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“Coming into my own as a teacher”: English teachers' experiences in their first year of teaching

Jennifer Susan Cook, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Although the wealth of research on beginning teachers indicates that teachers' transitions from preservice to inservice are often fraught with complexity, the prevalent “sink-or-swim” approach to their entries into teaching does not usually recognize the developmental complexities of each individual teacher's experience. The developmental blindness that some educational stakeholders have developed in regard to beginning teachers is, in fact, vastly different from the way our society views “newness” or “beginnings” in other venues and forms. If stakeholders in education were to take new teachers seriously as learners, we would not expect the same from them as from veteran teachers, and we would, as a matter of regular practice, provide new teachers with adequate support that is rooted in the legitimate learning and developmental demands of each beginning teacher. Using a phenomenological framework and an in-depth interviewing methodology, I interviewed ten (10) first-year English teachers in order to illuminate the nature of the experience of the first year of teaching English. I explored what it is about the nature of the first-year of teaching that has made it such an infamously trying time emotionally, intellectually, and socially. How does the culture of teaching “induct” its newest teachers? How do new English teachers experience their own learning and development in their first year in the classroom? What does the first year of teaching mean to those who experience it? I interviewed each participant on three separate occasions, with each interview lasting approximately 90 minutes. I audiotaped the interviews and transcribed them verbatim. I open-coded salient themes in the interview transcripts and arrived at 12 themes that cut across my participants' age, gender, and school context. Significant issues in my participants' experiences revealed several elements of the nature of the first-year of teaching English. I discuss how the constitutive elements of my participants' experiences in their first year can be incorporated into the development and implementation of more effective and more developmentally appropriate induction and support programs.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Teacher education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Cook, Jennifer Susan, "“Coming into my own as a teacher”: English teachers' experiences in their first year of teaching" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136716.