Friday, September 10, 2010

Professional Identity Assignment

This is the second assignment for my New Teacher Development course. The focus is on Professional Identity and how this is reshaped over and over again through the situations we face.

Professional Identity is shaped upon a person’s beliefs, values, motives and experiences that they bring into their daily lives. Professional identity is forever changing, re-shaped depending upon the circumstances and situations we face. Flores & Day (2005) defines professional identity as an ongoing dynamic process which entails the making sense and (re)interpretation of one’s own values and experiences that may be influenced by personal, social and cognitive factors (Flores & Day cited in Beauchamp & Thomas 2009, p 177). Professional identity can be referred to using the metaphor of chorus voices; it consists of multi-voiced and dialogical self” (Hermans & Kempen, 1993; Herman, 2003 cited in Vloet & van Swet 2010, p. 151).
Throughout my career, my professional identity has been re-shaped many times. This occurred more when I was a beginning teacher.

Contextual Constraints that impact on and affect my practice as a Teacher

There are many contextual constraints that impact on and affect my practice as a teacher. This year, the Ministry of Education introduced National Standards. This has caused a lot of public debate. It has made teachers, principals and schools’ accountable for student achievement. National Standards have impacted on the way we assess students, analyse results and report back to parents.

The barriers I face with National Standards as a teacher, is ensuring that all my children reach national expectations by the end of the year. I teach 24 year 2 students in a decile 1 school. In Reading my class is to reach Turquoise (Level 18), in Written Language my children are to reach 1 Advanced (1A) and in Maths, the expectation is for the children to be working at Stage 4 –Advanced Counting level by the end of the year. As a professional, I do not mind setting high standards, expectations and targets for my class to reach. It certainly promotes creative and innovative teaching. The problems lie with the children especially if they are truant, transient, special needs, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and are already below the Year 0-1 national standard expectations. It does put pressure on teachers as not everyone progresses the same time as everyone else. There are always going to be the late bloomers in the classroom and not everyone has equal opportunities as background factors can have a massive influence on a child’s education.

Another constraint I face is the lack of parental support towards their child’s learning. This year I had two thirds of my parents turn up to the parent teacher interviews. The one third of the parents that did not turn up to the evening, most of them have children performing below the expected level.
Another sad factor is when you send reading and spelling homework home and it does not get reinforced. This is a real concern.

In these cases I feel National Standards do not give these children or teachers any justice. As an experienced teacher, there is a lot of professional uncertainty and vulnerability with the implementation of National Standards especially with the unrealistic expectations made by policy makers for some of the children we teach (Flores & Day, 2006). As educators, we do not know what will come next from the policy makers and whether this will influence such things as performance pay, lead tables etc.

When I first started teaching I never expected this grim reality to occur. In reference to the Flores and Day (2006) model I feel my past experiences influences of having supportive parents and where education was highly regarded mismatch the reality of the classroom context.

The current school assessment practices are contextual constraints and they do form a part in shaping my professional identity. At the moment, we have a clear file portfolio, which gets taken home twice a year. The portfolio contains samples of student work. I believe these work samples tend be snapshots and busy work. This portfolio increases the workload for teachers, as work has to go in a particular order and teachers end up filing papers into the portfolio. Questions are: How is this going to make me a better teacher? What sort of learning goes on for these children? According to Day, Kingston, Stobart and Sammons (2006) “Identity will be affected by external (policy) and internal (organisational) and personal experiences past and present, and so this may not always be stable” (p. 610). In a way I am doing something which fits under contexts of teaching and school culture, yet my beliefs of this reporting method do not match.

At the same time, we also have class blogs, which are a type of Electronic Portfolio (E-Portfolio). The blog, is a display area for students work which comes in the form of podcasts, movies, voice threads, photos. The class blogs are public and are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Parents can leave comments on their child’s work anytime.

As a teacher I would like to see the removal of the current clear file portfolio. I would like to see the class blogs developed further and for every child to have their own E-Portfolio. This contextual constraint relates well to the Flores & Day (2006) model as my past beliefs of observing other effective forms of reporting and taking part in formative assessment professional development on purposeful learning at previous schools have influenced the contexts of teaching at my current school.

Identify some key experiences that have been significant in defining you as a professional and that have helped you understand yourself as a professional.

There are many key experiences that have been significant in defining me as a professional, and that have helped me understand myself as a professional.

Parent / Teacher interviews have been significant in defining me into the professional and have helped me understand myself as a professional. I have worked in many dynamic classes, where the behaviour and learning needs were wide. Parent / Teacher interviews test a teachers level of professionalism, especially if the child has major behavioural problems. As a teacher, you want to be honest and tell those parents about their child’s behaviour but it also needs to be done diplomatically, so that there aren’t any repercussions afterwards. In my second year of teaching, I was given the lowest ability years 3 & 4 children. At the interviews, it tested out my honesty. I could not gloss over and say to parents that their child is doing well academically if I knew that they were below everyone else. Yet as a teacher you also had to stay positive for that child and highlight that they were making baby steps with their achievement. These Parent / Teacher interviews were one of the hardest things to do. Flores & Day (2006) states “Teaching involves daily intensive and extensive use of both emotional labour e.g. smiling on the outside whilst feeling anything but happy on the inside” (p. 221).

Another experience I faced was in my first year of teaching. One of my children came up to me and said “Miss Paton, Kaira threw a stone into my yoghurt”. At the time I was busy dealing with another behavioural child. I said to the child, “I will deal with your problem later”. Later came and I totally forgot about it. The child went home and told her father. The father was very irate and went to school the next morning. It was very embarrassing. One of the lessons I’ve learnt is to take all children’s complaints seriously. The pastoral role is very demanding and requires a lot of time. Time, in which I didn’t realize until I had my own class (Flores & Day, 2006). This experience reshaped my identity because I realized afterwards that it was my role to listen to the children and to act upon any concerns. My Pre-teaching image was of a teacher that only focused only on teaching and learning, yet the role of teaching is a lot more complex than this.

When I first started teaching, I made the assumption that every child will like me, because I was young. As a Beginning Teacher, I pictured myself standing in front of a group of attentive students presenting information, going over problems and giving explanations (Ball,1988 cited in Feiman Nemser 2001). This image was not the case and it contradicted the reality of classroom teaching. According to Bartell (1995) “Teachers are never fully prepared for classroom realities and for responsibilities associated with meeting the needs of a rapidly growing, increasingly diverse student population” (Bartell 1995, cited in Feiman Nemser, 2001, p 1026). In a way, I was not prepared for what I was expecting. My class were challenging and their backgrounds were different from my own. When children did not listen, I would yell at them. At the time, I tended to think that if I were loud enough, staff and parents would think that I was a good teacher. It wasn’t until I shifted schools I realized that relationships were critical. I learnt that I needed to change and to earn the children’s respect. This experience has defined me to be the professional and has helped made me understand myself to be a professional.

Field Trips outside the classroom have been significant in defining me as a professional and have helped me understand myself as a professional.
On a field trip you learn so much about yourself and the children. These practical experiences are lessons that are not taught at University or on practicum, in a way you are thrown into the deep end. There is so much to take into consideration. Pupil safety is the main priority. On a field trip, it’s about paying attention to the students’ needs, and at the same time, trying to improve their knowledge and skills. The teacher has multiple roles on field trips such as being the guide, facilitator, educator and the overall supervisor to the children and parents (Flores and Day, 2006). As a teacher, you need to be highly organized and be much more aware of the childrens’ medical problems, physical needs e.g. toilets, student behaviour, hazards on the trip, emergency protocols, time tables and members of the public. In the back of your mind, you need to be one step ahead in dealing with situations that may occur on the day. How we handle those unpredictable situations, shape us to be professionals and these types of experiences have helped me understand myself as a professional. I have learnt that field trips are not just a fun day for the teacher, and it is a time where you take your role / image as a teacher seriously as you are accountable for what happens to the children.

To what extent, do the stages of teaching help you make sense of your own development?
The Flores & Day (2006) and the Maynard & Furlong (1993) models have made me understand the stages I went through as a beginning teacher eight years ago. The models have definitely made me reflect on the transition into teaching. I believe the Flores & Day model helps make sense of my own development to a certain extent, however I feel the model is more applicable for beginning teachers. As an experienced teacher I can relate to parts of the model, especially past influences and contexts of teaching.

My past experiences of being a child who was excluded from school productions due to having a speech language problem have shaped the way I teach my own class of children. I will always have the belief that all children need to be included. My negative experiences of primary school have reshaped my classroom practice. Pieces of my primary school days/past are ingrained into my practice. Through observing my past teachers, this has assisted in constructing my own identity. Lortie (1975) identifies this as the apprenticeship of observation (Lortie, 1975 cited in Flores and Day 2006).

Flores and Day (2006) model could be applied to these situations: shifting school and the appointment of a new principal. An example of this could be having these fantastic ideas about how you’re going to run your new classroom and then when you get there you, you are told by school leaders, that is not how we do things at this school. From there, your professional identity is reshaped again due to school culture. A new principal could bring a lot of change, which may impact on the school culture and how things are done. A new principal can impact on the reshaping of professional identity.

Maynard and Furlong’s (1993) model has helped me understand myself during my Beginning Teacher years. I went through similar stages of development as highlighted by Maynard and Furlong, however it wasn’t a linear process. At times I went back and forth through the stages, depending upon the situations I faced. These stages have contributed towards shaping my professional identity. Maynard and Furlong (1993) have identified five stages during pre-service development:

Early idealism, Survival, Performance, Consolidation and Moving on.

During the Early idealism stage I went through the period of wanting to be liked by everyone and tended to use my past experiences of being a student to influence my teaching practise. The survival stage played a critical role. I wanted to be seen as the teacher and to be in control. This was reflected in my behaviour management. Fitting into the school culture and the contexts of teaching were priorities.
The performance stage related well to my school’s behaviour management system. I tried to follow it, but didn’t understand it. During observations / appraisals I tended to focus on myself and levels of personal performance rather than on student learning. During the consolidation stage I was starting to gain confidence, yet I tended to stay within my comfort zone. The moving on stage challenged my pedagogical practice. When I shifted schools my teaching practice was refined. There was less of a focus on me and more focus on student learning and engagement. I took more of an active role within the school e.g. ICT Leader.

Do contextual factors seem to be of greater significance in your personal professional development?

The Ministry of Education’s National Standards will play a huge significance to my professional development. It is all very new to teachers and is at its early stages. There has been no trail period and schools have been thrown into the deep end. According to Feiman Nemser (2001) “Policies can improve only if the people in them are armed with the knowledge, skills and supports they need” (p. 1013)

I believe there is a real lack of knowledge, with National Standards. To me, it’s like this massive road map but no one knows which direction / path to take.

Professional Project.

In Assignment 1, I wrote that I would like to support new teachers in using technologies. Technology is widely used at my school for administration, teaching and learning purposes. These are very broad areas and would take longer than the six weeks to implement them. Upon reflection I have decided to focus on one area, which is supporting new teachers with integrating technology into their class programme.

My school is heavily involved with E-Learning and is part of the Manaiakalani Cluster, which is an E-Learning initiative. The purpose of this cluster is to raise student achievement in literacy by using E-Learning as a hook to motivate and engage students. Each class has a blog in which all students’ literacy learning is posted onto the blog. As part of the literacy learning, all classes work through a literacy cycle, which highlights the process in which the teachers and students work through.

This week a new teacher named Bob has started at my school. His class already has a blog. Bob has not worked in the cluster before. At present the lead teacher (myself) and the teachers are the administrators for their class blogs. They are responsible for keeping their blogs up to date by posting pieces of student work onto their class blogs. This will mean Bob will be invited to become an administrator and maintain his classes blog.
The pieces of work consist of podcasts, movies and other Web 2.0 applications.

This support programme is very important, as research has been carried out within the cluster proving that student achievement is being raised through the integration of E-Learning into the literacy programme. Another reason why this support programme is vital is that E-Learning will continue and be maintained in Bob’s class. So far, E-Learning has been a hook and motivation factor for the students to actively take part with their literacy learning.

Before a support programme can be implemented, I would need to interview Bob to gather information on his past experiences. The questions I would ask are to do with his experiences at using Macintosh platform computers, specific programmes such as Garage Band, iMovie, Photo Booth and other Web 2.0 applications such as Blogging, Voice Thread and using Google Documents. A survey maybe of use to measure ability levels along a continuum, to show where Bob is at with using certain programmes.

Once data is gathered on Bill’s needs, a programme can be put in place. The duration of the programme will be for six weeks. The programme will focus on teaching Bob the how to use the computer programmes and how to upload content onto the class blog. Meetings with Bob will depend upon his needs. I get released to support teachers throughout the school. My aim is to see Bob during my 3 ½ days Manaiakalani Lead teacher’s release per term.


Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L., (2009). Understanding teacher identity: an overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education [review of the Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1739542781).

Day, C., Kington, A., Stobart, G., & Sammons. P., (2006). The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities. British Educational Research Journal, 32(4), 601-616. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1130347321).

Feiman-Nemser. S. (2001). Helping novices learn to teach, Lessons from an exemplary study Journal of Education, 52(1), 17-30.

Flores, M. A., & Day, C. (2006). Contexts which shape and reshape new teachers' identities: A multi-perspective study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(2), 219-232. doi: DOI: 10.1016/j.tate.2005.09.002

Maynard, T. and Furlong, J. (1993) “Learning to teach and models of mentoring” in McIntyre, D., Hagger, H. and Wilkin, M. Mentoring Perspectives on school based teacher education (1994). Kogan Page. London

Vloet, K., & van Swet, J. (2010). ‘I can only learn in dialogue!’ Exploring professional identities in teacher education. Professional Development in Education, 36(1), 149 - 168.