 35 years and she’s supervised more than a few student teachers in her time.
But sitting down to the first day of the initial intensive training session, the arts coordinator from Wodonga Senior Secondary College realised there was still plenty she didn’t understand about mentorship.
“For me it’s baptism by fire but it’s fantastic, it’s exciting, it’s wonderful.”
One of 32 teachers signed up to the program as mentors, Salter says she’s seen first-hand the difference between TFA’s approach and how mentorship practice was treated in the past.
“This difference is so pronounced. “In the past you’d get [student] teachers and you’d supervise, but there was no structure to how – it depended on the individual teacher, the supervisor, as to what they would put in...
“... one person who was heavily into writing could focus on a particular thing and write absolutely nothing of value.
“And somebody else could focus on something completely different, that was maybe valuable, but wasn’t [done] in a helpful way.
“This structure is actually teaching me how to be helpful in the best way possible, but also in a platform that unifies the responses [from the other mentors].”