Resiliency to Success: Supporting Novice Urban Teachers

From Section:
Beginning Teachers
Nov. 01, 2010

Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 14, No. 4, November 2010, 483–499.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study draws data from a public university teacher education program that specifically sought to prepare White, middle-income, novice teachers to work in a large, urban school district.
Specifically, the authors sought to find out what characteristics and environmental supports were important to these teachers in their first years of teaching.

This study considers Harré and van Langenhove’s (1999) positioning theory as a crucial element for new teachers as they seek to be successful in urban settings.

Research design and sample
In the year 2005–06, 12 teachers who participated in the mentoring program were interviewed for this study and answered an online demographic survey.

The teachers in this study were part of a university-sponsored mentoring program supported by a US Department of Education grant.
All twelve teachers are female: nine are White, one is African American, one Hispanic/Latina, and one noted that she is bi-racial.
The teachers worked at four different elementary schools in the same urban district and taught a variety of grade levels from kindergarten through fourth grade. The teachers were in either their first or second year of teaching.


The results of this study identified seven criteria that emerged from interviews of 12 new urban teachers in exploring what makes them feel successful in their jobs.

Themes included access to significant adult relationships, ability to mentor others, ability to problem-solve, hope, high expectations for self and students, sociocultural awareness, and the teachers’ need to access professional development opportunities.
At the conclusion of the 2010 school year, 67% of the study participants were still employed in urban settings, thus beating the national statistic of 50% attrition.


Identified as resilient by remaining in urban classrooms, the teachers of this study learned to navigate within the large bureaucracy that is part of most urban school districts.

Significant adult relationships were mentioned by the new teachers consistently and fervently. Relationships with a mentor or a colleague were important, but many of the teachers in this study stated that they wished they had a more supportive relationship with their principal.

Furthermore, new teachers expect to form emotional ties with their students and with their colleagues. As long as these relationships are positive and productive, the teacher experiences positive stress that serves as a motivation to do one’s best.

Finally, when teachers become comfortable working within a culture that is different from their own, they can begin to position themselves to problem-solve, set high expectations for the children, and maintain the hope that they can positively impact student achievement.

Harré, R., and L. van Langenhove, eds. 1999. Positioning theory: Moral contexts of  intentional action. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Beginning teachers | Faculty professional development | Interpersonal relationship | Mentors | Problem solving | Resilience (psychology) | Teacher persistence | Urban schools