The transition from preservice teacher to beginning teacher is not without its challenges. At
Marsden State High School, a unique staff development program helps to ensure that every beginning teacher is supported to become their best. Partnering experienced and beginning teachers together is just one part of the school’s highly successful Beginning Teacher Mentoring program. It also includes one overnight and three single-day beginning teacher retreats, the opportunity to observe other teachers and a weekly beginning teachers group.
We spoke with two teachers to find out exactly what makes life easier for the new teachers at their school, and get their top tips for beginning teachers and teacher mentors.
A structured beginning teacher mentoring program
Matsen Jasch (left) and his mentor Andy Garside (right).
Matsen Jasch began teaching in Term 2, 2018 with a timetable including Health and Physical Education (HPE), Science and Football Excellence. Andy Garside is a senior HPE and Football Excellence teacher, and Acting Year Level Head of Department with almost two decades of teaching and leadership experience in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Three tips for beginning teachers
The opportunities for professional learning and reflection offered to Matsen during his first year of teaching has given him great insight into what beginning teachers can do to set themselves up for success.
Here are Matsen’s 3 tips for beginning teachers:
Tip 1: You’re not going to be perfect, and that’s perfectly fine.
'I put a lot of pressure on myself to plan and carry out perfect lessons. It was only after a few failed lesson plans that I realised the perfect lesson doesn’t actually exist,' said Matsen.
'There are always going to be unseen problems in a lesson, whether you’re a first-year teacher, or you’ve been teaching for 20 years.
'The important thing is to accept this and reflect on the positive learning that may have come from that failure.'
Tip 2: Never be ashamed to ask for help.
'You should never be ashamed to ask another staff member for advice or support,' said Matsen.
'I faced many different challenges starting out, including managing challenging behaviour, tough content and simply dealing with the workload.
'Being comfortable with asking more experienced teachers for help, allows me to gain more knowledge and overcome those challenges.'
Tip 3: Networking is so important!
'This one is key as a beginning teacher: don’t hide! Getting to know other members of staff, including admin, leadership staff and teachers in other staff rooms is such a good way to build up your support network.'
'Networking with teachers from other schools at professional development events is another great way to get different perspectives of teaching and to discuss classroom ideas and behaviour management strategies,' Matsen advises.
Three tips for teacher mentors
For Andy, his responsibilities as Matsen’s mentor are an enjoyable aspect of his professional life. Andy sees that his role as a mentor is not only a vital part of creating a successful transition for preservice teachers into employed teaching positions, but it also offers him the opportunity to enhance a beginning teacher’s practice in a way that ultimately leads to improved student outcomes.
Here are Andy’s 3 tips for teacher mentors:
Tip 1: Listen and make yourself available informally.
'As a mentor, I think it’s important to be a good listener, in order to understand the beginning teacher’s reflections and take on a facilitator or coach role to guide them, so that they can develop themselves,' said Andy.
'It’s very important to make time for those small informal conversations, ideally on a daily basis.
'Be available to check in with, and support your mentee. This can be anything from ensuring they are okay, to checking on focused goals that have been set for them.'
Tip 2: Encourage challenges to increase professional learning.
'Even after graduation, beginning teachers still need to be challenged to continue their learning, so I put a lot of emphasis on trying new strategies and ideas, and encourage them to think in new ways to build their experience,' said Andy.
Tip 3: Celebrate success.
'It’s really important to celebrate successes and highlight the impact the beginning teacher is having. Encourage even the smallest of wins that you know will, over time, greatly benefit the students in their care,' said Andy.
The Beginning Teachers Mentoring program at Marsden State High School not only supports new teachers, but has created a positive workplace culture where experienced teachers feel that their skills and knowledge are valued. For all of these reasons and more the school is truly making a difference—the Marsden way.