As part of our beginning teachers’ series, I wanted to look at using the beginning teacher release time. The way that beginning teacher release is used and allocated in primary schools around New Zealand is varied. I would go as far as to say that some schools do a poor job of allocating this to their beginning teachers. It is important to know your rights (I get to that right at the start!) and to also understand the various ways you can use this time beneficially.
In this blog post, a wonderful group of first and second-year teachers shares their experiences of using the beginning teacher release time. Learn from them and start thinking of how you can use this valuable time in the future.
The Nuts and Bolts of Beginning Teacher Release Time
New Zealand schools that employ primary teachers in their first and second year of teaching are allocated the PRT staffing allocation. It is then up to the school’s discretion as to how this staffing will be used to support the beginning teacher through a structured mentoring programme, utilising this additional staffing to see this happen.
This mentoring programme could include (but is not limited t0):
- Observing other teachers
- Being observed
- Time for planning
- Professional development courses
- Resource preparation
The current allocation for a first-year teacher is 0.2 FTTE for up to 1 year (that is a fancy way of saying one day a week). For a second-year teacher, the current allocation is 0.1 FTTE, which works out as one day per fortnight. Some of this time could also be used, at times, by your mentor teacher to help support you. You can read more about this here.
While you are out of the classroom, a reliever will look after your students. This may be the same reliever each week or someone different each week. How you use this time will be decided between you and your mentor teacher.
I strongly recommend front-footing this conversation to ensure everyone is on the same page and happy with the decisions made.
Now let’s here from the wonderful first and second-year teachers as they share their experiences of using the beginning teacher (PCT) release time.
It Was Up To Me…
I am able to dictate what I complete in my BT release time. My release time is generally used for marking, planning, finding resources, and adding to my teacher’s registration folder. I get two afternoons per week to complete this and keep a diary of what I have completed. This record of how I used my time is added to my registration folder. Also, one of my afternoons I have my release time with my mentor which is a perfect chance for a catchup.
My takeaway – Keep a record of how you spend your release time and add this to your registration folder or documents. This way, if asked, you can show what you have used this time for.
As a first-year teacher, I have had one day a week to be released from my classroom. I have had full control over how I utilise that time on those days. The time was used to observe other teachers, take part in personal professional development, and complete my PCT (provisionally certificated teacher) portfolio. I have completed all of my PCT days onsite to date.
My takeaway – Allocate regular time to observe other teachers. For example, you could observe their behaviour management style, the way they run their maths or reading programmes, or how they interact with their students.
My mentor and I decided how to use the time together
My experience using my release time changed between my first and second years of teaching. In year one, the decisions around how to use my release time was completely up to me. I spent a lot of time making resources (that were never used), behaviour managing my class, and doing assessments. Some of it was used for a PCT course too. I had a couple of difficult students in my class who I had the relationship with so when my release teacher struggled, I often stepped in.
In my second year, I meet with my mentor fortnightly to discuss my goals and decide what the best steps are for me to use my time for. I am more organised and have a long list of ‘to-dos’. An example day might be:
- Two or three assessments
- Sitting with a student 1:1 to make a behaviour plan for them or to just work on relationship building,
- Planning for next week
- Completing goals in my portfolio.
It’s a lot more structured this year which I appreciate.
My takeaway – Having a plan for how you will use your release time can make it truly valuable. If you feel as if the decisions on how to use your release time have been left to you, ask your mentor for suggestions. You can also utilise the knowledge of other teachers in your school. He waka eke noa: We’re all in this together.
Not every school uses release time the same way
I believe that every school is different. My school was quite strict in that we needed to log what was accomplished during each release block. It will most definitely involve some sort of PCT meeting with your mentor teacher and during some weeks, will involve you being observed or observing a different classroom in conjunction with your PCT goals. The release time goes crazy fast though – so definitely don’t faff around!
My takeaway – As this teacher said, the release time goes super quickly, so make sure you have a plan and stick to it. You definitely notice the loss when the release time stops in your third year!
My BT release time has changed from what I started off with, in the beginning. The first two terms my BT release time was entirely for PRT courses. So every time I had a PRT course (Tools for Teachers) that day counted as my release time. This year, I have been given two release days each term. One is used for my course and the other is used however I want. Depending on what is going on at the time, I either use it to start/finish my JAM or running records, input data, make important phone calls to whanau, plan for the next couple weeks, finish/update my goals and release forms, or do long term planning.
My takeaway – Be prepared for variations to the norm. As you can see, the amount of time allocated for release was different for this beginning teacher than the other above. If you have any questions about your beginning teacher release time and its allocation, ask!
The way my release time was used changed…
As a beginning teacher, I have had three mentor teachers. They have all worked very differently in regards to release time.
With my first mentor teacher, most of the time was spent with this teacher in my classroom, watching her teach my kids. She would model what she was doing and why. The students would rotate and the next group would be my turn to give those tips a go. This system took place until the end of the term when I could go and observe other teachers teach the curriculum in areas we had identified as needing support.
My second mentor teacher preferred me to leave the classroom so I could observe other teachers and was happy to answer questions.
With my third mentor teacher, the in-class time was split between us. If there was a testing need we would take a curriculum area each, share our findings once completed. I also spent time observing and begin observed by my mentor as well as observing other staff members. Use of video recordings was encouraged any time during the week so I could watch myself and see what I was doing but also what the class was doing. This was my first mentor teacher to help with my e-portfolio and to help set this up and be organised.
My takeaway – Things change so be ready to roll with those changes. Personally, I had a different mentor teacher each of my BT years and their styles and expectations were quite different.
To learn more about the role of a mentor teacher, check out the Guidelines for Induction and Mentoring and Mentor Teachers here.
As a beginning teacher, you are responsible for maintaining documentation to show how you have participated in a mentoring professional development process. This is something required by the Teachers Council to move from provisional to full registration.
The PRT-Mentor Relationship
See more from our beginning teacher series
Back to School Starter Kit
Our Back to School Starter Kit contains everything you need to get your classroom set up and ready for day one. This resource includes classroom decor and display materials, literacy and social studies activities, early finishers and team building activities, and more!
Print, photocopy and laminate these resources and then put your feet up knowing you are ready for day one! You’ll also save with our generous discount (25% off!). See more here.