Personal perspectives

Mentoring, community engagement, and innovation

Four minutes
Teach For Australia Friday, July 20th, 2018

Glenn Kane is the Principal at Heywood District Secondary College in Victoria, a partner school of Teach For Australia since 2017. Three Associates currently teach at the school: Courtney Gorman (Cohort 2017), Megan Latham (Cohort 2017) and Hannah May Isaac (Cohort 2018).

What do you believe is key to a successful mentoring relationship?

Making sure that the mentoring time is isolated and that the Mentor and Associate are locked in for their regular mentor meetings.

It’s important to ensure that the relationship between mentor and mentee develops strongly from the start. This strong relationship is important, especially when it comes to having difficult conversations and reaching positive outcomes.

Do you have a process for ensuring best-practice mentoring in your school?

Heywood aims to meet the time release recommendations from Teach For Australia. We do so in the form of a two period time allowance – or the equivalent of 100 minutes. We nominate experienced and specialist teachers. This means that it can be tricky to find the time release for them, but it is absolutely worthwhile.

Initially, in our partnership with Teach For Australia we were quite strict with ensuring that the mentor had the same teaching method as the Associate. We have discovered that what is crucial is that the mentor is a respected staff member and high quality operator. Ideally the mentor would be both, but it is not always possible!

Do you have a strategy to encourage Associate engagement with the wider community?

If we wish to retain Associates post their two year placement then it is crucial to encourage community engagement. However, it’s important to use your gut feel to determine which Associates require that push, and which don’t.

Over the years, a “TFA hub” has established down here, and our Associates have developed strong connections with Associates at the other schools in the region. This provides them with a variety of school perspectives, which is important. Portland Secondary College is only twenty minutes down the road and a number of our Associates share a house with Associates who teach there.

Associates can fall into trap of being obsessed with the job – we try to shake that up by encouraging them to get involved in the community. In country towns, sporting clubs and organisations are deeply beneficial for Associates. We strive, where appropriate, to link our Associates to these and this has helped with Associate wellbeing.

It’s wonderful how our Associates seek to engage with the whole school community – volunteering to assist with excursions and camps, and bringing the community into the school via practical programs.

Have you had any subject area expansion that has been initiated by an Alumni/Associate or Teach For Australia partnership more broadly?

Our partnership with Teach For Australia has allowed us to continue to facilitate VCE physics. We were struggling to find teachers to fill the position, and Teach For Australia was able to match us with Associates who could.

We are seeing a lot of innovation in the science department – the subjects we offer haven’t expanded, however we have shifted to more practical classes with hands-on elements.

Our Associates who teach sciences are actively looking at ways to link the broader community with the school within their classes.

Have you successfully implemented Pivot* in your school?

I hadn’t heard of Pivot before Teach for Australia introduced it to us. Heywood now uses Pivot twice a year and it’s been brilliant, particularly in helping us focus our professional learning program.

Teach For Australia’s focus on teaching Associates the importance of data informed practice has more broadly influenced the college, and the college’s use of data has consequently improved.

Do you have any tips for Principal who are new school partners?

Be sure to maintain communication with your State Manager on a regular basis, so that both parties are on the same page and know where each other are at.

Submit a vacancy with the Department, regardless of your current situation. The last two years, we have been glad that we did!

*Pivot Professional Learning offers an online, evidence-based student survey to Australian teachers and school. The survey is mapped to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and results are collated into an interactive report to help guide teacher’s professional learning goals and school-wide strategy setting.

Teach For Australia encourages and supports Associates to run the Pivot student survey with at least one of their classes each semester of the school year.

Pivot offers Teach For Australia partner schools the opportunity for additional teachers at the school to access the survey at a discounted rate.

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