Facing Reality: New Teachers Working in Very Politicized Contexts

Those of us in education are feeling the pressure from external bodies to improve test Deakin Logoscores while teaching a standard curriculum (developed by “some” external body). This pressure is especially acute for new teachers who are trying to sort out teaching in general while figuring out their style, their particular goals, coming to terms with their changing identity … . In this politicized era trying to balance standards with what students actually need is a challenge for the most experienced and able teachers. I (Clare) read a fabulous article Professional knowledge and standards-based reforms: Learning from the experiences of early career teachers by Andrea Allard and Brenton Doecke. It is in English Teaching: Practice and Critique May, 2014, Volume 13, Number 1 pp. 39-54

http://education.waikato.ac.nz/research/files/etpc/files/2014v13n1art3.pdf

For those of use involved in teacher education this article gives voice to new teachers who find themselves in teaching situations that are a mismatch between the practices advocated in teacher education and the culture in their schools. It shows how these teachers try to negotiate the demands and come to terms with practices they feel are effective. It also raises questions about what we should be doing in teacher education to prepare student teachers for what they will face as teachers.

Here is the abstract:

This article explores the paradoxical situation of early career teachers in this era of standards-based reforms, beginning with the experiences of an English teacher working in a state school in Queensland, Australia and expanding to consider the viewpoints of her colleagues. Our goal is to trace the ways she and the other early career teachers at this particular school negotiate the tensions between the current emphases on standardisation of curricula, testing regimes and teaching standards and their burgeoning sense of their identities as teachers. We shall raise questions about the status of the professional knowledge that these early career teachers bring to their work, showing examples of how this knowledge puts them at odds with standards-based reforms, including the professional standards recently introduced by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and the National Assessment Program –Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

I found this quote from a new teacher, Nola, about her first few weeks at this school fascinating and distressing.

We did not do enough NAPLAN stuff [in the teacher education course] …Holy moley! –Coming into this school and it’s so NAPLAN focussed. Oh, it was like “What the heck? Yeah, I’ve heard about NAPLAN but — !” Everyone is like “NAPLAN, NAPLAN, NAPLAN” and I am just like–holy moley! I was not prepared for it. I did not know how to read the results or anything. I didn’t know what it meant. I was like “NAPLAN?” I didn’t know that NAPLAN was.”

Her distress is palpable!

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