Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2012, 249–262
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article uses two narrative portraits of early career teachers to examine the central role of principals in influencing teachers’ feelings of personal and professional well-being, with both negative and positive effects reported.
The research is a collaboration between the University of South Australia, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University and eight stakeholder organisations including employer groups and unions in South Australia and Western Australia.
Participants are 59 teachers who were in their first year of teaching in 2009 as well as one member of each of their school leadership teams where possible.
The data were collected through two semi-structured interviews with the teachers, one early in the year and another towards the end. An interview was also conducted with a member of the leadership team in each school towards the end of the year.
From this data, narrative portraits were developed and emerging themes documented and analysed.
The portraits of two female early career teachers illustrate the vulnerability of many beginning teachers, whose work conditions are dependent on the goodwill and discretion of colleagues and leaders. In both stories, the principals played a central role in terms of the amount and kind of personal support they gave and their leadership in developing the overall school culture. In particular, the acknowledgement of the emotional and relational dimensions of teachers’ work appears to have been a key factor in the resilience of these two early career teachers.
Their experiences suggest that early career teacher resilience is enhanced when leaders: actively participate in their employment and ongoing induction; lead the development of school cultures that are supportive of the learning and well being of staff and students; negotiate democratic and collaborative processes; take a ‘humanistic’ approach to mentoring which acknowledges the importance of building self-esteem while also developing professional knowledge and skills.
The authors have noted that it is uncommon for school leaders to receive any kind of professional development to better support beginning teachers.