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Summer School helps new teachers be their best on day one

A group of public school teachers has gone back to school in a new initiative that links new and early career teachers with more experienced colleagues.

Phillip William and Jessica Scarcella

Phillip William and Jessica Scarcella at the Summer School.

The school year has yet to start but for Phillip William and Jessica Scarcella classes have already begun.

The two teachers were among 100 new and early career teachers who today arrived bags in hand at Parramatta for the first day of classes at ‘Summer School’.

The two-day Summer School is a new initiative designed to support early career teachers by strengthening their educational practice and building positive professional relationships and networks of support.

In welcoming the participants, Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott praised the “students” for cutting short their summer break and urged them to “keep the mindset that got you here today”.

He told them the future of the nation was in their hands through the learning they would deliver in their classrooms.

“No matter what circumstances students come from we believe in the transformational power of education ... to transform individual lives, communities and this nation,” he said

“As educators we have to be restless to be learning ourselves, restless to be improving outcomes for the children under our care.”

Mr William, who will teach a Year 3-6 support class at Bourke Public School this year, said he saw the Summer School as a great opportunity to network and develop his teaching skills, particularly in the area of behaviour management.

“I always wanted to teach in a rural area and have been overwhelmed by the support I have received,” he said. “The Summer School gives me a great opportunity to delve further into areas of teaching that are not covered in-depth at university.”

Ms Scarcella, who will teach English at Blacktown Boys High School, said she was mindful there was a high attrition rate among new teachers and wanted to give herself the best opportunity she could to succeed.

“I am also interested in establishing mentoring relationships with people with more experience than me in my subject area, as well as geographic area, to find out more about how to create effective relationships with students and forge my teacher identity,” she said.

Mr Scott said creating learning communities based around a mentor was a key element of the Summer School program.

“I know the advice, insights and friendship they [the mentors] offer will complement the guidance each principal provides,” he said.

Muswellbrook South Public School assistant principal Mavis Thomson said she had volunteered to be a mentor as she had a passion for transferring knowledge to people starting their careers.

“Teaching is such a rewarding and valuable career,” Ms Thomson said.

“When I see new teachers I want to inspire and support them to ensure they enjoy the profession they’ve chosen and reinforce that they have a great career ahead of them.”

Ms Thomson said it was important to support new and early teachers because they had already invested so much time and education in reaching the classroom.

Under the initiative Ms Thomson will mentor five new teachers and maintain a relationship with her group across the year.

Director of the Department of Education School Operations and Performance Unit, Kathy Powzun, was one of the key presenters at the event.

She said the Summer School was just one initiative the department was introducing to support early career teachers.

“I’m overwhelmed by the number of early career teachers who have taken this opportunity to come to the summer school so as to position themselves to be the best educators they can be from day one, term one,” she said.

Education Minister Rob Stokes told the Summer School participants that while most careers were about personal advancement, teaching stood apart.

“At the heart of your profession is helping others to achieve their ambition,” Mr Stokes said.

Mr Stokes said through the summer school experienced teachers would focus on imparting ‘soft skills’ to the early career teachers in areas such as student wellbeing, behaviour management and parent contact to complement the strong discipline knowledge expected from our new teachers.

“Like any job, there are some skills that teachers can only learn with experience and it’s vital that our early career teachers feel supported – particularly as they start out in their careers,” Mr Stokes said.

“Teachers are not just educators, but often have to wear the hat of a counsellor, a manager, a negotiator – all skills that can’t necessarily be learnt in a textbook.”

Almost 900 new teachers will start work in NSW public schools when school returns from 29 January. Of these new teachers, one-third are aged under 25.

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