An exploration of the challenges and benefits of becoming a teacher in a residential education context

Year: 2016

Author: MacDonald, Abbey, Cruickshank, Vaughan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

According to statistics from the Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA, 2011), there are approximately 4,000 staff who work directly in Australian Boarding Schools, many of which are pre-service teachers engaged in qualification towards becoming teachers. Although all of those staff have undertaken the required safety checks to allow them to work within schools, ABSA (2011) reported that only three quarters of that number have undertaken other professional development and training to better prepare them for their work in boarding houses. The experience of living and working in residential learning contexts poses significant professional learning opportunities in relation to pastoral care for pre-service teachers.In order to understand expectations of pastoral care, those working in boarding contexts must be given opportunity to develop and then articulate their understandings of what is expected. Norman (2002) states that “In order for a school to meet the needs of young people, it is essential to have staff that are not only academically qualified but who are also trained in pastoral care” (p. 36). Although schools today claim to offer sound pastoral care and Duty of Care to their pupils, there are many, and often conflicted perceptions of exactly what is meant by these terms (Rieger, 2012). This ambiguity can have implications for how pre-service teachers are prepared to enact appropriate pastoral care post initial teacher education.In light of the above, this paper explores the perceptions and experiences of what constitutes pastoral care from the perspectives of staff who are teachers (pre-service and in-service) working in a Tasmanian boarding school context. Using critical event narrative analysis, the implications of professional learning opportunities in place and inherent to working in a residential-education context are elucidated. In doing so, the challenges and benefits of being/becoming a teacher in a residential-education context emerge, and the implications of the nexus between perception and enactment of pastoral care in this space are articulated. The insights gleaned from this research are highly relevant given the identified need for better quality professional development to prepare teachers to provide high quality pastoral care in both school and residential education contexts (Martin, Papworth, Ginns & Liem, 2014; Rieger, 2012).