In a school community that I was blessed to lead in recent times we adopted the mantra, “We are the Authors of our own Future.” The entire school community; staff, students and parents worked very hard to ensure that practices surrounding empowerment, common purpose, community engagement, independence, interdependence, student wellbeing and of course, learning and teaching were considered and adopted through the lens of our mantra.
Having begun a new career path as a Facilitator with Leading Teams it has struck me in recent months just how challenging this year must have been for all graduate teachers as they began their careers amidst the global pandemic. My heart has gone out to each of them knowing that they would have been so incredibly enthusiastic about forming strong, professional and pastoral relationships with their students at the commencement of the year, only to discover that they were now likely to be teaching them remotely for the better part of the year.
As a school principal I found our graduate teachers to be so energised and energising. I loved working with these young teachers (and not so young!) as they found their way into the vocation of teaching. I recall saying to our graduate teachers on many occasions how, having begun their teaching careers, they immediately found themselves in a position of significant community leadership. It then became my job, along with my brilliant more experienced colleagues, to nurture and encourage that leadership capability with our newest colleagues. It was a genuine privilege to be a part of this exciting process of induction.
Planning for rich learning, dealing with frustrated parents as they tried valiantly to engage their children at home, not being able to form genuine relationships with their new colleagues, perhaps feeling that school leadership didn’t fully grasp the challenges they were facing, fear of the unknown, etc are just some of the challenges that many, many graduate teachers will have encountered this year.
We do know that the period of time when most teachers leave the profession is in the first five years of working. With this in mind we at Leading Teams are reaching out to schools and school systems with a view to assisting our graduate teachers to embrace the challenges they are facing, work through them and grow to become the finest educators in the nation.
In focusing this article on graduate and beginning teachers, I haven’t referred to all of the inspiring young people who have begun a trade this year. All of the wonderful young people who have started a career as an accountant or as an engineer. What are we doing to overtly support the truly courageous and dedicated young people who have started careers in the medical fraternity as nurses, doctors, anaesthetists or occupational therapists?
Our work to create high performing teams and leaders can be specifically designed for Graduate / Beginning teachers (or any career inductees) and is something that we are happy to explore with schools and graduate teachers. These young people, many of whom must be feeling vulnerable and unsure of their futures, are the future of education in Australia. It is crucial that they don’t also become COVID statistics and that we offer them every means of support we can to allow them to effectively author their own futures in education.
Before joining Leading Teams I taught and led in eight schools across Victoria during a 40-year career in the Catholic education sector.