Lifelong learning: Teacher mentoring and observation

Supporting beginner teachers and those who are new to your school through regular mentoring, coaching and observation is one aspect of a commitment to a continuous professional development culture that can help leaders build an expert team to improve student learning and wellbeing.

At PENABUR Kelapa Gading School in north Jakarta, Indonesia, all new teachers are partnered with a senior mentor. Vice principals at the Grade 1-12 school also regularly monitor their progress, making sure they are familiar with the system, the school regulations and the school culture.

Head of schools Shirley Puspitawati manages the two campuses, which have a total student enrolment of 1000 students and 150 teachers and staff. Teacher visited the school to find out more about the professional development programs in place. Puspitawati says it's important for new teachers to have a mentor but PENABUR Kelapa Gading School has gone one step further – extending the approach to all staff and involving all levels of leadership.

‘We started using this strategy when we joined a certified professional development program that requires each of the teachers has a mentor in the program,' she explains. ‘The mentors are usually those who have a leadership position, or senior staff, and have had training to be a supervisor. The mentors themselves are the Principals' mentees.'

Mentors and mentees observe classes together, discuss new ideas and things they've learned and later the mentor will also do some observation in the mentee's class. ‘The class observation has a pre-meeting session to discuss the plan, and also a post-observation to discuss the feedback,' Puspitawati shares. ‘They are expected to reflect and get feedback from their mentors and peers.'

The timing and frequency of observations depends on the needs of each individual teacher, but everyone has at least one per semester – more for senior teachers and mentors. As a leader, Puspitawati says the challenges are around scheduling and reluctance from some to be observed. ‘Still, this aspect cannot be avoided.'

Lifelong learning and a spirit of collaboration

PENABUR Kelapa Gading School is under the management of BPK PENABUR, which owns more than 70 schools across Indonesia. It teaches to an international curriculum.

Puspitawati says her school's commitment to mentoring and sharing of knowledge and expertise is part of the teaching and learning culture. Lifelong learning is one of the core competencies of PENABUR schools. ‘As teachers, we are encouraged and challenged to always try new teaching strategies and develop [our skills] so that the teaching and learning will be more creative and meaningful.

‘Having mentors and opportunities to learn from colleagues also gives teachers the spirit of collaboration. They also exercise their critical thinking skills as they practice their analytical skills and reflective methods.'

She adds that it's not just teachers who benefit from this approach. ‘Students will learn from the teachers' spirit of learning. If the teachers have enthusiasm to learn, improve and apply what they learn, students can feel it and the learning spirit can be transferred to them. Both parties are having positive attitudes towards learning.'

As a school leader, what support programs do you have in place for beginner teachers and those who are new to your school?

As a teacher, what opportunities exist to collaborate with your colleagues? Do you take advantage of these opportunities to share your own skills and knowledge? When was the last time you observed a colleague on an aspect of classroom practice you want to improve?