Four stages of being a teacher

30th September 2005 at 01:00
They begin bright-eyed and enthusiastic. Then the idealism vanishes, and their biggest dream is to make it to the end of the day. With age comes experience, and the ability to control a class and teach a lesson. But it is not until much, much later that they are truly in control.

This is the life cycle of the average teacher, according to researchers.

Drawing on previous studies, Robin Bevan, deputy head of King Edward VI grammar, in Essex, has categorised four progressive stages of a teaching career. These are: fantasy, survival, mastery and impact.

Newcomers to the profession pass through the fantasy stage, in which they idealise the job, and dream of adopting the best traits of their own favourite teachers.

Mr Bevan said: "The fantasy is interrupted by teaching practice. The transition from teaching as a trainee to a first job often proves shocking.

The pace, extent and demands of a full teaching load all take their toll."

At this point, the fantasy crumbles and the teacher passes into the survival phase. New teachers often depend on advice from more experienced colleagues. But many cling to a fantasy of self-sufficiency and are reluctant to look to educational research for ways of improving their teaching.

Typically, between their fourth and eighth year in the job, things begin to stabilise. They gradually consolidate teaching and behaviour-management techniques.

The report said: "Achieving improved student learning replaces achieving good student behaviour as the principal concern. This is the point when the teacher understands what needs to be done to engage students in learning, and just does it."

At this stage, teachers are more likely to use research reports for classroom inspiration.

From here, not all teachers develop in the same way. For some, the staleness of routine sets in. This leads to self-doubt, which prevents them progressing beyond the third stage.

For others, experimentation and refinement of techniques leads to increased classroom impact. This phase is characterised by informed tinkering to tried-and-tested techniques.

Mr Bevan concludes: "Each of these phases is characterised by a dominant disposition towards the use of educational research.

"Teachers filter, fragment and fiddle with research, primarily motivated by a desire to extract and apply what is immediately useful to their daily experience."

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