'Call to action' for teaching alumni

17 November 2011

Hosting pre-service teachers from the Faculty of Education and Social Work for their professional experience has been great for Belmore Boys High School, as well as being personally rewarding, according to school principal Sandra Robinson.

Ms Robinson who is a graduate of the faculty - along with Belmore's two deputy principals and at least five other members of staff - said providing professional experience for Master of Teaching and Bachelor of Education students from her alma mater had brought unexpected benefits.

"The quality of the relationship between our school and the University of Sydney is quite different from that of the other teacher-education institutions who send us pre-service teachers. We are treated as a partner rather than as a service provider," she said.

"In particular, the Division of Professional Experience works with us so that our permanent staff, as well as the pre-service teachers we accept, all have opportunities to grow professionally." Director of Professional Experience for the Faculty of Education and Social Work Associate Professor Di Bloomfield said the experience of Belmore Boys High School was typical of the feedback she received from schools that were partnered with the faculty in offering pre-service placements.

"We are always seeking the support of quality teachers to provide rich learning experiences for our pre-service teachers. We believe that many alumni can provide such quality mentoring," Dr Bloomfield said.

"Increasingly, because of the unique way we schedule group placements, we are able to place the same tertiary mentor in participating schools for the whole of the pre-service teacher placement period, which enables us to provide a range of expanded services to the cooperating teachers as well as our current students."

Dr Bloomfield said cooperating teachers who provided placements for the faculty's pre-service teachers had become eligible this year for free enrolment in the one of faculty's professional learning modules, which may be delivered at the school and are equivalent to half a unit of study towards a Master of Education, as well as 20 hours of NSW Institute of Teachers registered professional development. Ms Robinson said it was a combination of all these factors, as well as the accessibility of University staff to consult during professional experience placements that contributed to her enthusiasm for her school remaining a close partner with the faculty.

"It is important too, for the pre-service teachers we host, that so many of our staff are University alumni. It provides common ground and acts as an icebreaker," she said. MTeach (Secondary Education) student Jen Craig-Fletcher agreed. "Since arrived for my first professional experience placement a few weeks ago, meeting so many senior teachers who've been through the same teacher-education course has been very comforting," she said.

"People have come up to me at morning tea or when I've been photocopying just to welcome me and say they went to Sydney Uni too.

"It's also been a wonderful insight into what I can aspire to; most of the teachers here who are in high administrative positions are alumni of the faculty."

Dr Bloomfield said she would welcome online enquiries from alumni and schools interested in providing professional experience.