Teachers are mentors too…

All teachers began their career as a pre-service teacher in a school working with a supervising teacher. All teachers have worked in school environments where they have had pre-service teachers as colleagues.

But in today’s climate, the role of the supervising teacher is changing.

The Teacher Education and Induction Review by Caldwell and Sutton, released at the end of 2010, has highlighted the specific role of teacher mentors in our schools, to work with our new and beginning teachers. But the role of mentors doesn’t end with pre-service teachers.

Currently, the Joint Statement on Collegial Engagement and the Developing Performance Framework both have a place for the role of the teacher mentor.

It is important to recognise that there is a real place in our schools for teacher mentors to work with other teachers in the school, not only with pre-service teachers. The most important mentors that I have had in my career have been a more experienced teaching colleague and a head of department.

A mentor could be a teacher visiting their colleague’s classroom before a professional discussion, or a team leader as part of the DPF process, working with a less experienced teacher.

But what do teacher mentors do? What is their role? What makes a good mentor?

Characteristics of a good teacher mentor include being an experienced teacher who supports, influences, encourages and challenges a mentoree towards teaching confidence. It is also, importantly, about the relationship between the mentor and the mentoree.

It is also important to recognise that the relationship is a two-way street. It is not only the mentoree who is benefitting from the process, but the mentor.

Mentoring – real, conscious mentoring – is a skill. And like all skills, it needs to be learned. The acknowledgement that mentoring requires a particular skill set is a necessary one and is something that needs to be investigated further.

The QTU Professional Issues Committee held an afternoon professional development session that examined this topic in more detail to allow members to begin discussions about mentoring in relation to the Joint Statement on Collegial Engagement and the Developing Performance Framework, and whether this would be effective at their school. Members had an opportunity to discuss their professional practice with colleagues from other schools, which many commented wasn’t something they had an opportunity to do very often.

If you are interested, you can access a free online course on mentoring on the Learning Place, or formal training being conducted by QUT Caboolture’s Teacher Education Done Differently – Mentoring for Effective Teaching (www.tedd.net.au) for further information and ideas.

Alison Welch
Chair, Professional Issues Committee

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 2, 16 March 2012, p24