Teach for Australia gains acceptance
They scoffed, but Teach for Australia is working
hree years ago, Teach For Australia launched to a mixed reception. The program, adapted from Teach For America and Teach First in the UK which seeks to attract high achieving graduates and professionals to teaching – specifically in disadvantaged areas – was, critics said, too expensive, too idealistic, a recipe for conflict and a veiled criticism of the job Australian teachers were doing. With the first cohort of graduate trainees having recently completed the first cycle, the opposite looks to be true, to greater or lesser degrees it’s been a success and in some cases, as Acting CEO Kallie Rougos describes it, “the catalyst for a bit of magic”. Teach For Australia associates commit to an initial two-year teaching assignment in a disadvantaged school, where each is matched with a teacher mentor (as well as other support and coaching staff ).
The program is driving debate around the current state of education
Rougos recalls one unlikely pairing in Victoria’s Grampians region, where the associate was matched with a teacher who was just about retired and inclined towards irascibility. After working together a strong friendship and admiration has sprung up between the two; the associate has accessed the knowledge gained from years on the job while the older man has rediscovered the reasons why he entered the profession. “Our associate sings his mentor’s praises while the mentor has in some ways gained a new lease on life,” Rougos says. It seems to be a reoccurring theme, another TFA associate in metropolitan Melbourne, says Rougos, has taken her VCE Politics students’ results from some of the worst in the state to among the best. “She was very quick to attribute her success to the support she had received from her mentor. “We’re now seeing the entire conversation around the topic of TFA change among teachers; principals from the schools involved have almost unanimously said that they would agree to take on TFA associates in the future, it seems to change the lives of all involved.” The program has been the subject of close scrutiny, DEEWR has commissioned no less than three reports on the program in three
Saul Wakerman Teach for Australia associate
Education Today – Term 4 2012