Monday, June 14, 2010

Opener Plenary - Day1: Life Cycles of Teachers

Speaker: Tessa Woodward
A warm welcome and introductions before the speaker gave a wonderful reflective address of themes and phases each and every teacher goes through throughout their professional careers. These are uphill and downhill struggles with phenomenal changes that they cannot clearly articulate. The speaker referred to a study that investigated these cycles in every teacher’s life. Five themes/phases were identified: stabilisation, experimentation/activism, reassessment/self-doubt, serenity/relational distance/conservatism, and disengagement.
New Qualified Teachers (NQTs) experience stabilisation in their early years in their career. They vacillate between formality and informality with older teachers that are sometimes regarded as friends or brothers/sisters. This is followed by experimentation/activism which is also known as ‘pedagogic tinkering’. Teachers toward their sixth year of work may try out little projects in their own classrooms.
In years 7-18, teachers can go through a phase of reassessment/self-doubt. To illustrate, “Will I die with a piece of chalk in my hand?” was a concern voiced by one teacher. A video was also shown capturing the stagnation suffered by an energetic-turned-burnt-out teacher. That theme/phase raised questions about the most effective ways to deal with similar situations: resolution (acting proactively) vs. non-resolution (doing nothing about it). Some resolutions could be quitting the job, working part-time, taking on extra responsibilities, taking up new hobbies such as painting to remind a person that they’re still intact.
In years 19-30, teachers seem to experience a phase of serenity/relational distance/conservatism. They can assume paternal/maternal roles. The good new is that they become more relaxed and self-accepting with the least of self-whipping over professional mistakes. The bad news is things tend to be a bit mechanical. One teacher jokingly said, “The older I get, the better I was”.
The last phase in years 31-40 are normally of either serene or bitter “disengagement” were age gets to teachers. One teacher was quoted, “I got nothing to lose, I can do what I like now!”
The speaker concluded by a nice call for teachers to consider the implications of these themes related to themselves, their colleagues and teacher educators. Proactive conference-going can be more compassionate toward their peers who may be going through one of the phases previously mentioned. Furthermore, those teachers who are experimenting and ‘tending their own private gardens’ may be those who lead others to more serenity.

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