"Loving it, most of the time": Teachers talk about their first year teaching experiences

Year: 2017

Author: Campbell-Price, Margie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This oral presentation reports the findings of a year-long study that tracked the experiences of twelve teachers throughout their first year of teaching. Data were collected through surveys in school terms 1 and 3 and individual interviews in terms 2 and 4. Each teacher had graduated from the same Masters level initial teacher education (ITE) programme and represented over 30% of the student cohort. The secondary schools they were teaching in represented a wide demographic range and were geographically spread throughout New Zealand.

Learning to teach occurs across a continuum that includes a formal ITE programme and continues during the induction phase within school communities as beginning teachers work towards full registration (Cochrane-Smith, 2001; Ward, Grudnoff, Brooker & Simpson, 2013). Professional experiences during the early years of teaching are influential on beginning teachers' professional learning and the formation of their career intentions (OECD, 2005). Within New Zealand there has been considerable policy attention focused on improving the quality of teaching. Examples of this include requirements for school-based induction and mentoring of beginning teachers, strengthened appraisal processes for teachers, an emphasis on effective pedagogy in the national curriculum, and expectations for teachers and their schools to be active learning communities.

Analysis of the survey and individual data allowed an understanding of each teacher's personal journey as they moved through their first year - what was important to them in terms of their teaching work, support and mentoring, and connection with the wider school community. Eager to 'find their place' it was clear that each had worked hard to build relationships and understand the school's teaching culture. Collectively, their personal journeys illustrated the elements of school experiences that shaped their enjoyment of the job and influenced their medium term commitment to the profession or school. Several parallels to Cameron's (2009) 'lessons' from beginning teachers for school leaders became evident. Positive relationships with colleagues along with the quality of induction, mentoring and support were crucial in assisting them establish their practice. The coherence of department and school-wide professional learning and/or new initiatives was also important in understanding the schools teaching culture and direction. Moreover, when the beginning teachers felt their own professional knowledge was valued and future leadership encouraged they were more likely to have a positive and long-term view about their school and teaching career.