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Learning to be a secondary English teacher: Complex realities in the first 18 months


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Title: Learning to be a secondary English teacher: Complex realities in the first 18 months

Learning to be a secondary English teacher
Complex realities in the first 18 months
  • Susan Lovett and Ronnie Davey

Context for study
  • 3 year TLRI study on the role of ITE and BT
    induction in the preparation and retention of NZ
    secondary teachers
  • Focus on preparedness for being a teacher of
  • 28 English teachers from 111 case studies of
    secondary teachers across all subjects

Our sample Demographics
  • 78 Pakeha
  • 3 Maori
  • 21 European, Asian, Eurasian and Australian
  • 21 male ( all over 31)
  • 50 21-30 yrs 28 31- 40yrs
  • 10 41-50 and 10 over 51
  • 75 had worked before teaching

Our sample
  • Teaching subject(s) for 2006
  • 42.9 English
  • 35.7 English plus other subject(s)
  • 21.4 Other subject(s) plus English

Our sample
  • Teaching subject(s) for 2007
  • 49.3 English
  • 35.7 English plus other subject(s)
  • 11 Other subject(s) plus English
  • 11 No longer teaching English
  • 3 Left

Understanding the challenges and complexities
  • For example
  • Ryan (1986) 3 stages in the teachers journey
    fantasy,survival and mastery.
  • Gold (1996) identifies a time between fantasy and
    survival that she calls the loss of a dream
  • Berliner novice/beginner, through to expert
  • Huberman

Understanding the challenges and complexities
  • Hargreaves Fullan (1992) divide the teachers
    development into three overlapping areas, namely
  • 1. Professional learning as self-understanding
  • 2. Professional learning as knowledge and skill
    development and developing identity
  • 3. Professional learning as ecological change.
  • importance of the education system and individual
    teacher in context rather than broad
    developmental steps passed through by all
  • growth will not occur for the beginning teacher
    if there is not time for critical reflection and
    they are consistently isolated.

Understanding the challenges and complexities
  • Britzman (2003) To view the problem of
    learning to teach as simply one of preparedness
    and ill-preparedness does not allow for the
    contradictory realities that individuals
    confront (pp. 221-222).
  • Labaree (2000) highlights the
  • "irreducible complexityas teaching is always
    contingent on a vast array of variables that
    mediate" (p. 231) the learning/teaching

2 interviews in first year 1 interview in second
  • Reflecting on ITE programme and induction to
    determine experiences and satisfaction levels
    with learning about
  • Effective classroom management
  • Meeting the needs of diverse learners
  • Developing identities as teachers
  • Formal and informal mentoring
  • Areas sought/received support
  • Satisfaction in teaching roles
  • Future aspirations

Key questions
  • What is unique about the preparedness of
    secondary teachers of English?
  • What helps a teacher of English to survive and
    thrive as a classroom teacher?
  • What is the nature of their experience?
  • What are the implications for departments/HODs
    and mentors?

Initial Framework to understand the what and
how of becoming an English teacher
  • Grossman (1990)
  • Knowledge of
  • subject matter
  • general pedagogy
  • pedagogical content
  • context

English in the NZ curriculum
  • making and creating meaning
  • non-content specific - no prescribed texts but
    widely inclusive (language /literature /media
    /drama/ moving and static image
  • main subject for achieving literacy credits UE
    (technical writing skills)

Subject matter/curriculum knowledge ITE
  • Seen as important
  • Value of practicum as place to practise teaching
    topics and also learn subject content
  • Haphazardness and unevenness of experiences

Subject matter/curriculum knowledge Year 1
  • Coming to grips with
  • new content
  • ongoing development and applications of subject
    curriculum knowledge and pedagogies
  • complexity of teaching more than one subject in
    first position

Pedagogical content knowledge ITE and 1st year
  • Multiple sourcesongoing learning curve
  • Many recognised the value of ITE year
  • Valued ITE lecturers modelling of strategies,
    experiential learning
  • Valued resources from college and practicum -
    still being used
  • Valued school staff who shared ideas and resources

General pedagogy Key Issues
  • Managing time, paperwork and school systems
  • Managing individual defiance
  • Dealing with diversity of student needs and

  • Recognition of variability in terms of
  • school type location size of school and
    department diversity of student needs?
  • Importance of experience in diverse contexts
    during ITE year?
  • BTs management during induction period depended
    on the nature of the support they received, its
    timeliness and availability
  • Self-knowledge and efficacy another factor?

Induction - Sources of support
  • 2 levels (generic and curriculum departments)
  • PRT coordinator and formal induction
  • SCT for individuals and groups of BTs
  • Heads of department(s)
  • Assigned mentors/buddies
  • Other staff members on ad hoc basis
  • Other BTs
  • Multiple sources led to danger of falling between
    cracks and feeling overwhelmed

Learning over the first year mostly focused on
  • Time and behaviour management
  • Understanding and knowing students needs
  • Learning about how students learn
  • Greater sense of how curriculum and whole year
  • Coping characteristics - flexibility,
    adaptability, offering choice, balance
  • Implementing wider variety of pedagogical
  • Beginning to look outward

Being a second year teacher
  • Easier on many levels - knowing what to expect
  • Greater confidence handling diversity timing
    management, curriculum
  • Awareness of complexity and of individual needs
    personal growth
  • Implementing wider variety of pedagogical
  • Not easier for those who have changed schools (2
    and 2 leaving)

Challenges of second year teaching
  • Modifying romantic notions and unrealistic
    expectations - dealing with practicalities,
    multiple and real demands of the role
  • Balancing the relational with focus on student
  • Workload still a huge issue- impact on
  • Focus on assessment uppermost
  • Continuing complexity of teaching more than one
    subject or in more than one space
  • Taking on new roles and responsibilities outside
    the classroom - debating, drama productionsgirls
    dean library responsibilitieshead coach of 2
    teams coordinating writing competition
  • Demands of co and extra-curricular particularly
    for those with drama/music?

Particular challenges for these English teachers
  • Workload? heavy IA marking and NCEA assessment
  • Working in dysfunctional environments or ones
    where they did not fit or no leadership
  • Juggling more than one curriculum area
  • Inadequate or no preparation for other subject
  • Sole position in English ( small/area schools)
  • Extra-curricular expectations - productions,
    etc - public face
  • High literacy needs of students transparent in

Research on Metaphor
For example Lakoff and Johnson (1980) Berci
(2006) Bullough Gitlin (1995) Noyes
(2006) Ortony (1993) Vadeboncoeur Torres (
Metaphors and English teachers (Interview 1)
  • Hamburger - complexity and variety
  • Captain of ship rocky waves of education
    managing the current
  • Guide/coach
  • Making a difference,
  • Emotional state relaxed bubbly excited happy
    passionate enthusiastic ( several)
  • Eagle (2) birds eye view Lioness - strong
  • Performance - effective educational clown
    running vehicle circus side show - juggle and
    balance stand-up comedian - feeding off each
    other actor
  • Tree ( 2) - strong roots tree full of fruit
  • Mist - pervasive but not main influence wind
  • Holding 25 corks underwater

Metaphors and English teachers (1)
  • Complexity
  • Positive Energy/emotion and momentum
  • Control
  • Coach/guide
  • Making a difference
  • Performance and entertainment
  • Growth

Metaphors and English teachers (Interview 2)
  • Hamburger - complexity and variety
  • Waka breaking the waves Steam train roller
  • Sports team on a roll Co-learner Coach family
    member/guide(ethic of care)
  • Butterfly not a lion!
  • Making a difference ( 2)
  • Emotional state confident enthusiastic,
    entertaining and innovative excited jumping up
    and down (a number)
  • Observer watching self teach Swiss army knife
  • Performance - entertaining orchestra conductor
    entertainer slit eyed juggler Baby giraffe
  • As if not there sponge fluid wind and tree
    roots ( pervasive and foundation)

Metaphors and English teachers (2)
Complexity Positive Energy/emotion and
momentum Control (fewer) Coach/guide Making a
difference Performance and entertainment
(fewer) Less obtrusive presence (more)
Metaphors and English teachers (interview 3)
  • Making a difference
  • Fun, slightly silly, quirky At home, on fire,
    at one with the world
  • Spontaneous, flowing Water in river Sportsman
    on a roll Slow steady
  • Mama bear grizzly, protective Lion proud,
    very confident, ready to face anything, docile
    too Elephant calmer, more dignified
  • Like an inspiring past teacher - organised
    enjoying learning
  • Undercover agent Not there (students getting on
    with things themselves)
  • Guide coach international coach of a rugby
    team well captained ship
  • Cloud in blue sky changing shape Butterfly -
    flitting around enthusiasm helping
  • Focused camera lens enabling students to see
  • Stand-up comic Kindergarten kid (playing all
    the time)

Metaphors and English teachers (3)
Making a difference Positive Energy/emotion Movem
ent and momentum Control (fewer) Coach/guide Perf
ormance and entertainment (2, both drama) Less
obtrusive presence (more)
Tentative conclusions/implications
  • Value greatly opportunities for experiential
    learning and Practical resourcing for survival in
    ITE year
  • Workload issue with English - role of assessment
    and breadth of curriculum
  • Workload teaching more than one subject
  • Similarities and differences with other subjects
    and reports in literature
  • How do BTs voices impact on ITE and induction

Tentative Implications
  • Role of induction crucial - department mentors
    most useful for ongoing identity as English
    teacher but other sources important too - less
    formal ones
  • Importance of right choice - need mentoring
    skills, accessibility
  • Important to observe other accomplished
  • Important to value contributions of BTs in
  • Notions of ITE preparation or lack of
    preparation limiting - complex process of self,
    skills building and ecology
  • Shared Responsibility to contribute to the
    professional learning of BTs
  • Important to attend to the emotionality of

What now?
  • Closer analysis of a range of theoretical
    perspectives to understand the complexities of
  • Close analysis of the enablers and barriers for 4
    case studies with range of variables
  • Explore those teaching only English - 12 possible
    case studies
  • Comparison with other subject areas (Maths or
  • Explore in greater depth curricular differences
    and/or the impact of working across a number of
    curricular areas

Your suggestions or insights?
  • What do you prioritise as strategies for
    working with BTs in your school or department
  • Points of resonance from the data for you in
    your school?
  • How do we share the findings? How can ITE and
    schools work together more effectively?
  • How do we ensure these BTs stay, thrive and
    continue to develop and learn?
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