Home' Teacher : November 2009 Contents 8 TEACHER NOVEMBER 2009
to academic enhancement, of our teaching
staff in particular.'
With that in mind, several initiatives to
support the Master Teacher and Mentor
program were hatched. A working party
was formed to establish effective selection
criteria, mark out the steps for an appro-
priate process of induction and to identify
the inaugural group of master teachers this
year. Five master teachers -- two from the
mathematics area, two from the arts and
one from the English/Humanities -- were
inducted in August.
As Ashton explains, the five teachers
were excited to be offered an alternative
promotional pathway. 'So many of our great
teachers have been lost to administration
because they had no alternative,' she says.
'To gain a salary increase or career advance-
ment they were forced to take on a role as a
head of subject, say, or year-level coordina-
tor. They became teachers for a reason and
they should be rewarded for that.'
One of Toorak College's inaugural mas-
ter teachers, Faith Lucas, has stayed in the
classroom during her 35-year career because
teachingforher is about caringfor the emo-
tional and academic needs of the students.
'Although money is not the reason I
teach, being able to apply for a position of
responsibility and to be rewarded for what
you love doing is terrific,' she says. 'Not all
teachers are destined to stay in the class-
room, but for those who do it's fantastic for
them to recognised and appreciated.'
From this year, ToorakCollege now offers
two parallel career paths with salary struc-
tures that mirror each other, so that teach-
ers can seek promotion to teacher-manager
roles or to become a master teacher.
According to Thomas, in a structural
sense the program is remarkably simple,
but the process of deciding which appli-
cants become master teachers and mentors
requires great care. 'There is much to the
role of teacher,' he explains. 'It's a complex
mixture of skill, art, compassion, rigour,
knowledge, passion and ethical behaviour.'
Teasing out that complex mixture, the
school's Master Teacher committee defines
the role of a master teacher in a number of
ways. A master teacher:
initiates best practice in the art of teaching
leads and mentors staff to support the
implementation of the school's vision
seeks professional recognition
determines positive strategies to improve
outcomes for each student
assesses the examination or test perform-
ance of students against school, subject
and national norms with a view to qual-
ity control and continual improvement
establishes and maintains links beyond
the school to assist its evolution and rec-
ognition as a learning community
establishes well-researched expectations
and goals for colleagues as individuals
and as members of a team, and motivates
each to seek higher achievement
presents at professional conferences
leads and manages the improvement of
professional practice from identifying
needs and priorities, to planning strat-
egies, and thence to implementation to
improve student outcomes
leads professional development, espe-
cially in response to emerging needs and
identifies areas for improvement and ini-
tiates improvement within and beyond
classroom progra ms.
To ensure that this exhaustive list wasn't
also an exhausting one, the committee
established five attributes for assessment
purposes to address a master teacher's:
1. subject expertise, curriculum develop-
ment and documentation
2. assessment practices, reporting and
effect on the academic outcomes of students
3. professional learning, development,
reflection and research
4. professional leadership and support
within the curriculum, and
5. work beyond the classroom.
The school's master teacher position has
been designed so that incumbents can take
three steps -- to become a Master Teacher 1,
2 or 3. Each step requires the applicant to
demonstrate progressive abilities as a master
teacher to the highest Master Teacher 3 level.
A Master Teacher 1 must demonstrate
expertise in three attributes including
attribute 1; a Master Teacher 2 must dem-
onstrate expertise in four attributes includ-
ing attribute 1; and a Master Teacher 3 must
demonstrate expertise in all five attributes.
Those who take up a master teacher posi-
tion are reviewed at the end of three years,
at which time they can choose to continue
as a master teacher, apply for the next level
of master teacher or to switch to the parallel
teacher-manager career path.
As Thomas explains, one goal of the
program was to ensure the application and
selection process was a meaningful and
rewarding professional learning experience.
Lucas says she was unsure about apply-
ing for the role at first because she thought
it might involve too much work and she was,
she says, 'too busy being a master teacher,'
'But once I began the process it was actually
quite enjoyable and not too onerous.'
As the Year 7 and 8 teacher explains,
now that the first group of master teachers
has been appointed, she expects more teach-
ers to apply in the following years. 'Some
didn't apply because they felt it might have
meant a larger workload, but now they've
been reassured it's no more than they are
doing already -- they're just being recognised
for that effort,' she says.
That doesn't mean everyone will or should
apply, though, as Thomas observes. 'We need
to ensure that sufficient opportunities are
available to retain our highest achievers, but
we don't want everyone to avail themselves
of these opportunities,' he explains. 'If we
offer too few, we could lose our high achiev-
ers. If we offer too many, we are denying the
reality that some staff will be more suited to
working in other environments.'
Even so, Lucas says the program will def-
initely help attract and retain high-quality
teaching staff for the school. 'There's already
talk in teaching circles about the program
and plenty of strong interest,' she says.
Melissa Cranwell is a freelance journalist.
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