When Katerina Duckstein set foot in the classroom as a teacher for the first time, she was luckier than many new educators . She could call on her mum - a teacher with 35 years’ experience - for advice.
Now four years later, and established in a career she loves, Katerina remembers feeling overwhelmed and yet also relieved that some behaviour management strategies she’d learned at university were useful. “I don’t know if anything fully prepares you for your first day or week of teaching. It feels out of this world.”
Katerina says she was lucky to get a mentor from her very first day, a teacher with 16 years’ experience who had received training in mentoring.
“She was fantastic”, says Katerina. “She was really experienced and pre-empted issues that might arise.”
“What was difficult is that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’,” she says.
While Katerina was“overwhelmed with making sure my students were being looked after”, her mentor reminded her to take care of herself and her voice. “When you’re using your voice every moment in the day, it can become strained and you often get sick, particularly in the first year.”
The mentoring was structured with scheduled planning time together, and this, plus her mother’s support, brought it all together for Katerina.
A year later, at her next school, most of the teaching staff were relatively new to their careers, and there was no formal mentoring. “In my second and third year, and even this year, it’s more so a buddy, not really a mentor. So, there’s a huge gap in
the system of mentoring,” says Katerina.
For Katerina, mentoring is a big issue. She believes that new teachers need four or five years of mentoring, and ongoing professional development beyond that. “It’s absolutely lifelong,” she says. “Most teachers are collegial. But it’s all about having the time and resources.”
For now, Katerina is concentrating on developing her skills within the curriculum. She’s taken on board advice to take care of her voice and not strain it through overuse.
“Being at a third school, I have a stronger knowledge base now. Obviously, I understand how to teach, but I am really refining that skill set so that I can be the best teacher I can be .”