Tag Archives: longitudinal research

The Baby Liked the Questions: The Joys of Research on Teaching

As Clare mentioned back in May, I (Clive) had to serve as “baby whisperer” for an hour or so while she interviewed one of our New Jersey teachers, and I acquitted myself quite well. This past Thursday a similar situation arose, only this time I was on my own.
One of our tenth year Ontario teachers, Serena, had a baby girl in March and has been on mat leave since then. She kindly agreed to let me come to her home for her annual interview, and when I arrived I was pleased to see that “Sara” was to be part of the event. She is an exceptionally happy baby, but like all 5-month-olds likes to go on to new things fairly often.
Sara appreciated having a visitor in the room and bounced around on Serena’s knee for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on the interview. Next came 10 minutes suspended in a jumper surrounded by toys, followed by a feeding time. As new distractions failed to impress, it become obvious she had to transfer to my knee. I was very comfortable with this arrangement, but after about 20 minutes the novelty of watching the interview from that perspective also wore off.
Back on the sofa next to her mother, Sara then discovered Serena’s copy of the interview questions and took great delight in them. Gleefully tearing them up and chewing on them occupied her for a full quarter hour! We were able to finish a wonderful interview and everyone was happy.


Strategies for Maintaining Motivation and Satisfaction as a Teacher (and Teacher Educator)

Teaching is challenging. As David Labaree (2004) says:

“[T]eaching is an extraordinarily difficult form of professional practice. It is grounded in the necessity of motivating cognitive, moral, and behavioral change in a group of involuntary and frequently resistant clients.” (pp. 55-56)

In our study of teachers, we (Clive and Clare) have been struck BOTH by the many challenges the teachers face AND how well they maintain their morale despite the challenges. Of the original cohort of 22 who began in 2004, none have quit teaching (though 2 have left the study) and none have experienced a substantial, permanent decline in motivation, though they have their ups and downs. When in 2012 we asked them explicitly about their motivation over the years, their responses were as follows:

     Average Motivation of Cohort 1 (18 interviewed) Over Their First Eight Years (Scale 1-5)

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8
4.7 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.1 3.8 3.8 4.2

 Interestingly, their highest motivation was in year 1. Though they were stressed and exhausted, they were excited to be doing what they had dreamed of for so long.

As for the strategies they used to keep up their morale, we noted the following:

  • Acknowledging the inherent challenges and limits of teaching – “it’s not just you”
  • Taking a broad approach to teaching, so it’s more social, meaningful, enjoyable
  • Becoming more skilled and effective as a teacher
  • Maintaining a work-life balance: having a life beyond teaching
  • Remembering why you became a teacher in the first place (see quotes below)

“Teaching is getting harder, and I’ve changed in that I would no longer recommend it to everyone…. However, I like it because I’m a doer, I enjoy being creative, and I like being challenged.” (Felicity, year 7)

“I’m happy to go to school [because] you just never know what’s going to happen; it’s always a new day.” (Jody, year 8)

“When things were going in a wrong direction [recently] with my school administration and in the school district, it brought me back to why I was there, why I wanted to be a teacher: working with the kids, dealing with their issues, getting down to the fundamentals of teaching them.” (John, year 8)

Great strategies! Good for teachers – and teacher educators too!