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Getting new teachers school ready

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SETTLING in to a new school often takes time, but having a staff mentor there to help you can make things much easier.

When maths teacher Gary Glisson moved to Rockhampton Grammar School in Queensland he wasn’t just changing schools, he was also changing countries.

“I moved across here from South Africa in July, so [having a mentor] has helped me get used to the different aspects of the syllabus here … and helped me integrate into the maths side of things,” he tells Oz Teacher.

Glisson, who has also taught in Denmark, says he spends around two hours a week working with his mentor and fellow maths teacher Persephone Cook.

As well as helping new teachers get to grips with their surroundings, such a partnership also has benefits for the mentor.

“I suppose when you’ve been teaching in a school for a long time, you get used to the general running of the school … to have an understanding again of how new teachers come into the school and not have a good idea of how it runs, it keeps that fresh in your head and changes your outlook,” Cook says.

“The mentoring program generally starts at the beginning of the year [with] a whole day … for new teachers to get to know each other, as well as all of the mentoring teachers, to get an understanding of how the school works and all the paperwork that goes on behind the scenes. Also, just to get them ready before all the teachers come in and they’re basically thrown in the deep end.”

The mentor program is just one of the ways Rockhampton Grammar is helping to support staff training and development. In 2013, Cook was also one of around 40 teachers to start a masters program through Griffith University that’s paid for by the school. “The school has offered the program fully funded and it constitutes hours towards our professional development, I’m currently undertaking one unit per semester,” she explains.

“… postgraduate study can be fairly expensive and fairly time consuming. To have the support through the school is amazing.”

Rockhampton Grammar is a Prep to Year 12 school with 1350 students and more than 150 staff. Its masters initiative is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country. The program has been running for a year, but it remains an ongoing commitment for the school board and will continue as long as staff want to participate.

Part of the thinking behind the program is that staff already need to undertake professional development, so using some of that time to study for a masters would be of benefit. Having such a large cohort of staff taking postgraduate study at the same time is an added bonus, as Cook points out.

“To have it fully funded and to be supported with all the right tools and information and to have people to go to, to clarify what you need to do and how to actually go about the assessment is really helpful – instead of trying to do your masters while working full-time all on your own.

“And to have other staff as well at the same point as you … to be able to go to them and discuss what they’re doing and to know that you’re on the right track, that’s also really helpful.”

The initiative also means teachers like Cook are passing on the skills and knowledge gained through postgraduate study to new starters through the mentoring program, creating an exciting cycle of professional learning.

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