The life of a beginning teacher: supporting the transition experience through relationship building practices

Year: 2021

Author: Mach, Catriona, Choi, Julie

Type of paper: Pre-Recorded Individual Paper

Pre-recorded presentation link: With a dire shortage of teachers in Australia plunging the field into a crisis mode, urgent attention to the crippling workload, expectations and conditions is increasingly recognised as the stressors of the system, but still poorly understood. Beginning teachers are particularly vulnerable, as the research is rife with the added ‘transition shock’ that new graduates face in the first year of teaching. As beginning teachers navigate the demands of a new context, whilst learning to teach and developing their own teacher identity, these added challenges has led to many leaving the profession with a ‘sink or swim’ approach. Despite a significant amount of research focusing on reform to either initial teacher education or in-service support, the increasing demands on beginning teachers due to global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the existing struggles and vulnerabilities of beginning teachers in the field. As beginning teachers navigate these complex and uncertain times, there is a need for research to 1) re-examine the demands on beginning teachers and 2) re-think how the field of teacher education can systematically support beginning teachers in this transition space. This presentation adopts a duoethnographic approach to evaluate the transition experience of a beginning teacher, through a series of professional engagements in school-initiated and non-school initiated activities with a university-based mentor. Examining daily journal entries, audio recorded discussions, documents from shared digital archives and past email exchanges from January 2020 to January 2021, a fine-grained comparative analysis into the everyday experiences of the beginning teacher is brought together in the form of a narrative for discussion. In taking a critical discourse analysis approach, the findings from the school-initiated activities illuminate the discourses, ideologies, histories and desires that circulate beginning teachers’ bodies within the school spaces. Findings from the non-school initiated activities and largely supported by the university mentor and her teacher education practices, provide insights into the relationship building practices that constitute and enable meaningfulness, success, mutual intellectual learning, and the drive to improve ongoing professional development as educators. Reflecting on the possibilities and challenges of supportive relationship building practices and activities, we conclude by re-thinking how the field of teacher education, policymakers, and schools can open up professionally productive and personally meaningful spaces where beginning teachers’ knowledge resources can be included and valued.