Being a Novice Teacher in Two Different Settings: Struggles, Continuities, and Discontinuities


by Maria Assuncao Flores - 2006

Drawing upon empirical research, the article explores the ways in which a cohort of novice teachers learned and developed over a 2-year period. It examines the interplay of personal and contextual influences on teachers' development over time and on the (trans)formation of their professional identities. A combination of methods for data collection was used. Findings suggested that novices felt overwhelmed by the amount and variety of duties that they were expected to perform at school. This, along with the lack of support and guidance, forced them into "learning while doing." Most teachers developed according to a narrow and individual perspective, which was accompanied by a shift from a more inductive and student-centered approach to a more traditional one. However, some teachers seem to have developed in positive ways over time. Personal biographies associated with perceptions of school culture and leadership help to explain both similarities and differences among teachers. Implications of the findings for teacher education and induction are discussed.

INTRODUCTION


Over the last decades, the process of learning to be a teacher—and particularly the transition from student to teacher—has attracted the attention of a number of researchers looking to gain deeper insights into the nature of learning to teach and to provide effective teacher education programs. Research has highlighted the multidimensional, idiosyncratic, and context-specific nature of becoming a teacher (e.g., Calderhead & Shorrock, 1997; Flores, 2001; Hauge, 2000), a process that involves the complex interplay between different, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives, beliefs, and practices that are accompanied by the development of a new identity.

Much of the literature has emphasized the sudden and sometimes dramatic experience of the transition from student to teacher, characterized by the mismatch between unrealistic expectations and school reality (e.g., Corcoran, 1981; Flores, 2004a; Huberman, 1991; Veenman, 1984; Vonk, 1993). Empirical studies have reported the concerns and problems that new teachers encounter during the early years of teaching, particularly the first year. These studies suggest that the interactive arena of the decision-making process is the most problematic one for beginning teachers, namely motivating students, dealing with individual differences and disciplinary problems, assessing students’ work, and managing time and the classroom (Charnock & Kiley, 1995; Cooke & Pang, 1991; Marcelo, 1991; Veenman, 1984, 1988; Vonk, 1983).


The idiosyncratic way in which novices handle the novelty and variety of tasks and roles they are expected to perform is widely discussed in the literature, much of which draws attention to the “sink or swim” approach (Lawson, 1992; Lortie, 1975) and to a “baptism of fire” or “trial by fire” experience (Hall, 1982; Pataniczek & Isaacson, 1981). Others referred to a rite of passage (Huberman, 1991; Vonk, 1984) during which new teachers strive for personal and professional acceptance from students, colleagues, and administration and tend to develop a “survival kit” and a set of coping strategies (Vonk, 1993) to deal with the complex tasks inherent in being a full-time teacher. In other words, a practicality ethic and a trial-and-error approach to teaching and learning to teach prevail (Marcelo, 1994; Olson & Osborne, 1991; Veenman, 1984, 1988). Feiman-Nemser (2001) argued that “new teachers have two jobs—they have to teach and they have to learn to teach. No matter how good a preservice program may be, there are some things that can only be learned on the job” (p. 1026).


The transition from student to teacher can also be described as a less problematic experience. The existence of easy or painful beginnings (Huberman, 1989) seems to be related to the balance between coping with difficulties, and feelings of professional fulfillment (Alves, 2001) arising mainly from the psychic rewards of teaching (Lortie, 1975). In addition, the influence of the school context and personal background and experience during preservice education seem to be important variables to be taken into account in the assessment of the first teaching experiences (Hebert & Worthy, 2001). Reporting on a story of success, these authors identified three main issues accounting for the positive experience of a first-year teacher: (1) a match between expectations, personality, and workplace realities; (2) evidence of impact; and (3) using successful strategies to manage student behavior and enter the social and political culture of the school (Hebert & Worthy).


Research on teacher socialization has also shown the complex interplay of idiosyncratic and contextual factors in the process of learning to be a teacher. Some studies have highlighted the key influence of the “apprenticeship of observation” (Lortie, 1975) on new teachers’ understandings and practices of teaching (see, e.g., Knowles, 1992; Nimmo, Smith, Grove, Courtney, & Eland, 1994), and others have stressed the powerful effect of the workplace on teacher professional socialization (e.g., Jordell, 1987; Kuzmic, 1994; Rust, 1994). Kelchtermans and Ballet (2002), for instance, adopting an approach that combines the narrative-biographical and the micropolitical perspectives in the study of teacher socialization, concluded that micropolitics play an important role in teachers’ views of their early teaching experiences.


Recently, empirical work has demonstrated the effects of workplace conditions and school culture on the induction of beginning teachers (Cole, 1991; Williams, Prestage, & Bedward, 2001) and on teacher morale, commitment, and retention (Weiss, 1999). In this respect, a growing body of literature highlights the uniqueness and the complexity of the induction phase and stresses the need for adequate support and professional development opportunities during the early years in the profession (see, e.g., Hardy, 1999; Flores, 2000; Tickle, 1994, 2000). The intense learning that takes place during this phase of a teacher’s career impacts the ways in which professional identity is (re)constructed as teachers’ beliefs, values, and perspectives are revisited and challenged against the powerful influences of the workplace. Despite the increasing number of studies that focus on becoming a teacher, further research is needed to shed light on what, how, and when new teachers learn at work, and how, when, and why they develop and change (or do not change) in certain ways. Knowing how new teachers act in context—their expectations and their needs, their limitations and their constraints—becomes a key issue if meaningful learning opportunities are to be provided for them.


METHODOLOGY


The aim of the study described in this article was to chart the development of a cohort of new teachers by examining the ways in which they learned, developed, and changed (or did not change) over the first 2 years of teaching in changing educational settings. Drawing upon data from a broader and ongoing piece of research on teachers’ professional development and change (Flores, 2001, 2002), this article focuses mainly on the participants’ perceptions of their experiences as first- and second-year teachers in two different school settings.


THE PARTICIPANTS


The purpose, time demands, and overall procedures of the research project were explained to all new teachers in six schools located in northern Portugal, and volunteers were called for. The schools were selected on the basis of the following criteria: type of school (rural, inner city and suburban) and size (large, small, and medium). Findings from previous research (Flores, 1997) and official data (namely schools’ characteristics and location) obtained from the local education authorities were the two main sources of information for sampling purposes. Teachers were recruited according to the following characteristics: having undertaken an Integrated Model of Teacher Training degree in a public university and being in their first year of teaching without prior teaching experience. The model presupposes that the subject area (e.g., English, biology) and the pedagogical component are distributed simultaneously throughout the course. The latter encompasses subjects such as history and philosophy of education, psychology of development, sociology of education, curriculum development, educational technology, and methods of teaching. It is a 5-year course that includes 4 years of full-time study at a university and 1 year of practicum in a school. Overall, 14 teachers agreed to participate in the study in 1999-2000. All were teaching for the first time, and their subjects included physics and chemistry (7), languages (3), mathematics (1), biology (1), physical education (1), and music (1). Nine were female teachers, and 5 were male teachers. Their ages ranged between 22 and 28 years old. All were followed up in their second placements (2000-2001) to examine further the processes of professional development and change. Because of teacher surplus and the existing recruitment policy in Portugal (which occurs mainly at a national level), new teachers have to move from one school to another, as was the case of the vast majority of the participants in this research project.


DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS


Data were gathered twice a year through semistructured interviews. All the interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcriptions were returned to participants to be checked for accuracy and to have comments or supplementary information added. Principals were also interviewed at the beginning of the year to gain further insights into the school policy and culture. The annual report,1 a formal document that teachers have to write at the end of every school year, was also used as a data source. It provided access to new teachers’ perspectives about their experiences at school insofar as it should reflect their overall evaluation of their work during each school year. At the end of the study, all new teachers were also asked to write a report in which they looked back on their first 2 years of teaching, reflected on their experiences, and evaluated their participation in the research project. Students (n = 891) were also included in the study. They were asked to write a short essay describing their teacher at the beginning and at the end of the academic year, stressing the way in which he or she had changed over this period of time (teaching, relationship with the students, classes, and so on). This procedure elicited further information on the process of teacher change, which complemented new teachers’ own perspectives. No observation was undertaken because of practical and time constraints, mainly related to the number of teachers (n = 14) and schools (n = 18 in total) involved in this research and to the location of the schools, which were spread out in the north of Portugal.


A wealth of data were generated from the reports and the four interviews I conducted with all new teachers over a 2-year period. The dynamic nature of the research dictated a continuum of interaction between data collection and the process of description and interpretation (Bryman & Burgess, 1994; Kvale, 1996) in such a way that the ongoing analysis of the data provided the relevant information to guide the subsequent phase of data gathering (Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Miles & Huberman, 1994).


In the process of analysis, an inductive approach was used, and substantive themes were defined as they emerged from the data according to the overall principles of grounded theory as suggested by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Strauss and Corbin (1990). The process of data analysis was undertaken according to two phases. The first was a vertical analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994) according to which each of the respondents’ interviews was analyzed separately. A second phase was then carried out according to a comparative or horizontal analysis (cross-case analysis; Miles & Huberman). In this phase, the method of constant comparative analysis (Glaser & Strauss) was used to look for common patterns and differences. This process was undertaken iteratively, and adjustments in the coding process were made where necessary. A way of ensuring the trustworthiness of the process of data analysis and coding was used: the validation of emerging categories by another researcher, a process known as interrater reliability (Silverman, 1993). Emerging categories and themes were always double-checked and validated by an independent researcher and by the participants themselves through the process of member checking or respondent validation (Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Themes arising from the data were taken into account to identify the main focus of further data collection throughout the research project (e.g., motivations for entering the teaching profession, evaluation of initial teacher education and practicum, perceptions of self as a teacher, images about good teaching, perceptions of school culture and leadership, support needs and induction, perceptions of change over time, views and experiences of professional development, professionalism, self-efficacy, and professional identity). A case record was also kept for each of the respondents over the 2-year period, and an overall analysis was undertaken at the end of the research. Such analysis enabled checking for recurring themes and regularities, and contrasting patterns both in each teacher’s accounts and across teachers’ responses. The discussion of all the results arising from the data collected over time is beyond the scope of this article, which reports mainly on novices’ experience as first- and second-year teachers by exploring contextual (two different school settings) and personal factors and the interplay between them, and their implications for teachers’ professional development.


THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING


Being a new teacher in a new school setting (having undertaken practicum during a school year, the final year of the preservice program) was described, at the beginning of the first year of teaching, as both a challenging and a rewarding experience. New teachers were imbued with idealism and eagerness to learn, and they reported their increasing autonomy and responsibility insofar as they could make their own decisions about teaching. However, the first teaching experiences were to bring about the realization that teaching was more demanding than they were expecting, that they lacked the knowledge to undertake all the tasks and duties required of them as teachers and, overall, that they did not feel supported at school.


SHIFTING IDENTITIES: EXPECTATIONS VERSUS REALITY


New teachers’ depictions of their first year of teaching were detailed and full of references to their high expectations and to the challenges and constraints they encountered. They stressed the challenge of “being on their own” and of leading a group of students without being observed or assessed. They were not trainees anymore, they were not told how to do their job; in short, they could make their own decisions about teaching. Autonomy, responsibility, discovery of a “new world,” challenge, and new perspective were keywords reiterated throughout the interviews. To quote two teachers,


The first year of teaching is a year of great expectations, because you enter a different world. . . . Last year as a trainee I had to follow rules and strategies that weren’t mine but my supervisors.’ I think the first year of teaching is always a sort of . . . influence on your career, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a real challenge . . . . There are always things that you don’t know and that you never thought of until you get into a school. You only realize how certain things work when you become a real teacher. (NT14, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


For the first time I am working without any direct guidance. During practicum I had the guidance and help from my supervisor. Therefore, I felt an increase of responsibility, because there was nobody there to correct my mistakes. On the other hand, I felt more autonomous because we used to work together during practicum, and now I have to work on my own. (NT4, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


The transition from student and trainee to full-time teacher was, therefore, characterized by a growing awareness of a new role and status at school, which was both challenging and daunting. Alongside feelings of eagerness to start teaching, new teachers also reported that they feared being in a new school without support and guidance from other colleagues. They emphasized that they were not aware of what they would encounter, which proved to be a source of anxiety and concern. Teachers referred to a reality that they already knew as students but of which they were not completely aware from a teacher’s perspective. The familiarity with classroom and school reality (from a student’s viewpoint) and, at the same time, the recognition of the unknown side of teaching (from a teacher’s perspective), are said to lead to a false sense of security and to become a source of problematic experiences (see, e.g., Arends, 1995; Bullough, 1989). The discovery of the “other side” of the school and classroom was related not only to a growing awareness of being a teacher but also to the realization that the reality was not what they were expecting. In other words, what they were supposed to do as teachers did not match their expectations, which led to a process of challenging and revisiting personal assumptions and beliefs with implications for the (trans)formation of their professional identities.


CHALLENGING TAKEN-FOR-GRANTED ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS: THE PROCESS OF UNLEARNING AND RELEARNING


Two main issues emerged in new teachers’ accounts as they described their experience at the beginning of their first year: Teaching was more demanding and complex than they thought it would be, and they lacked the knowledge to undertake their new roles at school. They stressed the bureaucratic dimension of teaching, the amount and variety of work that teachers are expected to do, and the external (Ministry of Education) and internal (school) norms regulating the profession. The following quotations illustrate this point:


Everything is new. . . . I couldn’t imagine that teachers were supposed to be involved in so many activities in a school: you have the meetings, the roles to be performed, the minutes, and so on. I had no idea whatsoever. (NT14, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


It’s just too much paperwork. I think as a teacher you have to do loads of unnecessary tasks. And you have to act according to loads of regulations. I think this is not good for the profession. . . . I mean, there is too much control, too many regulations and teachers do not have a choice but to follow them. . . . Even the students, they complain, and they say “You cannot do this, you cannot do that” and you just don’t have a way out. . . . As a teacher you are not as autonomous as you think you are. (NT8, Interview 2, Beginning of Year 1)


By and large, teachers did not feel well prepared to undertake all the roles expected of them as full-time teachers. After having undertaken a teaching degree, inclusive of 1 year of practicum at school, new teachers were expecting to be prepared to assume all the duties required of them. However, the school reality was to bring about a different picture:


Well, I had very idealistic expectations about being a teacher. I thought that teaching wouldn’t involve so much work. I thought that you would have a peaceful life, because you wouldn’t be expected to do the lesson planning in detail as you are supposed to do during the practicum. . . . And I realized that it was the other way round after all! It seems that I have more work to do than I did last year. I have to think about what I am going to do tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. . . . I am in my first year of teaching, I have to think of every single detail; otherwise things won’t work in the classroom. (NT3, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


As a student I thought (and actually it’s a common sense idea too) that as a teacher you don’t have much to do! I also thought that I would complete my Initial Training knowing everything that I was supposed to teach and I wouldn’t need to investigate and study anymore . . . I was wrong, because if I want everything to work, it isn’t only about having ideas and mastering the topics, but it’s also about organizing things. So, it has been a surprise and a challenge for me. . . . There are things that I didn’t realize as a student and now as a teacher you realize that they actually make sense. (NT5, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


Implicit in this view is the distinction between “communities of practice” and “communities of explanation” drawn by Freeman (1999). He argued that, although teachers participate in a community of practice, they belong to different communities of explanation. In other words, what they actually do in the workplace may be interpreted and explained by different frames of reference, a set of shared beliefs and values within a given community (e.g., the former Initial Teacher Training, their prior experiences as students, their social backgrounds, and so on).


Added to this was the unexpected lack of teamwork among teachers. Most emphasized the distant working relationships among staff, which once again related to the discrepancy between "ideals" and the “real world”—in short, the gap between the student and the teacher perspective. To quote one of them:


I was already acquainted with this school, because I did my secondary education here . . . and now I am allowed into places I have never been before. I thought that it would be very different, you know. . . . You notice a sort of . . . distance among teachers . . . and this is also the case with the teachers teaching the same subject. And I thought it would be different. I mean, the group of teachers teaching physics and chemistry doesn’t work as a team. I think that the group could have a different dynamic in terms of work. For instance, at the beginning of the academic year, you could do the planning together. . . . Of course, it depends on the subject leader. . . . When I was younger I thought that teachers would have fun in the staff room, and that they would talk to one another all the time, but the reality is quite different. (NT8, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


Overall, the realization of the mismatch between the idealistic expectations of the professional-to-be—developed during the “apprenticeship of observation” (Lortie, 1975) and the preservice teacher education—and the reality of teaching, has led to a continual and sometimes conflicting process of challenging personal beliefs, and consequently, of relearning from practice and/or "unlearning" the “unreal theories” acquired in college. Therefore, the need to adapt to the “real school” was salient in new teachers’ accounts as they faced the complex and changing nature of teaching.


Over the last two years I tried to adapt what I learned at university. However, as I stressed several times during the interviews, most of what I have learned does not apply to the school reality. Therefore, I became aware of the need to adapt everything to the “real school.” (NT6, Final Report, October 2001)


I think that as a teacher you are always changing. I mean, you have to change, there is always something that makes you change. For instance, the meaning of being a teacher is always changing. I mean your idea about what being a teacher is all about is always changing, as there is always something happening in the classroom, and sometimes little things that you don’t know how to cope with . . . and that as a student you don’t even think of . . . I mean, you have to relearn in practice. (NT9, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


Interestingly, this tension between ideals and reality was also corroborated by some of the principals I interviewed. They highlighted the high expectations that new teachers hold when they get to schools and the decrease in motivation and enthusiasm as time goes on:


They [new teachers] get disappointed . . . because they are young and enthusiastic, and they think that they are going to change the world, and the school as well. Then they start to realize that there are problems that have to be sorted out. They wouldn’t think of them as problems in the first place. The bureaucratic dimension is too strong within a school, and they get disappointed. They realize that the reality is different from their own expectations. . . . They have idealistic perspectives, and they cannot put them into practice, because of a wide array of reasons: the students, the teachers. . . . Sometimes their colleagues are older. They have got used to the reality, and they are not willing to change. New teachers would like to do different things in a school, but they face many obstacles. (Principal at a suburban school)


On the one hand, new teachers know very little about the reality, and, on the other hand, they have high expectations about teaching. (Principal at a suburban school)


In other words, starting teaching entails, for new teachers, the process of (re)constructing their professional identities. Not only does it relate to their making sense of their new role at school, which is tied to their own beliefs about teaching and being a teacher, but it is also a context-bound and socially located process, as earlier work has also demonstrated (Coldron & Smith, 1999; Maclure, 1993). To put it another way, professional identity is shaped by personal biography insofar as it determines the idiosyncratic way in which teachers cope with and respond to the institutional and situational constraints of the profession, and to their responsibilities and challenges in the workplace.


COMING TO TERMS WITH A NEW ROLE IDENTITY: LEARNING TO COPE


The process of becoming a teacher was marked by a growing recognition of the new and challenging roles at school. Beginning teachers referred to a gradual and individual process owing, in most cases, to the lack of support and guidance at school. They emphasized that their own adaptation to the school reality and to their job was the result of a “matter of time” and of a process of (re)learning from experience:


I am starting to relearn now, in practice . . . I think that two months ago I had difficulties in . . . I had moments where I thought of doing this or doing that and my mind was confused. Now, I think that I am able to have clearer ideas as time goes on . . . now I am able to do things differently. Gradually I am starting to clarify my own ideas. (NT5, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


I had no idea about what my duties were. I didn’t know very well what I was going to do as a pedagogical coordinator. . . . I told them [the students] that I was a new teacher, and that I was doing that job for the first time. . . . You know, it’s a matter of time. Now I think I know what I have to do. But at the beginning it was very difficult to handle all this. . . . I mean, you have to learn how to cope with the tasks you are supposed to do. (NT9, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


It is noteworthy that a trial-and-error process of learning was prevalent in their accounts, which is in line with earlier work (Marcelo, 1991; Olson & Osborne, 1991; Tickle, 1994; Veenman, 1984). It appeared that new teachers developed a set of coping strategies, according to a survival orientation, to adapt to the new tasks and roles required of them as teachers. The lack of induction and support from colleagues and school leaders leading to an isolated and individual way of learning may at least in part account for this situation.


LACK OF INDUCTION AT SCHOOL


In the six schools participating in this research project (Year 1), there was no formal induction for new teachers. Although it has been recognized as an important phase of the teacher’s career, with long-term implications for teacher learning and professional development (see, for instance, the Ministry of Education regulations about teacher education), neither the institutions of higher education nor the teachers’ centers have organized specific activities for beginning teachers in the Portuguese context despite recent research on this field (Alves, 2001; Braga, 2001; Couto, 1998; Flores, 2000; Silva, 1997). The principals highlighted this point in the interviews I conducted with them during my first visit to the schools:


Maybe we should pay attention to new teachers and provide them with support and guidance. Actually I think there is something missing here, because they are "sent" to the labor market on their own. There is nobody to support them. (Principal in a large urban secondary school)


I think new teachers are a bit lost, because we don’t have the best conditions to provide them with the basic information and support they need. That’s why I think your work will contribute to developing our understanding about the initial phase of the teacher’s career. (Principal in a small rural elementary school)


New teachers corroborated this picture. In terms of guidance and support at school, they referred to the welcome meeting for all staff at the beginning of the school year, the distribution of the handbook with the schools’ characteristics and regulations, a visit to the school catchment area and the existence of specific meetings for those performing other roles at school, namely pastoral duties. However, according to them, these activities were not useful for, nor relevant to, their needs.


The only thing they provided was a visit to the school’s catchment area . . . to get acquainted with the students’ environment. But there was no support at all in terms of the duties required of you as a teacher. . . . There is nobody to inform you, to support you. At this school people work according to the following idea: “let’s see how things work.” (NT3, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)

There was a table and chairs, we sat down, we listened to the principal’s speech and we left. This was the support I got. (NT4, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


The lack of information and support from school leaders and colleagues led beginning teachers to adopt a personal way of coping with their duties. They emphasized that the meetings were not prepared for newcomers but for those who already knew what to do; therefore, they had to find the information they needed for themselves. Images of being in the dark and lost were dominant:


At the beginning of the year the principal distributed the school guidelines to each of the teachers, and we became acquainted with the school characteristics. . . . But still I was a bit lost at the beginning, because I didn’t know anyone in my department . . . and there wasn’t much communication among teachers. (NT11, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


They tried to organize a welcome activity, but they failed. . . . They organized a meeting for all the staff and everything . . . but, I mean everything was prepared for those who already knew what to do. And I had to try to get the information myself about what I was supposed to do, even in the case of the pastoral role, because the explanations were too vague. (NT5, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


There wasn’t a specific support for new teachers, I mean for teachers teaching for the first time (and in this school we are quite a few), and we were a bit in the dark. I think there wasn’t any support at all. (NT10, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


The lack of collaboration, the distant and hierarchical working relationships among teachers, and the existence of “two groups” within the school—the newcomers and the staff with a permanent post—were also highlighted in new teachers’ accounts. This depiction was also valid for the kind of interaction existing at the department level, as illustrated by the following comment: “There is a kind of barrier between new and old staff. As they are already integrated into the school they do not bother to welcome you” (NT12, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1). And later on, she stated,


Well, you know that as a new teacher you go to a new school and you do not feel welcomed. You have to relate to many different people who have been in the profession for many years and you feel an initial distance. . . . I mean it’s very tough for a newcomer to deal with this, especially because you realize that people are together in groups as they have worked in the same school for a long time. . . . You don’t feel welcomed at all. And I think people from the same subject area or department should welcome the new teacher too, so s/he can get used to the school. But what you notice is a distant relationship among staff. I mean, there is a kind of hierarchy in the school. (NT 12, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


Seeking advice from colleagues was not an easy job for new teachers. They found themselves facing a dilemma: being aware of the lack of knowledge about the tasks they had to perform and, at the same time, acting as “professionals” who were aware of and knowledgeable about their duties as teachers. Some took the initiative and sought advice from colleagues with whom they had a closer relationship (usually former college colleagues or other young teachers):


I have been learning. Basically I have been asking questions to my colleagues “Look, how have you done this?” or “How do you usually do this?” I have been seeking advice from colleagues. At first I wasn’t comfortable in doing so. Now I realize that there is no problem asking colleagues for help. I mean if you don’t know, you have to ask somebody else. It’s not about that you don’t know the stuff you should know. . . . I mean, it’s because no one has ever taught you, you really don’t know because no one has taught you before. You have never done such kinds of tasks. You don’t know how to do them, so you have to ask. (NT4, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


Whenever I had a problem I sought help from other colleagues, I mean new teachers like me, because I wasn’t comfortable asking for advice or help from a teacher who had a permanent post at the school. (NT3, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


Only a minority reported that they asked for advice or help from the principal or his or her team. When they did so, they focused on problems related to bureaucratic work: “When I needed guidance I asked for help from the people in the executive council [governing body at school] and they helped me. In terms of assistance I had to take the initiative, otherwise you don’t have any support at all” (NT2, Interview 2, End of Year 1).


By and large, the nature of communication within the school and its structures (e.g., departments, formal meetings) was guided by the assumption that teachers already had the basic knowledge and skills to handle all the duties required of them. As the principals and the new teachers themselves argued, the school policy did not include the guidance of new entrants into the profession. The school policy also did not include assisting and training teachers who were expected to perform other roles in addition to teaching; in most cases, these duties—for example, pastoral duties, subject leader, head of department—required the mastery of a set of specific skills. Therefore, new teachers had to work out for themselves ways of coping with their new responsibilities at school, leading to the emergence of an isolated and idiosyncratic process of “becoming a teacher.”


Overall, new teachers referred to their first year of teaching as a learning experience, but also a tiring and stressful one. They highlighted that performing new roles at school (for which they did not feel well prepared), dealing with new tasks (which they were not expecting), and making decisions about teaching on their own (without any assistance or guidance) led to the need for a continuing and intense process of learning. It seemed that although intrinsic factors were more important in the positive evaluation of the first year of teaching (such as student learning and motivation, and the teacher/student relationship), organizational and structural issues (e.g., heavy workload, lack of resources, new roles, working conditions) and school culture (e.g., the nature of working relationships among staff and peer support, especially from young teachers and former colleagues at college) were crucial in determining the most negative features of the first teaching experience:


It was a very positive year, because I got used to the school. There was a good relationship among staff, especially amongst newcomers. I also liked my students although their behavior wasn’t good enough sometimes. . . . It was a very positive year. I have been learning a few things and I am still learning. (NT1, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


I had a very positive experience during this year. I will miss my colleagues and the school. I think it has to do with the fact that when I came here I met one of my colleagues from university and from practicum, so I believe that’s why I feel that it wasn’t that bad. But I guess that when I have to go to another school, it will be different. I wish I could stay in this school next year. (NT9, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


The close relationship with the students and their motivation and learning were key issues in teachers’ sense of professional fulfillment that also accounted for the positive evaluation of the first-year experience.


From my first year of teaching I will remember my students. My relationship with them is the most positive feature of this year. (NT6, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


To me the relationship with some of my students was the most important bit. . . . I mean, the teacher/student relationship became closer as time went on. . . . Right now I am really enjoying it, there isn’t a distant relationship anymore. In fact, I think there is a friendly relationship. (NT8, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


However, novice teachers also identified school- and job-related factors as the most negative features of their first year of teaching. They referred to the heavy workload, the performance of new roles for which they did not feel well prepared, the lack of information and support, the lack of organization at school level, the lack of adequate resources and equipment, and the existing control over teachers:


It has been a very tough year—there were loads of new tasks to do and new roles to perform for which I wasn’t well prepared. It has been a very tiring year. For instance, the pastoral role has been a very demanding job. It requires much of your time. (NT2, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


Last year as a trainee I had support from my supervisors and from other teachers at school. This year I was on my own, and I wasn’t used to such a heavy workload . . . and suddenly you have to face all those students. At the beginning I had to face several problems in dealing with them, I mean trying to define my position and their position inside the classroom. (NT12, Interview 2, End of Year 1)


THE SECOND YEAR: NEW CONTEXTS, NEW CHALLENGES, NEW BEGINNINGS


The participants in this research project were given a post in a different school for their second year of teaching. As a consequence of the teacher recruitment policy and teacher surplus, most (11 out of 14) were teaching in schools far from their homes (average 250 kilometers), which required them to work (and live) in a different and unknown region of the country.


A brief glimpse at schools’ characteristics shows that most of the beginning teachers (10 out of 14) worked in rural and isolated settings in very poor catchment areas, where dropout rates were high. Only two teachers were in urban schools and two teachers in suburban schools. Rural schools were small on average (e.g., with 33, 39, and 40 teachers on their staff, and 188, 360, and 240 students, respectively), and the vast majority of their staff were young. One teacher worked in a small rural primary school (with 10 students), and she was supported by a coordinator teacher and another teacher for students with special learning needs. Teachers were descriptive when they talked about their second year of teaching. They highlighted the new challenges, constraints, and dilemmas they faced resulting from being a new teacher in a new school.


"LANDING" IN A NEW SCHOOL: COPING WITH ISOLATION AND DISTANCE


Being a teacher in a different school—and in most cases in rural, poor, and very isolated catchment areas—had a strong effect on the way that the participants described their experiences as second-year teachers. The metaphors of landing in a school, being lost, and the shock of being in a new area illustrate well the way that participants perceived their new placement: being far from home, facing the unknown, and having a sense of powerlessness:


This has been a very tough year for me. It was very hard for me to get to know the school and this area. I feel like I’ve landed here. I mean I had no idea that I would be teaching here. . . . This is a small rural school and there are loads of disciplinary problems. . . . When I got here, it was a real shock. I felt very disappointed. (NT9, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


This year my experience is very different from last year. Last year I felt happier than I do now. At the beginning of this year I felt very disappointed, I felt lost, I didn’t know anyone here. Last year I was lucky because I knew one of my colleagues and the staff were young, so it was easier for me to get to know the school. (NT1, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


The isolation—not only in geographical terms but also from a social and psychological point of view—was the most negative feature emphasized throughout the interviews. Teachers stressed its effects both at the personal and professional level. The negative perception of the new social and geographical setting, and being far from home, had a negative impact on new teachers’ predispositions and willingness to teach. Lack of motivation, low morale and commitment, disappointment, and frustration were reiterated throughout their accounts:


In this school I feel very constrained in terms of my work, because of the distance of the school from my home. You feel very isolated and your willingness to work and your motivation for doing things are very low. I mean, in psychological terms . . . it’s very hard to cope with this situation . . . being far from everything, from my family, my home. . . . You just don’t care about anything. . . . I realized that this school wasn’t a very pleasant one to work in when I first came here. And I didn’t feel like coming back. And since my first day at the school I could tell that I wouldn’t be doing a good job here. (NT 12, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


I got here and things have started to go wrong ever since. I started to feel depressed . . . because of the whole situation but especially the geographical environment that made me feel very unhappy. This place is not nice at all. I don’t think that my feeling unhappy has to do with the fact of being far away from home. I think it has to do with this place itself; it is not a pleasant region to live. . . . At the beginning it looked as if I was in my first year of teaching. I mean, everything was new for me. I noticed that classes were small, the school was small . . . in a poor and isolated area . . . and I found it difficult to adapt to a different context of teaching. And I was on my own. Last year I taught in a school also far way from home but a colleague of mine also worked there and we supported each other. (NT9, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


AGAINST THE ODDS


The new contexts of teaching were to bring about new challenges. Not only did new teachers face new social, cultural, and professional realities (which they were not expecting), but they also claimed an increase of workload along with the performance of other roles at school. Added to this was the realization of being alone in a new school. In addition to this sense of “new beginning,” they also reported a lack of information and support from the school administration. Not surprisingly, feelings of being lost and finding one’s own way were recurring themes in their accounts:


I felt lost at the beginning of the year. There is nobody to support you. Nobody explains anything to you. You have to find your own way by asking other people; otherwise you won’t know anything. Up until today I knew nothing about the school regulations. I don’t have the booklet yet. I felt very uncomfortable at the beginning of the year, because I didn’t know anybody in the school and I wasn’t comfortable in asking people about the way the school operated. (NT1, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


In most cases, alongside the lack of support and information was a lack of organization at school, which led new teachers to a struggle for survival. Therefore, an isolated and idiosyncratic way of dealing with the demanding and varied nature of the job was prevalent:


I am really concerned with my work in this school. I mean, I have to do my teaching and I don’t know what the main goal of the school is and I feel lonely. (NT11, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


What makes me feel sad is the lack of organization within the school. You don’t know what’s going on here. . . . I mean, you work on your own, you don’t know what’s going on, and you have to struggle to do your job. In terms of organization, this school is chaos. (NT12, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


Feelings of tiredness, frustration, and low self-motivation began to emerge as time went on, which affected teachers’ sense of self-efficacy. Along with these were issues associated with the isolation and distance from home, negative perceptions of school culture and leadership, and poor working conditions. Overall, teachers highlighted the “culture of separation” within the school (between the newcomers and experienced staff), the lack of support and guidance (in dealing with their roles and tasks), and ineffective leadership. By and large, the second year of teaching proved to be a more difficult and negative experience than the first year, which led to a struggle for personal and professional survival:


I think this year was worse than last year. I feel that my work isn’t as good as it was last year, I don’t feel happy with it. . . . I don’t know what’s going on really. . . . They [students] just don’t pay attention to me. My work is worse and I definitely don’t feel motivated to teach them. (NT8, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


I am not happy working in this school and I can’t wait for the end of the school year. . . . I notice that in this school there is a gap between younger staff, newcomers and people who have worked in this school for many years. . . . I feel disappointed because you get there with expectations, willing to do things for the school, and you give up because you start thinking. “Why do I bother? Nobody cares. Why should I care?” I mean you feel frustrated because the school doesn’t support you. (NT1, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


By and large, the second year of teaching was described as a negative experience by half of the teachers involved in this research project. Six rated their second year as a more negative experience than their first year, while 1 teacher stated that her second year of teaching was as equally tiring and negative as her first year.


Conversely, 3 teachers reported that their second year of teaching was a better experience than their first year, whereas 3 other teachers stated that their second year of teaching was as equally positive as their first year. One teacher reported that his experience in his second placement was similar to his first year of teaching, being positive and negative in equal terms. The negative evaluation of the second year of teaching was related to feelings of tiredness, frustration, and low self-motivation: “My evaluation of my experience this [second] year is much more negative. . . . I don’t enjoy teaching. . . . I feel less happy with my work because I feel less motivated and I think that self-motivation is very important in teaching” (NT10, Interview 4, End of Year 2).


Teachers also cited issues such as isolation and distance from home, school culture and leadership, and poor working conditions as key factors in their negative evaluation of their second year of teaching. They highlighted the “culture of separation” within the school (between the newcomers and experienced staff), the lack of support and guidance (in dealing with their roles and tasks), and the ineffective and badly organized leadership:


Well, in terms of leadership, this school is absolutely surreal. . . . I mean, it’s chaos. They just don’t have a clue how to run the school; they lack organization and they don’t care and teachers end up doing the same. . . . People do their teaching and they go home. (NT12, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


You are far from home and on the top of that you are the only person teaching the subject. . . . There is no one you can talk to about your subject; you can’t share anything. . . . I mean, no equipment, isolation. . . . Apart from a few colleagues I won’t have much to remember from my second year of teaching. (NT2, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


Interestingly, 5 teachers out of 14 reported that the initial lack of motivation and disappointment, owing to the isolation and distance of the school (located in rural and poor areas) from their homes, gave way to a positive attitude toward teaching and, in some cases, toward a broader understanding of their role as teachers. Supportive and collaborative cultures within the school, strong and encouraging leadership and positive feedback from students, particularly their motivation and achievement, were the major reasons behind the shift from rather pessimistic expectations toward a more committed and positive perspective:


At first I had very low expectations because I was going to teach in a small rural school. But when I got to know the school, I changed my mind. I feel really happy despite the distance. Here staff talk to one another—I mean there is no gap between those with a permanent post and the newcomers. This year there is teamwork, whereas last year there was a more individualistic way of working. The principal is very supportive, and the students are doing really well; in general, they have higher motivation and achievement. I am really happy. (NT7, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


Enthusiasm, dedication, and job satisfaction were recurring themes in their accounts, alongside a high sense of self-efficacy and self-motivation:


It was a gradual process . . . my relationship with the students was getting better every day . . . and the school is very nice. As time went on, coming to school wasn’t an effort to me any more and the initial lack of motivation, because of the location and distance of the school, was transformed into motivation which is getting greater each day. I mean, we are approaching the end of the year and I feel more and more motivated to come to school and conduct experiments with my students. . . . Students see you as a model and you can’t let them down. And I have a good relationship with my colleagues too. (NT4, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


This year is more positive than last year . . . and I feel more motivated because of the experiences I came across. There are still those students who are keen to learn and who are motivated and committed after all. . . . I mean, it has to do with the way they see the subject. If they are doing well and they are able to achieve the goals, I know that I am doing a good job. (NT13, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


Overall, the second year of teaching was seen as a challenging experience for teachers whose sense of self-efficacy, self-motivation, and strong morale—along with perceptions of school culture and leadership, in most cases2—were key elements in determining the success of their work, and therefore their commitment to teaching.


THE FIRST TWO YEARS OF TEACHING: RETREAT FROM IDEALISM VERSUS COMMITMENT TO TEACHING AND LEARNING


The confrontation with the unexpected complexity of teaching and with the dynamics of schools and classrooms led new teachers to revisit and challenge their initial beliefs about the profession and about being a teacher with implications for their professional identities.


By and large, according to teachers’ own perceptions, over the 2-year period, a more inductive and student-centered approach to teaching gave way to a more traditional and teacher-centered one. Most of the new teachers admitted that they adopted a more formal style of teaching as time went on. A recurring pattern was found in new teacher’s accounts: lecturing/explaining new topics, students working on their own and assessing their own work, leaving behind issues of flexibility, individuality, and responsiveness which were key elements in their depictions of good teaching at the beginning of their first year of teaching. This trend lends support to earlier work on beginning teachers’ instructional practices (see, e.g., Powell, 1997; Vonk & Schras, 1987). In the words of two teachers,


I feel a bit frustrated. I think that I am now a more traditional teacher, a teacher who lectures the kids. There are a few moments where I am able to try some experiments and make them reflect on things, but those moments are not very frequent. Basically I lecture them, I make them do some exercises and I assess their work. (NT10, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


Sometimes I forget that I am an educator and I focus on the content to be covered and on the syllabus. This has to do with the students, because whenever I try to organize a different activity, they take advantage of that and they mess around . . . so I lecture them and classes become boring. . . . Students do not respond to my teaching . . . and I start to work according to a set of routines and I become a boring teacher. (NT5, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


Problems in dealing effectively with classroom management, along with issues of teacher socialization in the workplace, explained this trend. Most of the new teachers adopted a role of greater leadership and a more traditional approach to teaching owing to their need for “being in control” of classroom events. The dilemma between providing students with a pleasant learning environment—which was associated with issues of flexibility and responsiveness to their needs—and keeping order in the classroom was at the forefront of the teachers’ responses:


You have to be very careful with the students, otherwise they go too far. The more you are flexible, the more they cause problems inside the classroom. (NT2, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2)


I think that sometimes classes go wrong . . . because of my trying hard to have a better relationship with them [students]; sometimes they go too far and I get upset for letting them go that far. (NT10, Interview 1, Beginning of Year 1)


Students corroborated these trends. They suggested a shift from a more student-centered toward a more teacher-centered approach to teaching. The increase in written work and blackboard and textbook use, alongside the decrease in the variety of activities (such as experiments, games, or group work), reflected this general pattern. According to students, some teachers also became less responsive to their learning needs. In other words, it appeared that teachers tended to adopt a survival perspective. They struggled to interact effectively with the students and, therefore, they preferred to lecture them.


Classes were more interesting at the beginning. She was able to motivate us . . . but now she teaches us by reading the textbook all the time and we don’t understand anything. . . . Classes became less and less interesting; they worsened a lot. She isn’t able to motivate us. (17-year-old student)


At the beginning, we did lots of different activities in the classroom. Now we only do the homework and the exercises from the textbook. (11-year-old student)


Now she lectures us all the time and she writes a lot on the blackboard. (15-year-old student)


As time went by, the teacher became stricter in relation to students’ behavior inside the classroom, and she is always telling us to shut up. (16-year-old student)


Four teachers seemed to follow a different pattern. According to them and their own students, they seemed to have become more flexible in their teaching and more responsive to students’ learning needs and to have displayed a more caring attitude toward them. Student motivation and achievement, along with a greater knowledge of the context and of the students, which was made possible by a supportive atmosphere at school, accounted for their commitment and positive attitude.


Since September there have been several changes. She explains better because she has got used to us and she goes through things over and over again. (15-year-old student)


Classes became more and more interesting. . . . She cares a lot. Students participate more and more in classroom activities and classes have a very good atmosphere for us to work in. (16-year-old student)


He has changed a lot. At the beginning he felt a bit lost because he wasn’t at ease in the classroom. As he started to get to know us, he became calmer and now he is clearer than he used to be in explaining the topics. He was a bit confused, but now he explains things better. (16-year-old student)


Classes are even more interesting now and her relationship with the students is better, especially with the slower learners; she helps them and stimulates their learning. (15-year-old student)


Issues of responsiveness to students’ learning needs, care, flexibility, and the use of a variety of teaching methods were stressed by teachers and their students. Commitment, enthusiasm, dedication, and high expectations of themselves and of their students as learners were also key characteristics of these teachers who were portrayed as "good" and "professional" by their students.3


It is worth noting that some of the novice teachers reported on the ways that their beliefs and views of teaching were challenged and revisited as a consequence of making sense of the “real world” of teaching in different contexts. In fact, it is possible to identify a contradiction between what it is and what it should be. When they described the teacher’s role and good teaching, issues of flexibility, care, responsiveness to students’ learning needs, and the use of a variety of methods were recurring features. However, according to teachers themselves, the way they taught went against the ideal beliefs that they initially held. Embedded in their practices and in their understanding of their job was a dilemma clearly highlighted by one teacher: “Sometimes I am not what I want to be as a teacher or what I think I want to be as a teacher” (NT5, Interview 3, Beginning of Year 2).


Implicit in this tension is what Keddie (1971) termed the educationist and the teacher contexts, the former being related to “how things ought to be,” the latter being described as “the world of is” (p. 135). In other words, teachers’ views as educationists may be contradicted in their practices as teachers. The following extracts provide evidence of the conflict between one’s own image of good teaching and actual practice:


In ideological terms, I still keep my initial ideas about teaching, but I start realizing that if I try to put them into practice, they don’t work, and I end up doing what works in practice. (NT5, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


When I was a student teacher I had a positive view of teaching and that things could be improved. Now I start understanding and getting used to . . . the system so to speak. I mean, teachers have loads of work to do, especially when it comes to marking and assessing students . . . and they don’t want to fill in loads of forms and other paperwork. . . . You can have a different way of seeing things but you end up carrying on like most of them [teachers]; you think “Other people do that—why shouldn’t I do that as well? Why should I bother? Why should I have to do loads of work?” I know that this is wrong, but consciously or unconsciously you start thinking the same way, or at least you start acting the same way. (NT14, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


It seems that teachers compromised their beliefs about what they saw as good teaching, and they started to do “what works” in practice. In addition, they became socialized into the ethos of teaching, and consequently, they started to comply with the “ways of doing things” at school. In fact, the shift from more innovative approaches to teaching toward more teacher-centered ones was also accompanied by a growing focus on outcomes as a result of teacher socialization in the workplace. Most of the teachers reported on the way in which they became socialized into the school culture by adopting its norms and values. Conservatism and compliance emerged in their accounts, replacing their initial enthusiasm and, in a sense, their proactive attitudes. This shift was described as a gradual process as they got to know the way in which schools and their colleagues operated. Individualism, low morale, and the excessive bureaucracy within teaching were recurring themes referred to by teachers to account for the loss of idealism, the emergence of routines, and the sense of “giving up”:


Maybe I am getting a bit more used to the system. . . . I mean, now I don’t try to change anything; there is no point in doing that. The school is the way it is, you have to get used to it. . . . If they want you to do something, you do [it] . . . and that’s it. Nobody complains and everybody is happy and you avoid problems like the ones I came across here. . . . The best for you to do is let everything go . . . and you won’t have any problems. (NT8, Interview 4, End of Year 2)

An increasingly negative depiction of teaching as a profession was emphasized in most cases, giving rise to feelings of frustration and disappointment. Teachers reiterated issues such as the complexity, diversity, and demanding nature of teaching and its bureaucratic and changing dimension.


The discouragement is getting greater . . . I have never thought that teaching would involve so much bureaucracy; you are always caught in the middle of something that you don’t know. . . . During the last two years I have learned that as a teacher you cannot go much further than what is written in the syllabus; otherwise parents and students start to complain. . . . What you are supposed to do is already set up in the syllabus for you. (NT10, Final Report, October, 2001)


However, not all the teachers followed these patterns. Two of them—in one case, despite the negative perception of school culture and leadership—maintained their enthusiasm and optimism. Interestingly, both had given intrinsic motivations for entering teaching: a strong personal choice to become a teacher and the willingness to work with children. They stated that they were still committed to teaching as a career, and they assumed that they could make a positive contribution, especially for the benefit of their students. The need to adapt to different contexts and to become more flexible in teaching according to the students’ own pace and learning needs was a key issue in their accounts:


Despite everything, my self-motivation is still there, although I experience more and more difficulties. But I think that improvement is possible; you can’t create an idealistic idea and stick to that idea for good. I mean, you have to adapt to different contexts. . . . I would like to give my best, but I realize that it doesn’t depend only on myself wanting that change to happen. But I know that I can change something for my students and I can see the result of my trying hard. And it’s all that I need to feel that change is possible, that there are good things in teaching, that there is a positive perspective in teaching despite the huge number of things that work against you. . . . That’s what I usually say: “I came to this profession because I wanted to become a teacher.” (NT11, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


Interestingly, two other teachers seem to have recovered their lost idealism and optimism during their second year of teaching. They emphasized that the less positive experience of their first year of teaching (and of their practicum) led them to feelings of disenchantment and disappointment. Teaching in a different context, however, was a very positive and rewarding experience, due especially to student motivation, commitment, and achievement, along with positive perceptions of school culture:


The idea that I had before entering teaching has changed. During practicum and last year, I got this idea that all students lack motivation and commitment to learning. But this year I had a different experience. I came across students who were keen on learning and this has a positive influence on the way I worked. . . . They make you act in a certain way. You have such and such an attitude because of your students, because of the way they react in the classroom. (NT13, Interview 4, End of Year 2)


And later on she stated,


My second year of teaching was a very positive experience. . . . The supportive atmosphere existing in the school (among teachers, between teachers and support staff, and between students and teachers) was also very important and made me believe again in teaching as a very rewarding job. (NT13, Final Report, October 2001)


These findings corroborate Zeichner and Tabachnick’s (1985) study, which demonstrated that induction into teaching does not necessarily lead to a loss of idealism. This was the case of four teachers, two of whom, although they admitted having experienced a less positive first year, referred to a recovery of their original ideals.


Although for the majority of participants (10 out of 14), the widespread loss of idealism and increasing compliance—which much of the literature on new teachers describes (see, for instance, Alves, 2001; Huberman, 1991; Olson & Osborne, 1991; Silva, 1997; Veenman, 1984)—does apply, 4 teachers revealed a sustained commitment to teaching and learning. Personal and contextual factors may account for this, such as intrinsic motivation to become a teacher (stressed by 2 teachers), high morale (referred to by 2 teachers), commitment and willingness to “make a difference” in students’ lives (emphasized by 2 teachers), and supportive school cultures and encouraging leadership (stressed by 3 teachers). As they highlighted in their accounts, they were still enthusiastic about being a teacher at the end of their second year of teaching.


CONCLUSIONS


This study has provided evidence of the struggles, continuities, and discontinuities of becoming a teacher. New teachers felt overwhelmed by the amount and variety of duties that they were expected to perform at school, which, along with the lack of support and guidance, forced them into “learning while doing.” This learning at work related to their struggle in becoming "professionals" by allowing them to make sense of their teaching experience in changing educational settings and by (re)interpreting their beliefs and values in context with implications for the (re)construction of their professional identities. The confrontation with the unexpected complexity of teaching and with the dynamics of schools and classrooms led new teachers to revisit, challenge, and (re)frame their initial beliefs and images about teaching and, consequently, to the (trans)formation of their identities. In short, their understandings of what it means to be a teacher were challenged, and altered, as they negotiated their institutional roles in the workplace. This is in line with earlier work showing that teacher identity is a culturally embedded, open, and shifting process (Sachs, 2001) and a “continuing site of struggle” (Maclure, 1993, p. 313) that is located in a given social space (Coldron & Smith, 1999). Feiman-Nemser (2001) highlighted its complexity and ongoing nature, which implies, for beginning teachers, the combination of sometimes competing pieces of their past and present situations.


This study has also demonstrated that the process whereby teachers altered their attitudes toward, and their practices and views of, teaching was complex and dependent on the interplay between idiosyncratic and contextual factors. A teacher-centered and outcome-led approach to teaching seems to have been strengthened as time went on. In addition, issues of self-motivation and self-efficacy emerged as distinctive features between teachers who were enthusiastic and committed to teaching and learning, and those who adopted a more compliant and “giving up” attitude. Alongside the mediating influence of school culture and leadership was the effect of personal biographies, which accounted for both similarities and differences among teachers; it is worth noting issues of personal motivation, willingness, and commitment to learning and teaching.


Findings from this study have implications for teacher education in general, and for initial teacher training (ITT) in particular. They call into question the role of universities and schools as training institutions in the preparation of preservice teachers if ITT programs are to be successful and if effective and meaningful professional learning experiences are to be promoted. A more holistic and articulated approach requires universities and schools to engage in a collaborative dialogue to enhance the potential of both institutions. The building of partnerships is therefore a key issue in bringing together teacher educators, mentors, and student teachers and in overcoming the classic divide between theory and practice (Day, 1999; Zeichner, 1995). This partnership is particularly important in the context of the so-called integrated model of teacher training in the Portuguese context, which is currently undergoing a restructuring process. Despite the recognition of an effort to articulate the theoretical and the practical dimensions in the training of teachers in recent years (Lima, Castro, Magalhaes, & Pacheco, 1995), the integrated perspective is far from being a reality in many preservice programs. Campos (1995) argued that “the interaction between the subject-matter component and the pedagogical one is almost non-existent, one of the fundamental reasons for the model” (p. 315). A recent report on research focusing on ITT carried out in Portugal over the last decade has highlighted the profound problems related to the preservice education of teachers, among which were the gap between theory and practice and the lack of a clear framework of what it means to be a teacher in today’s society (Estrela, Esteves, & Rodrigues, 2002). There is a need for teacher educators to rethink their role in the preparation of teachers in order to move beyond the fragmented way in which knowledge is delivered, and the formal and academic logic that is still prevalent in some ITT programs (Canario, 2001).


Evidence from this study also suggests that prior beliefs and preconceptions about teaching, learning, and being a teacher that student teachers bring with them to their initial teacher education course need to be taken into account. Prospective teachers should be given meaningful opportunities to analyze and reflect upon their own beliefs and values, insofar as they have an impact on the way that they learn how to become teachers and, consequently, on the way that they assess their training both at university and at school. Learning situations in which student teachers are given opportunities to talk about and reflect on their own conceptions of teaching, learning, and being a teacher must therefore be enhanced.


This study also supports the contention that induction is a key phase in a teacher’s career and must be given more attention by policy makers, school leaders, teacher educators, and other stakeholders. In the Portuguese context, this is an issue that has not yet been addressed effectively despite the increasing number of studies that have highlighted its relevance and usefulness (Alves, 2001; Braga, 2001; Couto, 1998; Flores, 2000; Silva, 1997). Furthermore, support and guidance provided by school leaders in the workplace is far from being responsive to new teachers’ needs, as evidence from this study also suggests. However, an induction policy needs to be framed and organized within a broad perspective of professional development of teachers (Day, 1999, 2001). It needs to go beyond the mere practical advice and socialization process whereby new entrants become members of a given professional culture, and include opportunities for self-questioning and reflection not only on teachers’ own practice but also on the values and norms underlying the educational settings in which they work. Crucially, Tickle (2000) argued for a reconceptualization of induction. He advocates a perspective of induction that acknowledges the potential of new teachers in making a contribution to the education of students if they are themselves empowered. High-quality teaching and learning depend greatly on high-quality teachers. It is essential, therefore, to provide them with support deemed necessary at different phases of their careers—particularly during the early years—and with resources and opportunities to develop professionally.


The author would like to acknowledge Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia (Programa PRAXIS XXI) for financial support. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 47th World Assembly of International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 3-7, 2002.


References


Alves, F. A. C. (2001). Encountering teaching reality: Being a novice teacher. Lisbon, Portugal: Instituto de Inovacao Educacional.


Arends, R. I. (1995). Learning to teach. Lisbon, Portugal: McGraw-Hill.


Braga, F. (2001). Teacher education and professional identity. Coimbra, Portugal: Quarteto Editora.


Bryman, A., & Burgess, R. G. (1994). Developments in qualitative data analysis: An introduction. In A. Bryman & R. G. Burgess (Eds.), Analyzing qualitative data (pp. 1-17). London: Routledge.


Bullough, R. V. (1989). First-year teacher: A case study. New York: Teachers College Press.


Calderhead, J., & Shorrock, S. (1997). Understanding teacher education: Case studies in the professional development of beginning teachers. London: Falmer Press.


Campos, B. P. (1995). Teacher education in Portugal. Lisbon, Portugal: Instituto de Inovaccao Educacional.


Canario, R. (2001). Initial teacher education: Looking forward? Report on Programs’ Evaluation of 3r Cycle of Elementary and Secondary School Teaching. INAFOP, National Institute for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, December 2001.


Charnock, B., & Kiley, M. (1995, April). Concerns and preferred assistance strategies of beginning middle and high school teachers. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.


Coldron, J., & Smith, R. (1999). Active location in teachers’ construction of their professional identities. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31, 711-726.


Cole, A. L. (1991). Relationships in the workplace: Doing what comes naturally? Teaching and Teacher Education, 7(5/6), 415-426.


Cooke, B. L., & Pang, K. C. (1991). Recent research on beginning teachers: Studies of trained and untrained novices. Teaching and Teacher Education, 7, 93-110.


Corcoran, E. (1981). Transition shock: The beginning teacher’s paradox. Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), 19-23.


Couto, C. G. (1998). Being a teacher: the beginning of teaching practice. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Faculdade de Ciencias da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.


Day, C. (1999). Developing teachers: The challenges of lifelong learning. London: Falmer Press.


Day, C. (2001). Teacher professionalism: Choice and consequence in the new orthodoxy of professional development and training. In P. Xochellis & Z. Papanaoum (Eds.), Continuing teacher education and school development (pp. 17-25). Thessaloniki, Greece: Department of Education, School of Philosophy.


Estrela, M. T., Esteves, M., & Rodrigues, A. (2002). A Report of Research on Initial Teacher Education in Portugal (1990-2000). Lisbon, Portugal: FPCE-UL/INAFOP/IIE.


Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103, 1013-1055.


Flores, M. A. (1997). Problems and Support Needs of Novice Teachers: An Exploratory Study. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.


Flores, M. A. (2000). Induction: Challenges and Constraints. Lisbon, Portugal: Instituto de Inovacao Educacional.


Flores, M. A. (2001). Person and context in becoming a new teacher. Journal of Education for Teaching, 27, 135-148.


Flores, M. A. (2002). Learning, development and change in the early years of teaching: A two-year empirical study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, U.K.


Flores, M. A. (2003, April). Mapping teacher change: A two-year empirical study. Paper presented at the 84th Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.


Flores, M. A. (2004a). The early years of teaching: Issues of learning, development and dhange. Porto, Portugal: Res-Editora.


Flores, M. A. (2004b). The impact of school culture and leadership on new teachers’ learning in the workplace. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 7(4), 1-22.


Freeman, D. (1999, July). Towards a descriptive theory of teacher learning and change. Paper presented at the International Study Association on Teacher Thinking (ISATT) conference, Dublin, Ireland.


Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine.


Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park: Sage.


Hall, G. E. (1982). Induction: The missing link. Journal of Teacher Education, 33(3), 53-55.


Hardy, C. A. (1999). Perceptions of physical education beginning teachers’ first year of teaching: Are we doing enough to prevent attrition? Teacher Development, 3, 109-127.


Hauge, T. E. (2000). Student teachers’ struggle in becoming professionals: Hopes and dilemmas in teacher education. In C. Day, A. Fernandez, T. E. Hauge, & J. Moller (Eds.), The life and work of teachers: International perspectives in changing times (pp. 159-172). London: Falmer Press.


Hebert, E., & Worthy, T. (2001). Does the first year of teaching have to be a bad one? A case study of success. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 897-911.


Huberman, M. (1989). The professional life cycle of teachers. Teachers College Record, 91, 31-57.


Huberman, M. (1991). Surviving the first phase of the teaching career, Cahiers Pedagogiques, 290, 15-17.


Jordell, K. O. (1987). Structural and personal influences in the socialization of beginning teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 3, 165-177.


Keddie, N. (1971). Classroom knowledge. In M. F. D. Young (Ed.), Knowledge and control (pp. 133-160). London: Collier and Macmillan.


Kelchtermans, G., & Ballet, K. (2002). The micropolitics of teacher induction. A narrative-biographical study on teacher socialization. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 105-120.


Knowles, J. G. (1992). Models for understanding pre-service and beginning teachers’ biographies. In I. F. Goodson (Ed.), Studying teachers’ lives (pp. 99-152). London: Routledge.


Kuzmic, J. (1994). A beginning teacher’s search for meaning: teacher socialization, organizational literacy, and empowerment. Teaching and Teacher Education, 10, 15-27.


Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Lawson, H. A. (1992). Beyond the new conception of teacher induction. Journal of Teacher Education, 43(3), 163-172.


Lima, L., Castro, R., Magalhaes, J., & Pacheco, J. A. (1995). The Integrated Model: 20 Years After. Contribution to the evaluation of the program on Teaching at the University of Minho. Revista Portuguesa de Educacao, 8(2), 147-195.


Lincoln, Y S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park. CA: Sage.


Lortie, D. (1975). School-teacher: A sociological study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Maclure, M. (1993). Arguing for yourself: Identity as an organizing principle in teachers’ jobs and lives. British Educational Research Journal, 19, 311-322.


Marcelo, C. (1991). Learning to teach: A Study on novice teachers’ socialization. Madrid, Spain: CIDE.


Marcelo, C. (1994). Teacher education and educational change. Barcelona, Spain: PPU.


Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Nimmo, G., Smith, D., Grove, K., Courtney, A., & Eland, D. (1994, July). The idiosyncratic nature of beginning teaching: Reaching clearings by different paths. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Australian Teacher Education Association, Queensland, Australia. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED377156)


Olson, M. R., & Osborne, J. W. (1991). Learning to teach: The first year. Teaching and Teacher Education, 7, 331-343.


Pataniczek, D., & Isaacson, N. S. (1981). The relationship of socialization and the concerns of beginning teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), 14-17.


Powell, R. R. (1997). Teaching alike: A cross-case analysis of first-career and second-career beginning teachers’ instructional convergence. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13, 341-356.


Rust, F. O. (1994). The first year of teaching: It’s not what they expected. Teaching and Teacher Education, 10, 205-217.


Sachs, J. (2001, September). Learning to be a teacher: Teacher education and the development of professional identity. Paper presented as keynote address at the International Study Association on Teacher Thinking (ISATT) conference, Faro, Portugal.


Silva, M. C. M. (1997). The First Year of Teaching: The Reality Shock, in M. T. Estrela (Org.). Viver e Construir a Profissao Docente (pp. 51-80). Porto, Portugal: Porto Editora.


Silverman, D. (1993). Interpreting qualitative data: Methods for analysing talk, text and interaction. London: Sage.


Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.


Tickle, L. (1994). The induction of new teachers: Reflective professional practice. London: Cassell.


Tickle, L. (2000). Teacher induction: The way ahead. Buckingham, England: Open University Press.


Veenman, S. (1984). Perceived problems of beginning teachers. Review of Educational Research, 54(2), 143-178.


Veenman, S. (1988). The process of becoming a teacher: analysis of initial teacher education. In A. Villa (Ed.), Perspectivas y problemas de lafuncion docente (pp. 39-68). Madrid, Spain: Narcea.


Vonk, J. H. C. (1983). Problems of the beginning teacher. European Journal of Teacher Education, 6, 133-150.


Vonk, J. H. C. (1984). Teacher education and teacher practice. Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij/Free University Press.


Vonk, J. H. C. (1993, April). Mentoring beginning teachers: Development of a knowledge base for mentors. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, GA.


Vonk, J. H. C., & Schras, G. A. (1987). From beginning to experienced teacher: A study of the professional development of teachers during their first four years of service. European Journal of Teacher Education, 10, 95-110.


Weiss, E. M. (1999). Perceived workplace conditions and first-year teachers’ morale, career choice commitment, and planned retention: A secondary analysis. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15, 861-879.


Williams, A., Prestage, S., & Bedward, J. (2001). Individualism to collaboration: The significance of teacher culture to the induction of newly qualified teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching, 27, 253-267.


Zeichner, K. (1995). Beyond the divide of teacher research and academic research. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 1, 153-172.


Zeichner, K. M., & Tabachnick, B. R. (1985). The development of teacher perspectives: Social strategies and institutional control in the socialization of beginning teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching, 11, 1-25.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 10, 2006, p. 2021-2052
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12721, Date Accessed: 10/17/2021 3:08:07 PM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review