From Ugly Duckling To Swan: Stories of Novice Teachers

Jan. 15, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 37 (January, 2014) 140-149.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines the psychological processes involved in constructing professional identities among novice teachers as expressed in stories they wrote about their induction year.
The examination of these processes through narrative analysis with a literary dimension focuses on the teachers’ struggles with the conflicts, tensions, and gaps that arose during this year.

The authors used three stories written in Hebrew by Israeli novice teachers during their induction year.
The qualitative data analysis was based on the interpretive hermeneutic approach (Josselson, 2006) and thematic holistic content analysis (Corbin & Strauss, 2008).


Narrative analyses of teachers’ stories reveal the meaning given to the realities in which teachers work, reflect different methods of constructing perceptions of the teaching role, and expose the processes of becoming a teacher.

Every story emphasizes one of the three aspects with which the novice teachers cope: has conflict, tension and gaps with which the novice teachers must cope.
Conflicts, tensions, and gaps are the recurring themes of professional identity construction: conflict between personal perceptions of the teaching role and social-public perceptions; tension between biographical experiences as a pupil and the perception of teaching as a teacher and between existing perceptions and the ideal; and gaps between fantasy and professional reality.
These processes encourage novice teachers to examine their own perceptions of their roles and are an indispensable part of constructing identity in general and professional identity in particular.
The psychological aspects discussed above can be identified in the literary structure of all three stories: the plot moves between regression and progression, is diachronic, and reflects processes of professional identity construction.

Furthermore, the three novice teachers’ stories authentically describe encounters with “significant others,” figures such as friends, teachers from the past, teachers in the present, pupils, educational philosophers, and fairy tale heroes.
The act of story writing reflectively and interpretively reveals various events, figures and “significant others” that the storytellers encounter during their lives and their educational experience.
The encounters with “significant others” take place through dialogue.
The dialogues in the stories are both external (i.e., with “others”) and internal (i.e., reflective, with themselves).
The dialogues invite re-examination of their professional-educational perceptions by confronting other perceptions.
The encounter with “significant others” and the resulting dialogue prompts them to recognize their own professional choices and their similarity to and difference from these figures.


Reading the stories of students and novice teachers can improve our understanding of the processes these teachers will undergo when they begin teaching and constructing their own professional identities.
Exposure to these stories and analysis of professional identity construction arising from them might allow novice teachers to examine the professional identity that is developing even before entering the realm of teaching.
In addition, the stories are likely to teach interns that the challenges revealed in the novice teachers’ work are an important component of the process of professional identity construction and development.

The authors conclude that novice teachers’ stories contribute to the understanding of their world and their emotions.
In addition, novice teachers can learn about other teachers’ experiences in relation to the issues that they are confronting.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Josselson, R. (2006). Research and the challenge of accumulating knowledge. Narrative Inquiry, 16(10), 3-10.

Updated: May. 17, 2015