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Mentoring program ‘an investment’ for all staff

ANTHONY Young is determined to become a great teacher.

After all he believes his students deserve the best when it comes to their education.

So he’s getting through the stressful beginning years at Southern Cross Catholic College, Scarborough, by doing the one thing he knows will help him – seek advice from someone who’s been through it already.

Anthony is flourishing after signing up to a Brisbane Catholic Education Mentoring Program where he was paired with an “incredible” mentor, HPE specialist Matthew Armstrong.

Anthony said Matt has helped him navigate the ‘administration’ side of school life, which has enabled him to focus on the teaching side.

He said more importantly, Matt had guided and encouraged him to try new teaching and learning strategies, to reflect on his teaching practice and to embrace tough situations as learning experiences.

For Matt, being a mentor was a chance to give a little back, while gaining some valuable experience in the process.

“It allowed me to get a better grasp of the role of a mentor and has taught me to be a better listener, to ask significant questions and be more understanding of situations outside of my own,” he said.

Anthony said the program had allowed him to see different perspectives through visiting the two schools Matt taught at.

“The schools are from different SES regions and cater to different student and parent needs,” he said.

“This has shown me several strategies for dealing with issues, as well as being able to realise what issues really matter for student outcomes.”

For BCE facilitator Eileen Heywood this was at the core of any mentoring program; two people forming a personal and professional relationship that develops organically over time.

“Mentoring both engenders and requires high levels of trust and this trust cannot be contrived, but develops as a result of focused and committed quality time spent together,” she said.

Ms Heywood, who has been designing and facilitating mentoring programs for more than 15 years, said both the mentor and the mentee should be getting something from the partnership.

“For the mentees, having a mentor they respect and who believed in them was incredibly important,” she said.

“Having the tangible support of someone who has ‘been there, done that’ and is willing to share their ideas and ask you useful questions can be invaluable.

“Mentors may assist their mentee in clarifying ‘where they are’ in terms of a realistic assessment of their skills and helping them understand the system of which both are a part.”

She said for the mentors it was about experiencing rich and stimulating discussions with someone who had a different perspective.

She said it was a ‘heart-expanding’ experience to see someone develop as a direct result of your work together.

“Finally, mentors can get their ‘hands dirty’ in terms of practicing their development and influencing skills with someone who they have no direct responsibility for supervising – and this is real hands on professional development.”

Over the past four years Brisbane Catholic Education has worked with Eileen to develop a range of mentoring opportunities to complement existing practices and support structures within schools and offices.

The mentor program taps the ability of professional teachers within our community of schools to help others.

It gives less experienced teachers additional opportunities to engage in focused professional dialogue about their teaching practice as well as building the mentoring capacity of experienced teachers.

It builds confidence, self-esteem and skills to support personal and professional growth.

Mentoring opportunities are being provided for new and aspiring Early Career teachers, Principals and senior leaders, executive assistants and secretaries within the BCE office.

Executive Director Pam Betts said BCE”s Mentoring programs witnessed the truth in action of the phrase credited to Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s earliest leaders: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”.

She said when beginning teachers are mentored by more experienced practitioners a support relationship is established in which wisdom, skills, talents, insights and experience are shared.

Both parties benefit enormously from the interaction.

Mentors facilitate and encourage their partners in finding direction … “involve me and I learn”.

She said it was not just the beginning teacher who benefited from such experiences, those in leadership and aspiring towards leadership benefit enormously from the reflective practices at the heart of a mentoring relationship.

“Such is certainly the feedback we have received from all those engaged in the various mentoring programs we have offered,” she said.

“While designed primarily for those being mentored, the benefits of mentor relationships to the mentor and the organisation as a whole cannot be underestimated.

She said mentoring leads to enhanced practices and opportunities, professional growth, increased confidence, and the opportunity to connect in positive ways.

Written by: Staff writers
Catholic Church Insurance

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