Indigenous Student Teachers: Capacity Building as Mentors
A significant report from the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) commissioned by the NSW Government in Australia in 2004, noted the difficulties beginning teachers had in developing positive relationships with Aboriginal parents and community members. To address this concern, a preservice pilot program was planned for small groups of final year students across several universities who expressed interest in working in schools with significant Aboriginal enrolments. The pilot mentoring program, developed by Australian Catholic University (ACU) and NSW DET, was implemented by a consortium of universities to immerse and facilitate the learning of non-indigenous pregraduate teachers in Indigenous communities. A key feature of the program was the mentoring of participating students by Aboriginal mentors. The rationale for this approach was premised on the belief that effective partnerships are built on knowledge, familiarity and equality amongst partners which are nurtured and developed through shared experience, respect, good communication, trust and stability. This paper reports on the structures of the mentoring process within the pilot project, with emphasis upon the learning the mentors gained as a result of their participation in the ‘Teach Our Mob’ program at ACU, one of several universities involved in the project. Indigenous mentors, who were themselves student teachers at ACU, were appointed to guide the learning and assist in exposing non-indigenous student teachers to new insights and understandings of Indigenous culture and issues that many communities encountered on a regular basis. The learning was an integration of formal academic study, coupled with an extended period of immersion in the mentor’s community, where it was envisaged that the pregraduate teachers’ preparation to teach Aboriginal children in rural and urban contexts would be enhanced.
Keywords: Indigenous Mentors, Beginning Teachers, Teaching and Learning in Indigenous Communities
Dr. Janette Long
Assistant Head of School and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University