Mentoring the real key to unlocking quality, say teachers

THREE Merrylands High teachers who cross the experience spectrum all place high value on the power of mentoring within and between schools to support quality teaching.

Christine Israel, 25, is in her second year as a teacher and says she has benefited significantly from a comprehensive induction program.

''We've got a head teacher who has been working with the early career teachers. She basically comes in [to the classroom], gives feedback on lessons and we follow that up with our head teacher. I've also got a mentor within the school so it's a really collaborative process,'' she said.

Alice Leung, who won the 2012 Microsoft Australia Innovative teacher award, has already progressed to a mentoring role, despite only six years in teaching.

When she began, she did a lot of team teaching, working with an experienced teacher she would plan and deliver lessons.

Now she offers her own insights to a new teacher on how to enhance learning outcomes.

''I'm giving her ideas and strategies, a practical approach to applying the learning theory that they pick up at university: how that will look in the classroom for her particular group of students,'' she said.

The deputy principal Amika Prasad also sees a powerful role for mentoring and programs for professional development when mid-career teachers run low on energy and enthusiasm.

Not that his own, sustained by a clear focus, has ever dipped in his 30-year teaching career.

''I think it's just the passion I have for the kids, for educating the community, working with families to ensure these students become good citizens because they might be the ones looking after us when we retire,'' he said.

Miss Israel says the ATAR score of those entering university is only one factor in teacher quality.

''It is important but I also think a lot of the ongoing professional development we're doing is improving the quality of teaching. It's not just a matter of getting into uni and having a high ATAR,'' she said.

Both Miss Leung and Mr Prasad both strongly support ongoing professional development to ensure teachers keep currency and maintain their professional standards. Taking on leadership roles, networking with counterparts at other schools to share expertise and to update and renew their knowledge are some of the ways teachers stay enthusiastic and relevant, Miss Leung said.

The story Mentoring the real key to unlocking quality, say teachers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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