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31 June 2018 | Professionally Speaking PHOTOS: MATTHEW LITEPLO BY JENNIFER LEWINGTON W hen Shivam Patel, OCT, landed a full-time, permanent position last year with the York Region District School Board, she was assigned a Grade 4/5 class at Blue Willow Public School in Woodbridge, Ont. One parent, uneasy that her child would lose ground in a split grade, expressed concerns to Patel. Keen to communicate effectively with a parent, the new teacher turned for advice to her mentor Kelly Murray, OCT, a 27-year veteran who teaches Grade 5 at the school. Murray coached Patel on how to talk about the child's progress with the Grade 5 curriculum and where to draw the line on matters beyond the teacher's control, such as student placement. By referring the parent to school officials, those responsible for split grade enrolment, Patel kept her focus on what mattered most to her and the parent: the child's academic progress. "You have to navigate in a way that is professional," says Patel. "Kelly had really good ways to approach parent communication." The professional learning relationship between Murray and Patel — that of a seasoned practitioner sharing experi- ence-infused insights with a classroom newcomer — is a central theme of the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP). Introduced in 2006 and now a requirement for all those who enter the profession, the provincially financed but locally delivered mentorship initiative provides a classroom setting for experi- enced teachers to support those in their first year or two of practice. In Patel's case, as she prepared for two performance appraisals required of teachers in their first 12 months in the classroom, she picked up tips from Murray on presenting well-organized lesson plans that would be reviewed by the principal. Even before becoming a mentor to Patel, Murray demonstrated her own philoso- phy of collaboration by inviting the new teacher to visit her classroom any time. Murray says a meaningful mentorship relationship fosters an exchange of knowledge. "[New teachers] have a lot of background information, and Shivam has lots of resources that she gets online and shares with me," she says. Murray's collaborative approach re- minds young teachers they are not alone, says Cathy Bruce, OCT, dean of the school of education and professional learning at Trent University. "That [knowledge] is critical as part of getting people onto a path of understanding that teaching is a learning profession." She adds: "It is about fostering a habit of mind of mentorship that when we col- laborate we work together, and we don't operate in silos in the classroom." Through workshops, online learning and one-to-one sessions with an experienced teacher, those new to the classroom deepen their knowledge of effective practices and model profes- sional conduct. Done well, mentoring creates a safe, collaborative learning space to share wisdom. The mentorship program, which is currently supported by annual funding of $13.7-million from the Ministry of Education, assists about 8,000 new hires (permanent and long-term occasional) a year. Since its inception, the program has won praise for its contribution to teacher Wisdom Sharing THE POWER OF TEACHER MENTORSHIP

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