Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Shepherd, Katherine


Norah, an urban voice: [Teaching is not what I expected!] Not at all! I guess I really expected it to be a lot more enjoyable than it has been. I know it has been rough because it is the first year. And it is always going to be rough in your first year. But I never expected it to be like this. I never thought I’d feel so down and so incompetent. It has been very difficult and I think a lot of it didn’t have to happen. A lot of my grief and a lot of my uncertainties about myself as a person, about myself as a teacher, and about the teaching profession—I just don’t think they were necessary…I have always been a go-getter and throughout the I [have] always continued to do my best. But there have been times this year when I felt so small that I couldn’t even scrape myself off the floor. False expectations, shattered dreams, and serious attacks on one’s competence and self-worth— these are the all too common experiences of beginning teachers. Teaching is a demanding and at times debilitating job that requires extraordinary expertise in human relations, tremendous organizational abilities, profound patience, and the wherewithal to makes hundreds of situation-specific decisions over the course of a school day. And, as Norah so vividly illustrates by her comments, the first year of teaching is often an especially trying and even traumatic time for those new to the profession. The difference between a beginning teacher and an experienced one is that the beginner asks, "How am I doing?" and the experienced teacher asks, "How are the children doing?" In Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, Esme Raji Codell reports that her own mentor shared that wisdom with her. Probably most teachers would find that the comparison rings true: The survival priority is no joke for those aspiring to join the ranks. What beginners and career teachers have most in common, however, is care for children. To be an effective and a caring teacher, a new teacher must ask many more questions than "How are the kids and I doing?" during the first years. Among them: How do I get their attention; lead a class discussion; keep, but expand, their interests; discipline fairly; organize a classroom; make curriculum and assessments meaningful; value diversity; build character; use technology; and continue learning as a teacher? The list goes on. It will not do for those who want to be master teachers to put off asking questions that do not begin with the how word; from the very beginning, they must attempt to discover whom, what, and why they teach. Besides offering advice and sympathy (a stapler and an aspirin, as one teacher put it), what can the profession of teaching do to support its newest colleagues? That it is becoming increasingly necessary for the profession to do more for beginners than it has in the past is clear. A baby boomlet combined with a retirement boom will result in a need for 2 million new teachers in the next 10 years. The cost of preparing and recruiting teachers grows higher in light of the statistic that tells us that 50 percent of newcomers will quit within their first five years in the classroom. The public is expressing its concerns, too--concern with unprepared teachers, concern with out-of-field teachers, concern that the best teachers are spread too thin. Teaching is one of the few careers in which the least-experienced members face the greatest challenges and the most responsibilities. The problems that beginners experience are intrinsic to the teaching profession and to the conditions of the school environment (Brock & Grady, 2001; Gordon, 1999). Beginning teachers are making decisions and judgments about themselves in their first-year of teaching. What will these decisions and judgments be if they are not given the opportunities to reflect, both personally and professionally about themselves around the following three concepts: 1) competence, 2) performance, and 3) effectiveness (Debolt, 1992). This research looks at the three beginning teachers as they make their way through the first year of teaching. The voices of the beginning teachers studied will provide eloquent and authentic testimony to the importance and vital nature of teaching and the impact of relationships begun, sustained and renewed along the way.