First-Year Teachers' Expectations Compared to Research Paper

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92). This approach is also consistent with a qualitative study conducted by Couvier, Brandon and Prasow (2008) who emphasize the need to learn about the experiences of first-year teachers "in their own voice" (p. 261).

Background for the Study

Four high school teachers from different schools who had completed their first year of teaching were recruited to participate in the semi-structured interviews used to achieve the above-stated research purpose.

Research Design/Methodology

Following the review of the relevant literature above, the next step in the research project was to conduct the series of semi-structured interviews. The interviews were all recorded using a handheld recorder with mini-cassettes and transcribed using a borrowed transcription machine afterwards. All of the interviewees were consented prior to the start of the interviews. Two of the five interviews were conducted face-to-face with the interviewees at their schools after hours, and the other three were conducted telephonically, all using the semi-structured interview format shown in Tables 1 through 5 below to help ensure uniformity of responses and to assist in identifying the major themes and issues that emerged from the interviews.

Findings and Results

Table 1

Results of Semi-Structured Interview with Teacher No. 1, "Maxwell"

Question

Summary of Response

How well do you think your education prepared you for what you encountered during your first year of teaching?

We studied a lot of theory, of course, and things like effective classroom management techniques but I have to say that when push comes to shove, theory goes out the window and you just have to rely on your intuition and instincts to get the job done. My students have been top-notch but keeping a lid on them can be tough. All in all, college taught me how I could teach but I didn't learn how to really teach until I'd taken some lumps and learned the ropes.

What are some of the biggest surprises, positive and/or negative, that you experienced during your first year on the job?

One of the biggest surprises was just how smart these kids are and how eager most of them are to learn. I had read all the surveys about how ignorant high school students are in this country like everyone else and I expected to find the same thing in my classes but by and large, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Do you feel like you received enough support from your peers and administrators during your first year?

My principal assigned me a mentor before I even really got started, and that helped a lot. She told me how things got done in the school and showed me around so I wouldn't be completely lost at first. I remember she even called me a home a few times to see how I was doing and if I needed any help. At first, I was kind of reluctant to admit I needed her help because I didn't want her to think I was stupid or anything, but after a few weeks, I started asking her questions, lots of questions, that hadn't occurred to me before. Yes, the support I received from my peers and principal was great.

What are some of the things that helped you survive your first year on the job?

Well, besides the mentor, just going to work every day with the thought that "I can do this" in the back of my mind helped. After awhile, I actually started to believe it, too.

What advice would you give to teachers just starting their careers?

Keep an open mind and keep trying. Things may seem wacky and unfamiliar at first but you can shape the job to suit yourself after you get some experience.

Do you intend to remain in the teaching profession? Please cite some specific reasons either way.

Absolutely. I love this job and the people I work with and the young minds that come to class each day.

Table 2

Results of Semi-Structured Interview with Teacher No. 2, "Whitney"

Question

Summary of Response

How well do you think your education prepared you for what you encountered during your first year of teaching?

Our professors told us what to expect and tried to give us the tools that would help us during our first few years, but I didn't think I would make it even that first year. All of that stuff they told us in school was not anything like what I found in my classroom, and I remember thinking, 'Good grief! What have I gotten myself into here?"

What are some of the biggest surprises, positive and/or negative, that you experienced during your first year on the job?

I found that just one or two troublemakers in a class can make teachers' lives miserable, and we've had some violence between students that scared me because I wasn't sure how to handle the situation. In fact, I was tempted to quit after one such incident but my friends assured me that things would get better with time so I stuck with it.

Do you feel like you received enough support from your peers and administrators during your first year?

That's a tough question really. Many of my peers are also my friends but I haven't really been able to open up about all of the things that have worried me because I'm scared they will think I'm not up to the challenge or don't know what I'm doing. It would probably have been more helpful if some advice was volunteered instead of my having to seek it out, but that's my problem.

What are some of the things that helped you survive your first year on the job?

There's a couple of online teachers' forums that I visit occasionally when I'm having problems that I'm not really comfortable talking with my friends and peers about. Just being able to get some things off my chest has helped, but the teachers in there have some more experience than I do, and I listen to what they have to say. That's helped a lot.

What advice would you give to teachers just starting their careers?

I read something in a teacher's forum I was visited a few weeks after I started teaching that has really stuck with me ever since and it would probably help others too. I was having trouble communicating some math concepts because I was relying strictly on the text and using terms I'm not sure the students completely understood. Another teacher told me, "If they aren't learning the way you're teaching, you have to teach the way they learn." I took this advice to heart and the next day I tossed out everything I had been using and just winged it, using terms I was sure the kids would understand and that's when I got the "ah-ha!" moment from the students I'd been having problems with. That was a great feeling! I think that was when I decided this was what I wanted to do for sure.

Do you intend to remain in the teaching profession? Please cite some specific reasons either way.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing else I'd rather do with the rest of my life. The first year was hard but to tell you the truth, now I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Table 3

Results of Semi-Structured Interview with Teacher No. 3, "Jennifer"

Question

Summary of Response

How well do you think your education prepared you for what you encountered during your first year of teaching?

What we learned in college was like day and what I ran into in my classes was like night. I was totally unprepared for what an overcrowded classroom was really like and I just wanted to turn around and go back home. In retrospect, I don't think we covered any of the pragmatic things that teachers need to help them get started.

What are some of the biggest surprises, positive and/or negative, that you experienced during your first year on the job?

Besides the night-day thing, which was definitely negative, there have been some positive things as well but these took a few months. Some of the most important surprises that I remember include my students wishing me a happy birthday without my having told them it was, and watching a young men who had been failing turn his grades around and become a good student after I took the time to help him one-on-one.

Do you feel like you received enough support from your peers and administrators during your first year?

I probably couldn't have made it through that first year without my mentor. Even if I didn't have any questions or need any help, it was reassuring to know that he was there in case I did. I relied on his advice about how to handle a disruptive student and that helped make the classroom environment more conducive to learning, and he showed me how to use all of the IT equipment properly so I wouldn't show…[continue]

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