A recent literature review commissioned by the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) and undertaken by Southern Cross University, examined the extent to which teachers significantly violate professional boundaries.
According to the QCT, professional identity not only stands at the core of the teaching profession but can also have a powerful influence on teachers’ behaviours and decision-making.
Below, The Educator speaks to QCT director, John Ryan, to find out more.
TE: The 2015 TEMAG Report recommended a national approach to support beginning teachers for successful transition to classroom teaching practice. What might this look like in practice?
JR: A good induction program sets the tone for a teacher’s personal and professional identity. A national approach provides a framework which schools should adapt to meet their contextual needs and the needs of individual teachers. The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership developed a framework based on four pillars – professional practices, orientation, well-being and professional identity. These pillars are useful in tailoring an induction program that will assist beginning teachers to develop their knowledge, skills and dispositions as a professional teacher. Ultimately, a teacher’s journey in the profession and the support they have begins in initial teacher education programs and continues into the school setting. The importance of school leaders and teachers cannot be underestimated in supporting teacher well-being and retaining beginning teachers in the profession.
TE: What are some of the ways in which effective teacher induction programs that strengthen professional identity can assist in creating a child-safe environment?
JR: A good induction program addresses the important issues of transition from being a preservice teacher to being a teacher. It should assist the beginning teacher to understand their responsibilities to students, the public and the profession. Beginning teachers need to continue to develop their own personal and professional philosophy as to what it means to be a professional teacher. They need assistance in understanding their professional boundaries, not only about their own behaviours and teaching practices, but also in regard to school policies and practices about child safety. Most importantly, they need support in understanding how they can actively contribute to a positive child-safe culture in the school. Beginning teachers need to feel safe and supported so that they have the courage to report any suspicious behaviours to administrators or other employees. It is important that they understand they are reporting behaviours and not individuals.
TE: In your view, what are the ways in which these programs can help to improve teacher well-being and career development?
JR: A good induction program will include an experienced teacher as a mentor. A safe and supportive environment should be established so that honest and at times raw conversations can occur. The mentor plays a key role in guiding the beginning teacher in their reflective practice so the beginning teacher sets realistic goals and uses targeted professional learning to address issues which might cause them tension, ambiguity or anxiety.