Teachers Handbook

SVPACT Aims:

Our Purpose
To connect volunteers who want to make a difference with young people in school who need extra help. We are harnessing the wisdom and skills of older generations to enrich the learning experience of young people who are at risk of falling by the wayside in an often-overburdened school system.

Our Vision
Our community helping young people to succeed.

Our Mission
To prepare and connect inter-generational volunteers with children who have been identified by a school as likely to benefit from engagement with a mature role model.

Mentoring - Making a Differences:

Be yourself! Accept that students in the program may have different backgrounds, cultures, vocabulary and manners from yours.

By being yourself, by caring, by showing up and giving your time, you will be making a difference.

Effective mentoring relationships involve:

    • Realistic goals and expectations
    • Positivity and optimism
    • Having fun together
    • Active listening
    • Giving your student choice and voice in deciding how you will spend your time together, and
    • Respecting the trust your student places in you.

About the School Volunteer Program ACT

SVPACT is based on a successful Western Australian program and was first introduced to the ACT by the Rotary Club of Weston Creek in 1997.

A similar program was being trialled at Charnwood Primary School and by merging the two programs a new program called STYLE was created.

From this program the School Volunteer Program of the ACT evolved and it was formally launched in 2005 by the former Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery at North Ainslie Primary School. At this time there were 12 mentors operating across 8 schools.

General Jeffery is currently the Patron of SVPACT.

There are now 160 mentors operating across 40 schools.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been created to formalise the partnership between SVPACT Inc and the ACT Education Directorate.

All members of SVPACT Inc contribute their time on a voluntary basis and financial support is provided by Teachers Mutual Bank and several Rotary Clubs.

Mentoring - Making a Differences:

Be yourself! Accept that students in the program may have different backgrounds, cultures, vocabulary and manners from yours.

By being yourself, by caring, by showing up and giving your time, you will be making a difference.

Effective mentoring relationships involve:

    • Realistic goals and expectations
    • Positivity and optimism
    • Having fun together
    • Active listening
    • Giving your student choice and voice in deciding how you will spend your time together, and
    • Respecting the trust your student places in you.

Training Opportunities

SVPACT runs two Mentor Orientation seminars each year – one at the start of each semester. The purpose of these seminars is to explain in detail how our volunteers support school students and the parameters of our program. Topics such as Active Listening, the Boundaries of the Program and Mandatory Reporting provide essential information for mentors. It is essential that every volunteer participates in at least one of these seminars.

Other training opportunities are provided during the year. They can include:

    • Helping students to improve their reading and literacy skills
    • Playing games with students to assist with their number skills
    • Using art as a means of connecting with children
    • Dealing with challenging behaviour.

As well as providing advice and strategies to use during your mentoring sessions, these workshops are also a valuable opportunity to network with other mentors. Finding a colleague or two, who is sharing the same experience, can be extremely valuable for mentors. By sharing stories, you will gain more confidence in your role and a better understanding of the program.

During the year mentors may be invited to informal events where they can meet up with other mentors, to enable further networking.

Good Communication with Children:

Good communication with children is about:

    • actively listening to ensure that you understand what the child is telling you
    • asking open-ended questions and giving them plenty of time to answer
    • being able to really listen and respond in a sensitive way to all kinds of things – not just nice things or good news, but also anger, embarrassment, sadness and fear
    • focusing on body language and tone as well as the actual words, so you can really understand what children are saying
    • taking into account what children of different ages can understand and how long they can pay attention in a conversation.

Communicating well with children improves your bond with them and encourages them to listen to you.

Sometimes children are at first reluctant to talk to their mentor.

Don’t press them. Tell them a little about yourself. It can be useful to bring some items with you to provoke the child’s curiosity and interest.

Mentors in the Mecanno program find that the Mecanno kit and booklet of model building ideas is a great ice breaker.

Prior to Commencement

All volunteer mentors are briefed by an SVPACT Committee Member with direct mentoring experience, prior to his/her attendance at a mentor Orientation/Training Seminar.

A Committee Member will then contact the Principal of the preferred school to arrange a meeting to introduce the mentor.

When appropriate, schools will consider the experience and expertise of the mentor, and his/her preference regarding age and gender in selecting a student.

Once assigned to a school, a mentor is expected to liaise closely with the nominated SVPACT School Coordinator, and/or the Classroom Teacher. Mentors operate under the direction of school staff at all times.

Your mentor may want to know specific details about your school. Some issues to cover in your initial meeting with your volunteer mentor include:

      • School sign-in procedures;
      • A plan of the school showing location of toilets and available car parking spaces;
      • School evacuation procedures and safety rules;
      • Relevant school policies including the Code of Conduct for Volunteers in Schools;
      • Expectations of the mentor;
      • Procedures for when you and/or the Classroom Teacher are absent;
      • Procedures for when the student is absent; and
      • Opportunities for liaison between the mentor, SVPACT School Coordinator, Classroom Teacher and Parents

The SVPACT Committee arranges regular meetings and professional learning events for mentors, which cover the development of mentoring skills, and their responsibilities as mentors of students on a one to one basis in schools.

Specific workshops are also directed at familiarising mentors with techniques for assisting students with basic reading and numeracy tasks and interacting with disadvantaged children.

Getting Started

  1. As a first step, prospective mentors need to obtain a Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) card from the ACT Office of Regulatory Services. These cards are free for volunteers. Working with Vulnerable People Registration.
  2. Complete an SVPACT Application and  a Code of Conduct form.
    Send these forms to the Secretary via email svpact2018@gmail.com or post to SVPACT Inc. PO Box 3699 Weston Creek ACT 2611.
  3. You will need to complete and submit an SVPACT application form which can be downloaded from our website: svpact.org.au.
  4. On the application form you are required to provide names of two people who know you well and, who can act as referees. These people will be contacted by one of our committee members.
  5. Once your referees have been contacted, a committee member will contact you to arrange a meeting. At the meeting you will discuss the role and responsibilities of volunteers, the joys and challenges of mentoring and what you might bring to the role. We will answer any questions you have and you will be able to indicate the age range of the child whom you would like to work with and your availability.
    You will be invited to attend the next Mentor Orientation Seminar.
  1. The SVPACT Committee member will contact a suitable local school and advise them of your availability and suitability. An appointment will be made for you to attend the school with the Committee member, to meet the Principal and School Coordinator. At this meeting you will be provided with your SVPACT name badge
  2. The School Principal and School Coordinator will liaise with teachers at the school to identify a student who would benefit from mentoring.
  3. You will be invited to meet the child and the classroom teacher and to find out more about the student’s needs. You will also be shown around the school and have the school procedures for signing into and out of the school explained.
  4. It is a good idea to request a copy of the School Newsletter via email when it is distributed. This will provide useful advice about activities taking place at the school. Schools are busy places with many activities such as assemblies, school camps, excursions etc which may prevent your student from meeting with you. Ideally, you can organise for a member of staff to notify you about these in advance.
  5. Mentors usually spend up to one hour per week with the student.
  6. Usually mentors work one on one with students, but in some cases small group mentoring may be preferred.

As well as abiding by the SVPACT Code of Conduct, mentors must also adhere to the ACT Education Directorate’s Code of Conduct for Volunteers and their Working with Children and Young People – Volunteers and Visitors Guide.

Selection of Students

The selection of students for participation in the program is the responsibility of the school. Students can be selected through a referral process, which may differ from school to school. A Classroom Teacher, Learning Assistance Teacher, ESL Teacher or a parent may recommend a student for participation in the program.

Once a student has been selected, the SVPACT School Coordinator should contact the SVPACT Mentor Coordinators.

In consultation with the Classroom Teacher, the SVPACT School Coordinator will select appropriate tasks for each student, and monitor his/her progress via the communication strategy that was agreed at the initial school briefing session.

This may involve the use of feedback forms, communication books, regular emails, face-to-face meetings and/or telephone conversations.

The SVPACT School Coordinator provides feedback and advice to the volunteer mentor as needed.

Effective communication between the student, the mentor and SVPACT School Coordinator is essential for the success of the program.

It is expected that schools will seek parents’ approval for their child to participate in the program.

It is important that the whole school community welcomes the involvement of SVPACT mentors. Recognition such as entries in school newsletters is very welcome. 

The SVPACT School Coordinator’s Role and Responsibilities

This is a pivotal role that ensures the student and mentor have a productive relationship.

Your role is to ensure that:

  • Work tasks, materials and games are ready for the mentor and student when it is time to commence the session.
  • There is a work area available within line of sight of a staff member, but quiet and separate enough to allow activity without disturbance.
  • Regular, effective communication is maintained throughout the program

If you need to change your mentoring arrangements, or if you identify more students interested in participating in our program, please contact the relevant SVPACT Mentor Coordinator

The SVPACT School Coordinator’s Duties

  1. Introduce the mentors to school administration staff, the facilities (toilets, sick bay), Principal’s office, staff room, and library.
  2. Contact the mentor, as soon as practicable, if the student is absent or (The  Mentor Contact Sheet may assist).
  3. Ensure that tasks are appropriate to the time available, and are appropriate for the mentor-student (For example, the teacher may expect homework to be completed during the session, but the mentor may feel that he/she needs to develop rapport with the student first, perhaps through games, or other shared interests).
  4. Provide relevant advice to the mentor, and communicate with the School Principal, Teachers, and the school community about the various roles and responsibilities of SVPACT mentors.
  5. Ensure volunteer mentors feel valued and  

The Classroom Teacher’s Role and Responsibilities

Classroom Teachers should be aware that SVPACT mentors have widely differing formal and informal qualifications and backgrounds.  To promote a positive structure, your role is to:

  1. Welcome the SVPACT mentor
    Introduce your mentor to relevant school personnel e.g. Principal, Office Manager, etc.
  2. Select work tasks for each session
    Bear in mind that the mentor generally will need to allocate some time for chatting with the student, and undertaking “fun” activities such as board games, drawing, etc. as a way of building a rapport with the student.
  3. Inform the SVPACT mentor if the student is absent prior to his/her arrival
    The  Mentor Contact Sheet may assist.
  4. Communicate regularly
    The mentor will provide feedback about tasks undertaken, additional activities, or other information as it arises.
  5. Termination of mentor-student relationship
    The Classroom Teacher can also communicate with the mentor to provide feedback. On rare occasions it may be necessary to terminate the mentor-student relationship, and a new pairing initiated.

Mentoring using Meccano

Mentoring through building with Meccano is a significant part of SVPACT.

Meccano mentors work in teams of four or more and meet at the school to work with students. While focusing on one student, each mentor has plenty of scope for interaction with other mentors and students in a group environment.

Involvement of an individual student is generally for a ten week period, which usually matches the time taken to complete one model.

Building Meccano models has proved very successful in enhancing self-esteem and confidence of participating students. Although the focus is on model making, there is plenty of conversation taking place.

What volunteer mentors can offer?

Mentors bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from both their professional, and family lives. They provide opportunity for inter-generational learning.

They have an appreciation for, and make a commitment to, mentoring children and young people.

SVPACT links students with the wider community and provides them with mature role models, demonstrating what it is to be a caring member of society.

The experience so far

The SVPACT commenced in October 2005 with 16 volunteer mentors at 10 schools. In 2018, there are more than 130 mentors, volunteering in over 35 ACT schools.

Students generally respond positively to their mentors as mutual respect develops. Students tend to work well on a one to one basis with their mentors, and look forward to the weekly visits.

Mentors are not required, or expected to have special skills or teaching experience.

SVPACT strives to match the specific skills of mentors with the needs of individual students. They successfully provide mentoring in a variety of areas such as literacy and numeracy, helping with class work and/or homework, and conversation for children from non-English speaking backgrounds. 

Awards

Since SVPACT commenced over ten years ago, the Program, the Committee and individual mentors have received community recognition through several Children’s Week Awards for Excellence.

In 2015, the School Volunteer Program ACT was named the Volunteer Team of the Year, in the category Education, Science and Technology.

 SVPACT Committee

A committee of 12 volunteers recruits, trains and manages the team of over 130 mentors. Members include former school principals and teachers, business managers and service club members. Contact details are available at the SVPACT website

ACT Education Directorate Policy

The school should ensure that each mentor has completed a ‘Working With Children and Young People Nomination’ in which he/she undertakes to comply with the Code of Conduct which inter-alia, states, for volunteers you must “ observe confidentiality in respect to all information gained through your participation as a volunteer.” The Working with Children and Young People Policy.

Further Information and Assistance

The SVPACT Mentor Coordinators can answer queries or assist in the implementation of the mentoring program. Please refer to the SVPACT website for contact details.

Always remember that you are appreciated! At times we get caught up in the day-to-day operations of the SVPACT, and we may forget to say thank you. You are certainly appreciated and we value the time that you give.

Your ideas and feedback on all aspects of the program is welcomed. 

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