|New Qualified Teachers: Impact On/Interaction with the System (Trinidad & Tobago) (CIE, 2000, 29 p.)|
The working culture of a school, like any other organisation, may be defined in many different ways. For example Ouchi (1981) defines working organisational culture as all those symbols, ceremonies and myths that communicate the values and beliefs of that organisation to its employees. Robbins (1991) defines organisational culture as a common perception held by the organisation's members, a system of shared meanings. Mintzberg (1989)on the other hand, regards organisational culture as a pattern of beliefs and expectations shared by the organisation's members which produce norms that powerfully shape the behaviour of individuals and groups and which determines the way things are done in the organisation. The common thread that links all these definitions is the notion that organisational culture has a socialising effect on the members of the organisation through the shared beliefs, myths, norms, ceremonies, tacit assumptions, values and customs. It is generally accepted therefore, that socialisation is the manner in which employees are transformed from organisational outsiders to participating and effective group members. This concept is important for schools because the way teachers are assigned and inducted into schools impacts significantly on the type of teacher they become.
The newly trained teachers met a range of socialising forces from principals, teachers, students and the school environment. The most common strategy used by principals to induct the newly qualified teachers into the working culture of the school was a system of mentoring. As a rule the newly qualified teacher would be attached to a senior teacher who would monitor their teaching and provide assistance and support when needed. In most cases the principal also did some monitoring. One principal described the process in her school:
I try as far as possible to attach the newly trained teacher to a senior teacher who is in a classroom nearby who would serve as a mentor as it were to them and help them with lesson preparation, preparation of units of work, introduce them to all the aspects of the tasks they have to carry out and listen to their lessons and also have them listen to the senior teacher teach a lesson.
This principal did not use seniority alone as the criterion for choosing her mentors but observed the senior teachers' style of teaching and chose those who would be the best role models. Other principals assigned the mentoring role to the heads of departments or the vice-principal. None of the principals provided any training or additional support for these mentors to help them carry out this function. Other members of staff including the principal, who were not specifically assigned to the newly qualified teachers also provided professional, emotional and material support. This comment from one of the newly trained teachers was echoed by a majority of the interviewees:
Oh my principal is very supportive, my colleagues are very supportive, if you are not familiar with the content or something like that it is not a problem. You have a number of people who are willing to assist you. And my principal she is very open, she is willing to listen to the problems you are encountering. It is a very open environment; we have a lot of support from the other teachers.
While the majority of the teachers indicated that they received a great deal of support from their colleagues, this was not the case for all of the teachers interviewed. One reported that she got no help from her colleagues nor from the principal who was afraid of offending the senior teachers:
Well support here has not been very good. You do not get the support of the senior staff as you should in terms of taking into consideration...I have a standard five class and we have to correct all our compositions ourselves, nobody volunteers. Nobody comes in to help you teach anything. It is just you are thrust into a classroom and you have to deal with it as a younger teacher on staff. So I would not say I have been helped much.
This lack of help from colleagues was attributed by another newly trained teacher to the heavy workload of the primary school teacher. He said:
The principal gives a lot of support. But the staff relationship here is so busy. Each teacher has so much responsibility that teacher socialisation is very very hard.
Even one of the principals noted the difficulty in finding time for sitting and talking to the newly qualified teachers to monitor their progress:
Well in addition to the mentoring I believe that the teacher now coming out of college needs time to sit with somebody and talk things over when problems arise. The way things are structured at present within the school system there is not much time for that except teaching time is taken.
The level of material support provided by both principal and colleagues for the newly qualified teachers was less than the emotional and professional support. The evidence from both newly trained teachers and principals indicated that in almost all schools little or no material resources or teaching aids were provided. Material resources were limited to very basic items such as markers, bristol board and in rare cases some books. The more experienced teachers had grown accustomed to providing for themselves most of the material resources and teaching aids needed to enhance their classroom practice. The newly qualified teachers quickly became aware of this situation. One newly trained teacher reported that:
Well, we get markers and we have access to bristol board. But other basic things like record books and forecast, they expect you to buy. I don't see why I should be spending my money to buy notebooks for the record and forecast when they require the record and forecast, and I don't find it very helpful to me.
In some instances, the inadequate support both emotional and material from the principal and other colleagues contributed to some newly qualified teachers being uncomfortable and experiencing a low sense of efficacy. In a few cases the newly trained teachers expressed the desire to be transferred to other schools where they felt they might derive greater psychic rewards. One teacher expressed this sentiment in the following manner:
Eventually I will like to leave here maybe in a year or two. You don't get the support and I really want to do it and sometimes you are bursting and you cannot say...because people get offended.
The newly qualified teachers are not only inducted into the manner in which the school wants the curriculum delivered but are also introduced to the school's expectations for the teacher. This is done by making the new teachers aware of the school's policies with respect to certain matters e.g. discipline, dress and assembly. The principal or head of department usually assumes the responsibility for doing this. One principal makes her expectations quite explicit:
I wish to just again to call my new teachers in before the term is out and speak again about their manner of dress, of speech, of deportment, of themselves, how they speak to the children. I just want to remind them that they are role models.
She also pays a lot of attention to team building and to the social aspects that will help to build a team. The new teacher is made to feel welcome and other teachers make sure that the new teacher knows how things operate in the school so that she feels part of the institution very soon. Another principal mentioned that the promotion of staff togetherness was a matter of policy at her school. She therefore sought to provide opportunities for the staff to get together socially.
Overall, there was no structured programme for the induction of newly qualified teachers but rather an informal system of mentoring and help from other teachers in dealing with specific problems related to the syllabus, methodology or classroom management. Most principals made themselves available to the new teachers for advice and held regular meetings with them to monitor their progress and discuss syllabi, schemes of work and record keeping.
The staff also contributed to the socialisation of the new teacher by sharing information about the way things were done in the school to make the new teacher fit in more quickly. Principals also ensured that the new teachers were made aware of the school's policies and expectations.