Between 2018 and 2019 conversations with schools indicated the diminishing capacity of schools to address the needs of those new to the educator role, as well as those new to school environments. In response to this situation a program was designed with a focus on Australian Teaching Standards, classroom management and student responsibility, planning, programming and assessment, self-care and well-being and career development, including Accreditation. The combination of expertise and extensive experience as educator, Head Teacher and service provision with experience in program design and research related to the Education sector, Higher Education and community capacity building enabled the development of a the BNG Learning Mentor Program model for delivery that is flexible and relevant.
Over the period of time from 2018, rigorous evaluation and considered conversation with School executive and a range of educators BNG Learning built on the experiences in 2018 to re-design a blended learning program for mentoring of eight early career educators in a large regional High School. Interest from other schools resulted in a pilot Mentor Program using a potential design for a more extensive Mentor Program in 2020. The modified Mentor Program for six ECEs was offered in Term Four, 2019 and provided really valuable data related to timing, school calendar impacts on educator learning and the benefits of tapping in to existing knowledge.
Learnings from working with the diverse and creative educators involved in the programs, as well as experienced education and administrators have been integrated into a program that responds to individual and school need, one that is evaluated and reported on to School Leaders and participants. Expanding on the concept of Communities of Practice (Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2007) (Timperley,) BNGLearning provides the opportunity to maximise energy and creative thinking. An overall goal of this mentoring program is to keep early career educators developing, to wire in all the skills and stretch their capacities, so as educators they are enabled to reach that moment where they’re in the zone, where they can improvise with a range of strategies effortlessly (Gladwell, 2008).
New Zealand Educational researcher Helen Timperley notes that it is not easy for teachers to share failures and disappointments, especially for those on contracts who might be fearful of appearing incompetent and not having their contract renewed (Timperley & Alton-Lee, 2008). Expanding on these observations structured mentoring opportunities where networks are formed through regular meetings, activities and reflective practice can provide tailored professional learning and contribute to the professional and personal development of early career educators (ECE). Scaffolding from these networks there is an opportunity for teams and even whole schools to create Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998) where individuals have an ongoing interaction around shared concerns.
The framework was designed to address matters particular to the school as well as common issues outlined in the education and mentoring research literature: the Teaching Standards, Quality Teaching Framework, culture and networks, preparation, programming and feedback, communication, classroom management and work as a part of life. Mentors collate interview material, review class surveys, initiate dialogue and gather a sample of reflections from the participants. All the while being mindful not only of the ECE’s level of teaching experience, but also their career and life goals. Discussion on the pathway to Accreditation, as well as the framing and design of artefacts also has an important place in the BNG Learning Mentor Program.