Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Great Expectations: The Mismatched Selves of a Beginning Teacher

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Great Expectations: The Mismatched Selves of a Beginning Teacher

Article excerpt

I just had a nervous tick. I was messy. I wasn't taking care of myself. That's why I just had to let it go. I had to get to the point that it's not that I didn't care, I just had to stop caring about being the best. Just let it go.--Augusta (1)

Augusta's words provide a glimpse of her response to the realities of the classroom in her first days as a teacher. Augusta was a paid-intern completing her accelerated Masters of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T) degree while also beginning her first year teaching. During the course of her internship semester, her university supervisor, Lila, sought out the University Coordinator of Field Experiences to voice concerns about Augusta's transition to teaching. While Lila's other interns were experiencing a reasonably smooth transition into the classroom, Augusta seemed to be having an extremely difficult time. Lila expressed concerns about Augusta's severe anxiety; emotional distress, (i.e., crying); lack of self-care, (i.e., not eating and/or sleeping); and a desire to quit teaching. While some of these challenges are common to first year teachers (Chang, 2009; Fimian & Blanton, 1987; Kyriacou, 2011) it was the severity of Augusta's issues that alarmed Lila.

The Field Experience Coordinator heard similar concerns from several university supervisors; she investigated and discovered the interns had been placed at different schools, at different grade levels, and had different university supervisors, yet each of them were reporting similar issues and all of them were part of the same cohort of M.A.T. students. The Field Experience Coordinator realized something unusual was occurring with this cohort and convened a meeting of the university supervisors involved to discuss if further investigation was warranted; we agreed the intensity of the emotional challenges expressed by the paidinterns justified further investigation. To understand the phenomena fully so that it may be corrected and prevented in the future, we conducted a phenomenological case study with Augusta and her cohort.

The authors of this study represent the research team that was formed to initiate the inquiry, which includes the Field Experience Coordinator, the University Supervisors, a professor, and an additional doctoral student. Together, we endeavored collaboratively to examine the concerns of the cohort in response to what we identified as a problem of practice. From our perspectives and collective experience, we recognized that in order to support these non-traditional students, we needed a better understanding of the nature of their concerns.

After obtaining IRB approval, our initial investigation revealed Augusta's concerns seemed to be rooted in her expectations of teaching. We wondered if her expectations could be considered typical (whatever that was), and if not, why? We suspected her expectations might be behind some of the difficulties and concerns she was experiencing. The following questions guided our investigation:

1) What are the expectations about teaching of a student in an accelerated M.A.T. program who is also a first-year teacher completing a paid internship?

2) In what ways are those expectations addressed?

Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs

To meet the demands for new teachers, alternative certification programs, such as accelerated MAT programs, are often designed to attract talented content specialists to the profession (Cooperman, 2000; Tigchelaar, 2010; Zumwalt, 1996). Alternative certification programs have similar standards and methods as traditional college and university programs, but they may have differing characteristics, such as, accelerated time frames for completion and reduced credit requirements and admission standards (Darling-Hammond, 1990). The perceived problems of traditionally prepared beginning teachers in their years are well documented and include problems with classroom discipline, motivating students, dealing with individual differences, assessing students' work, relationships with parents, organization of class work, and insufficient or inadequate teaching materials and supplies (Brindley & Parker, 2010; Good et al. …

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