Early career English teachers becoming through the everyday: Speaking back to “classroom ready”.

Year: 2018

Author: Owen, Ceridwen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Standards based reforms have had a strong shaping influence on the teaching and learning that occurs in secondary school English classrooms. These reforms include professional teaching standards, standardised curriculum and high-stakes standardised testing. This often results in early career English teachers grappling with tensions between state- and nation-wide testing mandates, curriculum and standards, and a sense of responsibility towards their students, profession and discipline. Early career English teachers grapple with feelings of instability and doubt as they enter a profession that expects them to be “classroom ready” (TEMAG, 2014, p. xi) upon graduation from university. This expectation requires teachers that are at the beginning stages of their becoming to achieve the same levels of success, in regards to student outcomes, as those with more professional experience and expertise. This expectation is in tension with the recognition that teachers’ capabilities develop over time, and not always at the same rate. These feelings of instability are often exacerbated by insecure contract employment, where teachers struggle with the requirements and expectations of the school, and their understandings and beliefs about English education.
This paper reports on a PhD study examining the “everyday” (Lefebvre, 1971) work and “experience” (Benjamin, 2007) of early career English teachers and the forms of educational praxis they engage in and develop through the course of their early careers, both as individuals and in collaboration with colleagues. The study is working with a group of nine teachers across a number of schools in Victoria to generate stories of practice. These stories provide a rich picture of the different ways these teachers are negotiating and reflecting on the challenges and opportunities they encounter.
Analysis indicates that early career English teachers’ are engaging in a variety of reflexive practices that are shaping their processes of becoming. These practices are often occurring in response to experiences that are challenging. These include the imposition of school and government policy, but also the challenges that occur in the everyday work of teachers, such as interactions with students, families and colleagues. Early career English teachers’ reflexive practices occur within their classrooms and workplaces, but also externally to their workplaces, as they selectively engage with groups and individuals that enable them to inquire into their practice in a variety of ways. This is presenting a picture of early career English teachers’ work that is complex and challenging but also collaborative, creative and passionate.