Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Leaving the Profession: The Context Behind One Quality Teacher's Professional Burn Out

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Leaving the Profession: The Context Behind One Quality Teacher's Professional Burn Out

Article excerpt

In the spring of 2005, I began collecting data (1) for a three-year study investigating the effectiveness of preservice preparation as measured by the transfer of pedagogical practices from preservice settings into novice inservice settings. I was interested in whether or not what was being taught, modeled, and/or espoused in a given teacher-preparation program (TPP) was utilized in the practices of clinical interns and later in the practices of these same subjects during their first two years of teaching. Although some of my subjects claimed that what was taught in their TPP was too theoretical, preservice observations (conducted from the spring of 2005 to the spring of 2006) and inservice observations (conducted from the fall of 2006 to the fall of 2007) revealed 65% and 71 %, respectively, adherence to TPP practices.

While these results were favorable in terms of the effectiveness of preservice preparation, another less favorable result emerged. The subject, Sarah, who transferred the most TPP aligned pedagogical practices into her inservice action (84% of 1,370 observed pedagogical practices) decided to leave the teaching profession following her second inservice year. This is obviously problematic. This young professional was an exemplary novice mathematics teacher. She was well prepared to teach in an innovative manner, utilizing principles and practices aligned with and advocated by (1) her teacher-preparation program and (2) the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She was, however, clearly unprepared to sustain this kind of teaching.

In the following article, I describe Sarah's novice inservice experiences in order to contribute to the existing teacher-turnover and satisfaction literature. Her story is intended to help teacher educators and school leaders better understand the multi-faceted struggles that novice teachers face and the tensions they must negotiate. These cannot be boiled down to single, disjointed struggles that have obvious solutions, but occur in an interconnected, complex, and contextual manner which can exacerbate problematic situations and make solutions and methods for negotiation elusive (Hancock & Scherff, 2010).

Background

In telling one novice teacher's story, I am not claiming (1) that the novice inservice experience is the same for every teacher, (2) that all novice teachers who chose to leave the profession leave for the same reasons, or (3) that this story will help design a neat package for preparing all preservice teachers to teach in a manner that will lead them to persist in the profession. On the contrary, each novice faces unique challenges within his/her individual inservice setting. In addition, even when faced with similar challenges, perception of and subsequent responses to these challenges may differ. In essence, each teacher develops his/her teaching identity in a unique fashion, based on personal biographical, pretraining, preservice, and inservice experiences. In fact, during the study from which Sarah's story emerged, despite superficial similarities in my subjects' public-school, inservice settings, as they began to move further away from their common experiences within their teacher-preparation program, their (1) specific inservice settings, (2) experiences, (3) responses to these experiences, and (4) perceptions of teaching and learning gradually diverged.

I have chosen to share a single novice teacher's story because, while each professional's story is unique, Sarah's decision to leave the teaching profession in the spring of 2008 is not. According to 2004-2005 data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, within the first three years of teaching, nearly a quarter of public-school teachers leave the profession (Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, Wyckoff, & National Bureau of Economic Research, 2008; U.S. Department of Education, 2007). After five years, "between 40 and 50% of all teachers leave the profession" (Ingersoll, 2007, p. …

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