Over careers in Catholic education spanning thirty five and thirty seven years respectively, Chris Dawson and Ann Payne have seen a lot of changes to their profession. Between them they have taught in four dioceses and in most of the twelve Peninsula Catholic primary schools within the Diocese of Broken Bay.
Both have travelled diverse paths in addition to their classroom roles adapting to changes in their home lives and school communities. Ann studied for a degree in special education in 2001 and is now a learning support teacher at St John the Baptist Catholic School at Freshwater, but has along the way also taught at TAFE, taken up the ministry of catechism and even studied to be a florist. Chris challenged herself to teach in Catholic schools in differing socio-economic areas, studied for a Certificate in Technology becoming the Technology Coordinator in a number of the schools she taught in as well as rising to the role of Assistant Principal.
But it is their latest role as mentors to early career teachers in the Primary Mentoring Program that has brought great rewards and friendship with those that they have mentored and with each other. Now in their third year as mentors, they both originally applied wanting to give something back to their profession and have so far mentored sixteen early career teachers.
“We meet with early career teachers twice a term, usually for a half a day and it is really a support network for them so we introduce them to other early career teachers who they may not know and we are there to listen and support them with any challenges that they may have,” said Chris.
Ann and Chris both strive to provide a structure that gives their group additional skills to support their teaching as well as providing a pastoral element especially with the demands of teaching in the early years.
“We always joke about it because we say we are like mothers at school because the early career teachers are young and it’s just like our own daughters and sons basically – we both have children that are around their age or a bit older. And I think that’s what helps – I really do, our groups have been fantastic. We always make sure we have lunch for them, we even cook for them. Ann is a great cook, I try to make the cakes and slices and Ann makes the soups and the quiches!” said Chris.
Ann adds, “It is nice when you come together to share a meal, it breaks down barriers and it makes people feel comfortable.”
They always start their mentor sessions with a prayer and Ann and Chris provide each teacher with a collection of prayers useful for staff meetings and parent gatherings which the young teachers are always grateful for.
“We learn as much from them as they learn from us, it’s a recharging of our batteries and it’s worth it just for that. It is fantastic to hear of the milestones and little successes that they’re having,” said Ann.
“We have that relationship with them for life. We still hear from them all,” reflects Chris.