Last week’s announcement by the Lien Foundation and St James’ Church Kindergarten that they would be launching a new Practicum Centre for pre-service pre-school teachers heralds a welcome addition to the early childhood education sector.
Designed to provide high-quality mentoring to student teachers during their mandatory classroom teaching, the new centre hopes to enhance the practical skill set of young teachers and help set the stage for a satisfying career as pre-school professionals.
Particularly now, when the pre-school sector is facing a tremendous shortage of qualified talent and an above average annual attrition rate of between 15 and 20 per cent, finding models that encourage people to enter and remain in the field is critical. High-quality mentoring, such as that envisioned by the centre, is key.
BENEFITS OF MENTORING
One of the important things that mentoring in any field does is help trainees translate what they have learnt into practical solutions and actions in real-world settings. When new young professionals struggle to integrate what they know with how to act, mentors can guide them both by modelling successful strategies and helping them become reflective practitioners.
Rather than simply offering corrections, when mentors watch their mentees in action and later discuss with them what worked, what did not and what might have, they allow their charges to figure things out for themselves and develop their own repertoire of professional skills.
Indeed, in a Swedish study of mentoring in school, the author discovered that novice teachers found the single most important benefit was the opportunity to discuss and analyse classroom situations with their more experienced colleagues.
At the same time, mentoring is not a one-way street — mentors also gain from the relationship and, in the long run, so will the organisation or profession.
New trainees bring to the field fresh insights and the latest thinking they have acquired from their studies. Seasoned professionals who are open to new ideas and the enthusiasm of the young may find their own practice enhanced and updated as a result of being a mentor.