Learning to teach : a beginning teacher's story
Wilderman, Mark Earl
A beginning secondary teacher in rural Saskatchewan, Sarah, was interviewed over a four month period to examine how a novice secondary teacher describes the process of learning to teach. Relevant is Goodson's (1992) recognition that a teacher's classroom life and professional influences are not inseparable from a teacher's life outside the classroom and personal influences. Complexity is reflected in Sarah's storied description of learning to teach. Narrative inquiry within a qualitative design was used in this study. The researcher and participant engaged in weekly interviews, or more accurately conversations, about learning to teach. Participant observation was also employed for researcher orientation to Sarah's world and for grist for researcher-participant conversations. Sarah's story is offered as an alternative to traditional research and is a response to calls for stories with authentic markers of human presence (Graham, 1993). Sarah's story is presented as a writerly text (Barthes, 1974); that is, her story is contextually understood; is descriptive rather than prescriptive; is open to meaning making; and is intertextual in nature. Sarah's story is a reflection of the constructive way this novice teacher makes sense of her experience. Sarah's story of learning to teach is, possibly, more perceived than, for lack of a better word, real; her talk about "learning" and "becoming" is more about "finding her teacher mask. Sarah's story becomes one of perceptual identity formation, a marriage of her pre-teaching life and her teaching life so far; however, her understanding of the various cultural myths associated with the idea of "teacher" become significant. Sarah's story may have implications because teacher talk propagates the cultural myths clustered around the concept of "teacher" and, for Sarah, her colleagues prove to be a powerful influence. Second, her story suggests that feelings of separation and detachment must be usurped with a setting, which includes time and place, for teachers to discuss schooling, teaching and learning. The implication is for changing schools where the structure and climate preclude such opportunities. Third, the professional development value to the teller of story is apparent. The act of telling for Sarah, reflecting on the principles that inform practice and centering on the act of teaching, is the valuable part, not the story itself. Fourth, stories teach in ambiguous ways--they have an affective power. More research on what stories can offer the field of education is required.