Working At Rio Claro High School – A Teachers’ Perspective Essay, Research Paper
Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS I
CHAPTER 1 1
CHAPTER 2 7
LITERATURE REVIEW 7
CHAPTER 3 17
METHODOLOGY & METHODS 17
ETHICAL ISSUES:- 23
CHAPTER 4 25
RESULTS AND FINDINGS 25
GENERAL FINDINGS – ANSWERS TO THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS: – 35
CHAPTER 5 44
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION 44
APPENDIX 1 49
APPENDIX II 50
APPENDIX III 52
As part of the required course in Educational Research Methods (a component of ATEC’S programme of work), I am to conduct and submit a research project in order to gain experience as to how research may be carried out. The title that I have selected for my research project is ‘Working At Rio Claro High School – A Teachers’ Perspective.’
My reasons for selecting such a topic are many. Basically, I decided on this topic as a direct result of my course in Sociology in Education. The topic, ‘What Teaching does to Teachers’. On reading the information gathered, it sparked some questions of my own. Initially, I had decided to research causes of disillusionment with teaching at Rio Claro High School. However, after running the pilot phase of my project, I realized that I would have no foundation to carry out research as teachers to the contrary said that they were not dissatisfied.
As I said though, I decided on my topic whilst I was researching information for a course assignment in Sociology. The topic, ‘What Teaching Does to Teachers.’ On reading the information gathered, it sparked some questions of my own.
Before I delve deeper it is important to note that, teaching was my first choice of career. Even when I entered the field of Agriculture, I did so in the hopes of becoming an Agricultural Science teacher. Even when seeking employment after graduating, I had always hoped I would become a teacher. This was so impressed on my brain because: –
1. My mother and other relatives were all teachers, so I hoped that I would follow in their footsteps.
2. The influence of my Agricultural Science teacher.
Having been exposed to teachers and teaching from a young age, I began to lay down beliefs and concepts that pertained to teaching and why I should be a teacher. I had always thought, based on my personal relations to my teachers, as well as listening to my mother and other teacher relatives ‘talk shop’, that teachers were held in high regard in society. I also believed that teachers enjoyed their jobs tremendously.
The result was that I felt that teaching was a career that I would enjoy. However, upon my appointment at Rio Claro High School, I quickly learned that my conceptions were false and that teaching was not all it was cracked up to be. Indeed the viewpoints of many teachers are drastically different. This I learned from conversations among my colleagues in the staff room.
I have committed myself to being a good teacher, and in that light I intend to investigate teacher’s perceptions of working at Rio Claro High School because as Hargreaves (1972:402) puts it.
“The social relations of teachers form an important part of being a teacher, it is the teacher’s colleagues who, in many respects control and influence his induction into the profession. The teachers conception of himself, his (sic) values and attitudes to many aspects of education may,………… be influenced by his relations with his colleagues and his superiors and thus influence the teacher’s behavior in the classroom and his relationship with the pupils.
It stands to good reason therefore, that, as a teacher still in the induction phase (Lacey1989), I should investigate teacher’s perceptions since they play a role in my molding as a teacher. This would serve to assist me and other fledgling teachers in forming our own values and opinions of teaching. As Goffman (1968) stated that we all have moral careers influenced by other people and ourselves, and, if this is the case, I would like to know what I am being influenced by. This was nicely put by Strauss (1959) who noted that, ‘danger also dogs the novice who blindly follows old career models for a model always is in some significant regard, out of date.
I also felt it to be a good idea to conduct this research because different people hold different opinions. Bucher and Strauss (1956) say that there are distinctive types of teachers. Often, they have different values, beliefs, worldviews and educational ideologies. I would like to know some of these merely for the sake of curiosity.
It would seem also, that teaching is no longer a high status occupation and has been degraded, indeed, Lawn and Ozga (1981) argue that teaching increasingly resembles ‘work in factories and offices’. I want to know how teachers regard themselves in respect of social circles and status.
This project also interested me because, whilst there was an abundance of information on teaching, this was mainly centered on the United States of America or UK. Whilst some of this information is pertinent to our local teachers, I feel that the views of our own teachers should be explored in order to add to that abundance of information. It would be interesting to know if teacher perceptions here coincide with what is known of other teachers or are their views radically different. Examples can be given on the wealth of teacher knowledge abroad e.g. 1. Recently in Britain, teachers have felt that the quality of their working lives has deteriorated.
2. In a study conducted in Britain by Poppleton (1986,1989) and conducted in 1985/1987, the results are as follows – 15% considered staff morale to be good most of the time and 11% that school policies were carried out in a consistent way. 7 and 14% respectively, felt that pay and promotion opportunities were adequate and only 6% that teachers were regarded with respect in the community.
A big question that arises is that of teacher satisfaction. Are our teachers satisfied with their careers? It can be argued that a good teacher is one who is satisfied with his job and a high job satisfaction leads to high job performance. Professional satisfaction includes the ways in which practitioners perceive the values inherent in their work as well as the meanings they attach to their jobs and work roles. How do teachers perceive their role, and are they satisfied? A question that needs answering.
My project will seek to provide some answers in some small measure so that new teachers entering on a first appointment may be somewhat prepared for what they will be dealing with. It may also be helpful to my colleagues on staff to know where they stand especially in light of the major restructuring our school is about to undergo. If we understand ourselves now we can anticipate our reactions in the future.
My research questions are as follows: -
1. How do teachers view their role at school?
2. Are teachers satisfied or disillusioned with their career?
3. How do teachers view themselves and their standing in society?
4. What contributes to teacher satisfaction/ disillusionment?
5. How does my staff compare to Poppleton’s study?
This project takes the action methodology of qualitative research. There may be some documentative research.
My intentions are to get my data by conducting personal interviews and the use of questionnaires among staff members. My sample will be taken based on availability sampling.
My most major challenge is that of getting true responses to my questions as well as getting time to conduct all these interviews while teaching.
My Aims and Objectives are as follows: -
Aim – To investigate the life histories of teachers at Rio Claro High School.
1. To examine teacher’s roles at school.
2. To investigate whether teachers are satisfied / dissatisfied with their career and their causes.
3. To explore teacher’s view of themselves and their social standing.
4. To make a comparison on Poppleton’s study.
Structure of the paper: -
Chapter 1 – Holds the rationale for the paper as well as a statement of the aims and objectives of the paper and the key questions behind my research topic.
Chapter 2 – Review of the relevant literature.
Chapter 3 – Methodology – Action research, qualitative and documentative. Methods, personal interviews and questionnaires. This chapter also describes my research plan and choice of sample.
Chapter 4 – Results and findings.
Chapter 5 – Conclusion.
The following chapter attempts to review the literature pertinent to the research. It is hoped that on completion of the task, some insights may be gained into the problem as well as further inspiration for what must be done. If I am to investigate teachers and their perceptions of their career, we must first examine both teaching and teaching as a career.
What is teaching? Since the project is based on teachers and their careers, some attempt should be made to define what is teaching. What is this that teachers are so occupied with?
According to Rogers et al. “ It would seem that to most people, teaching involves keeping order in the class, pouring forth facts, usually through lectures or textbooks, giving examinations and setting grades. This stereotype is badly in need of overhauling………. The primary task of the teacher is to permit the student to learn to feed his / her curiosity.”
In my own experience, teaching does involve the former concept. However, it extends to the latter where the student is permitted to learn to feed his/ her curiosity. As a teacher, one of the most Herculean tasks is that of trying to accommodate the students via, trying to find appropriate teaching strategies and devising situations that encourages the student to learn.
According to an article written by Monica Gopaul in the Trinidad Guardian in September of 1996, “ Teaching is without doubt more difficult today than ever before. Teachers occupy a pivotal position in society and must make a contribution to the realization of national unity. We are not politicians, sociologists or scientists – yet their equal partner, bearing equal responsibility for creating and maintaining a country assured of a future.”
Such a statement, mirrors my sentiment toward teaching. Isn’t this how each teacher should look upon the performance of his / her duty? Or is it that as a teacher in the ‘honeymoon phase”, I am being idealistic? What of my colleagues on staff, what is their position on the matter? Hopefully some of this will be revealed when the project is completed.
The following is a statement about teaching in other nations by Kevin Ryan of the Encarta Encyclopedia, 1999.
“The teaching profession varies from country to country. In many countries teaching is a highly respected and prestigious profession. In Japan for example, teachers receive significantly better salaries and benefits than do teachers in the United States. In developing nations, teachers often have prestige, but their salaries are often meager and their working conditions are generally poor. All countries, but developing nations particularly, lose many of their qualified teachers to more lucrative positions in commerce and industry.”
In my opinion, both salary and prestige of teachers in our country are generally quite low. It is a fact also that many of our teachers have left and are continuing to leave the country to seek job opportunities elsewhere, this is resulting in a shortage of qualified personnel willing to teach.
Having briefly touched on what is teaching, let us look at it in the context of a career. What is a career? According to dictionary definition, this is a progressive development in business or professional life. Goffman (1968) gives a wider definition as “ any strand of any person’s course through life, where as a consequence, everybody has a career, working or non working. The concept of career is important because it allows oneself to shift between the personal and the public.
What I find to be my experience is that, with teachers, there is a very little shift between personal and public. I have heard it said many times, ‘ once a teacher always a teacher’. When the teacher leaves school, he / she only physically leave the school building, many of them carry their work home with them. This too is true that whether in or out of school, the public recognizes you as a teacher and therefore must always carry the mantle of conduct associated with it. Hence I say that there is very little shift from personal to public and this may be one of the reasons why some teachers become disenchanted after several years on the job.
The careers of teachers according to Lacey have two main phases: –
1. The induction phase (becoming a teacher)
2. The established phase (being a teacher)
As teachers move through these phases, there is a shift in their moral career. According to Huberman (1989), who worked on the life cycle of teachers whereupon he has linked both CAREER and LIFE CYCLE (see appendix I), teachers move from one sequence to the next and with each successive stage, there is a shift in how teachers view their careers. What I find intriguing is that the end of the cycle brings a finale to how careers are viewed whether disengaged serene or disengaged bitter. It suggests to me that if following Huberman’s scheme, then the end result for the teacher is that of a negative quality and should be avoided, it means that no matter how enthusiastic the teacher begins his / her career, they are doomed to end said career on a negative note. Is this what my research may reveal as I investigate teachers who are at different stages of the cycle? If Huberman rings true then I may well detect this trend.
Another point of interest is that the ‘life cycle’ is not a true cycle in that the teacher, after reaching the climax of his career, does not return to career entry (1st phase).
Likewise the life cycle applied to one situation, country or person may not be the same for another situation, country or person and as Strauss (1959) notes; ‘Danger also dogs the novice who blindly follow old career models, for a model always in some significant regard, out of date unless the times and the institutions are relatively stable.’ The last being a huge improbability.
Again, Lawn (1987) speculates that the life cycle concept may not be applicable when relating the teacher in the classroom to the wider society and its history. As such, Measor’s work is of much import where she highlights what she terms ‘critical incidents’. These critical incidents prompt onward movement of your personal career.
It may be that I could find a teacher in my school who is experiencing or experienced, a critical incident for just today, one of our staff, after teaching twenty odd years at a secondary school, has now shifted to a primary school. What was the incident that prompted him to move forward with his career? At the same time, what critical incidents have affected my own career? To my knowledge, there were two; that of my actual entry into the teaching service and an eventful visit b the curriculum supervisor who had only high praise for the work I was doing.
After having said all this about careers, a major part of the research project is geared to finding out if teachers are satisfied or not. Something must be said about career satisfaction, according to Cytrynbaum and Crites (1989);
Career satisfaction follows a cyclical curve. It starts at a high level (upon occupational entry), dips to its nadir ……… when initial expectations of rapid advancement are delayed or thwarted, and then recovers; although not to the previous high level …… at about age forty. In contrast, career success begins at a low ebb and increases linearly from occupational entry to mid life, when an immediate decline sets in.
I expect that if I were to cross the above with Huberman etc, that upon my completion of the research project, I shall find that the older a person or the longer the person was teaching, then career satisfaction should be declining. Career success would be harder to determine because no parameters have been outlined for determining the success of the teacher.
Why is teacher satisfaction so important? Why would I hope that the teachers at my school are satisfied? A widely held assumption is that satisfied teachers are better teachers. Naturally each school would desire to have the best educators, hence it is important to keep them satisfied. Also, what, according to ( Lawler, 1973) happens to people during the working day has profound effects on the employee and on the society as a whole and as such, these events cannot be ignored if the quality of life is to be high.
According to a study conducted by Poppleton, 1988b, 1989, the satisfied secondary school teacher was a relatively new entrant (probably female) who valued success in work highly and perceived that the rewards leading to a satisfying career were the encouragement to experiment, the freedom to make decisions, the opportunity to contribute to policy making, the successful establishment of good classroom relationships and the experience of supportive management in the school.
However 15% considered staff morale to be good, 11% that school policies were consistent, only 7 and 14% that pay and promotion respectively, were adequate and 6% that teachers were regarded with respect in the community.
The crux of my research being based on Poppleton’s study, it would be interesting to compare results and observe similarities, if any.
Having given some background on teaching and teachers, I shall now devote the remainder of this Literature Review to a brief look at the work of Dr. Poppleton et al. whose work, I am in part, duplicating. As such, the material presented here comes from the ‘The Meanings of Teaching – An International Study of Secondary Teachers’ Work Lives’ written by Menlo, Allen and Poppleton.
Their study was conducted simultaneously in nine different countries. A major factor to influence the results of this would be the differing cultures or cultural diversity since teaching and its terminology would not be the same for every country studied. Yet there was evidence to show a common orientation among teachers of differing nationalities and subcultures. My project proposes to compare the results of this study with that of mine where, I would be studying the teachers on staff at my school.
Some information on the teaching profession in a few of those countries studied came to light whilst perusing the material. I thought that it should be presented in the Review as a comparison to our teachers in Trinidad and their profession as well as to give an idea of the background of teachers around the world.
What was striking is that some of these situations are similar to ours, in that, the profession, at least in my opinion, is on the decline, that teachers are not encouraged to teach, particularly in this time of major education reforms. There is also a failure to attract qualified persons into the teaching service and discipline is on the decline.
To compare the situation in Canada fro example, there is an uncertainty never seen before about education. Governments want more accountability from teachers for student success (suggestive of the proposed PMAP incentive program in Trinidad). The current work force is submitting to early retirement or withdrawal from the service.
In England, there is a major reform program so described by Ball (1992) “ It is easier to capture the scope of change by listing those things that remain the same – except I can’t think of any”. As such, it was not surprising when many teachers left the service, feeling rejected and bitter.
In Poland, to make long story short, the attitudes of the teacher community is relatively negative.
In Russia, salaries were increased with the promise that teachers would be on level with engineers etc, yet teachers are still less than middle level. With Trinidad’s recent ‘increase’ in salary, it remains to be seen how this would affect our teachers.
Studies have reported rising dissatisfaction among teachers in many countries
(Hargreaves, 1992; OECD, 1990; Neave, 1992; Poppleton, Gershunsky & Pullin, 1994; Sauter, Hurrel & Cooper, 1989) due to the stripping of autonomy (Government’s proposal to decentralize the service) and resulting lack of professionalisation.
Again I find that the situation is remarkably similar across the board in many of the countries mentioned. It is against this sort background that I am now currently a teacher along with my co-workers. I propose that when the research is executed, that the findings would be similar to some extent in my school as with the international study and that, if given the means and opportunity to do an island wide research that the evidence found would be corroborated.
Having given a bit of the background of the teachers in the study, the results obtained will be released in a subsequent chapter. Let us now turn our attention to Chapter 3.
METHODOLOGY & METHODS
This chapter undertakes to explain both methodology and method of this research project. Before I begin, let me define what is research.
According to ‘Educational Research- A Caribbean Perspective and Guide, UNESCO, CARNEID’, research is – “A systematic way of seeking and finding information in order to explain and understand complex social situations and to discover the factors that are responsible for and that determine what is happening in those situations.” As it happens, this is exactly what my research is about, exploring a social situation.
Research generates data, which may be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative data are objective facts capable of measurement and eventuate into statistical concepts. Qualitative data are subjective, impressionistic information, which are gathered by use of open-ended interviews, observation and case studies.
There are different types of research such as: -
a. Historical research – examining the past to find solutions for the present.
b. Action research – study of a social situation in order to find ways of taking some action.
c. Needs Assessment research – a way of identifying and assessing what people need.
d. Evaluation research – which monitors, evaluates and assesses the outcomes / impact of any policy, planned programme, project or activity.
METHODOLOGY & METHOD:-
Let us seek further to derive the answer to the question ‘What is methodology?’ The answer to be given is that methodology is the approach the researcher takes in the research and the justification given for the methods used. This is different from the term ‘Method’, where methods will be the tools used to collect, describe and analyze data.
Different methodologies are appropriate for the study of different educational problems. In addition, some designs are more rigorous and less subject to error than others. The problem of selecting which methodology to use is not a simple one as it usually involves a complex compromise between what is most rigorous, most natural and most possible.
After deliberation, I have decided that the methodology to this particular research project is to be based on the ‘Action research’ approach and is to be of a qualitative nature.
My research project is a qualitative one in that the information I will be gathering is both subjective and impressionistic. There is very little quantitative data to be gathered though it will be present. The focus of the project will be based on interviews and personal observations where teachers’ personal views will be examined. Whilst the project would have been quantitative in nature, I would deem that method fit only if I was taking this project to other schools to investigate a larger population of teachers. Given the relatively small sample, this would not be necessary.
Whilst the data is to be qualitative, the type of research undertaken would be Action Research. Why the choice of action research?
Action research is the study of a social situation in order to find ways and means of taking action to improve the situation. I am definitely studying a social situation ( my colleagues at work and how it affects them). This is being done in the hope that both they and new teachers appointed to our staff would be able to reflect on where they are and how they can improve themselves and that new teachers would not bow to their modes of thinking without questioning why.
Also to note, it is an on the spot investigation designed to diagnose and examine social contexts. It is a way of generating specific information (such as teachers’ perceptions) that can be used to solve specific problems. It can be used to address and deal with problems in human relations, which is in fact what the project is all about. It can change the way the institution functions or problems are solved.
In the role of the researcher, action research methodology is to improve practice by engaging researchers in research activities that are directly involved and related to the day-to-day problems they encounter in their practice of education. In other words, I (as researcher) am to take a direct part in the ongoing research. This would help to make a systematic examination of the situation, understanding the situation, appropriately launch actions to solve a problem, understand the relationship between research action and the improvement of their practice, gain new skills in critical skills and thinking and gain confidence when undertaking research and communicating more easily with researchers.
There are, of course, limitations to using that approach. Because action research calls for the involvement of the researcher, it means that, as a possible limitation, the project may proceed only when I am free from my duties at school making it difficult to accumulate the data needed.
Having identified the methodology i.e. Qualitative, action research, the question now asked is ‘ what methods am I to use?’
I have opted to use a questionnaire as well as personal interviews to gather my data. A sample of both questionnaire and interview questions are given in Appendices II and III.
The use of questionnaires in the project is to provide some comparable quantitative data as well as qualitative. A questionnaire was included particularly because the ‘mother study’ ( that done by Poppleton et al ,1986) was conducted using a similar questionnaire and it was necessary to administer the same to my sample to compare the data. The advantage of the questionnaire in this particular project was that it served to remove the awkwardness of the face-to-face interview. There were some questions that made the respondents uneasy which they opted not to answer (as I learnt from the pilot), but phrased differently and inserted into the questionnaire, I was able to get answers, as this did not seem so threatening. The disadvantage was that I was not able to get some of the respondents to complete the questionnaire so that a few were not turned in. This is probably because the questionnaire was impersonal and no one was obligated to answer it whereas, in the interview, those respondents gave their cooperation because the situation was personal.
The majority of data is to be collected using interviews. An interview is a face-to-face interaction between the person collecting the information and the person giving the information. The interviews will be individual and semi-structured. This method was chosen because some of the questions we seek to answer are questions that may be termed as spying or may offend the sensibilities of those involved. During a face-to-face encounter, I can seek to allay their fears as well as pick up information not otherwise offered through the impersonal questionnaire that may be pertinent to the investigation. The interview also had the advantage of revealing more data than could be gleaned by the questionnaire in that the questionnaire yielded preset answers but the interview had the advantage of the spoken word which gave more information.
Some additional data may be collected by using the observation method. The two types of observation may be employed i.e. participation and non-participant observation. The former, where the researcher participates in the activity he is observing and the latter where he merely observes. This method will be useful in picking up information, which may not otherwise be revealed by the questionnaire and the interview since I surmise that some of the teachers interviewed may withhold some information.
Concerns expressed by the respondents to the interview were; anonymity and privacy or fear of my spreading the information gained to administration. However (which is why I like the mutuality of the interview method) I was able to reassure these persons on both issues. This was done at the point when I began each interview where I informed the interviewee that all answers would be confidential. When administering the questionnaire however, I did not make this a written statement and therefore I verbally communicated this to each respondent.
During the research, I was an insider as I used the observation method and sought some information by directly involving myself in the activities of those under observation.
Every research study focuses on a particular population i.e. the group of people or institutions from or about whom, information will be collected. Because it is often not possible or necessary to study the entire population or universe, a sample is taken of the population and the information provided by the sample is used to make generalizations. Hence the larger the sample, the better although 10% of the population is acceptable.
When administering the questionnaire, I intend to use a 50% sampling of staff, which is about twelve to this present date. When conducting interviews, because of the constraints of time and timetabling, I intend to interview using the availability sampling method where information is collected from the first or most available people and hope to cover at least 10% of the staff at the school. These numbers should be able to yield reliable data as the number of staff who can yield quality information is small. Indeed, I was so confident of the data that after the first three respondents, the answers obtained started becoming so similar that I was sure the same data would be had from the others.
RESULTS AND FINDINGS
Having completed the report on the problem, the literature and the methodology, it is now time to look at the actual results of the inquiry. After deliberation, I have decided that the results of both questionnaire and interview be presented separately before the data is used to answer the research questions.
Successful Sampling: –
In the previous chapter, it was stated that a 50% sample would be chosen to participate in this study. This was done to ensure the reliability of the answers. However, due to the problems of staff timetables and the erratic attendance of staff on the days when the questionnaire was given, only eleven people were able to return a completed questionnaire. While this was less than 50% of the staff, it was still far greater than 10%, which is accepted as adequate in research circles.
The Questionnaire: -
Whilst my study is based on imitating the work of Dr. Poppleton, my questionnaire was designed to include her questions as well as those designed by me aimed at answering my research questions in an attempt to get a view on the issues affecting teachers at Rio Claro High School.
The following table depicts a frequency tabulation of the answers given by respondents to the administered questionnaire. The number of respondents totaled eleven. Questions one to fourteen are questions of my own design and questions fifteen to twenty two are those of Dr. Poppleton.
Table 1: -
Question # Frequency
A B C D E
1 3 1 0 2 5
2 4 7 0 0 0
3 5 5 2 0 0
4 4 5 0 3 0
5 6 5 0 0 0
6 6 5 0 0 0
7 3 8 0 0 0
8 3 8 0 0 0
9 0 11 0 0 0
10 0 0 1 8* 0
11 5 6 0 0 0
12 4 7 0 0 0
13 0 5 3 3 0
14 6 4 0 0 0
15 5 1 3 2 0
16 1 4 5 1 0
17 0 2 4 5 0
18 0 4 5 2 0
19 9 1 1 0 0
20 0 6 3 2 0
21 4 4 1 2 0
22 6 3 2 0 0
? One respondent chose no answer.
QUESTIONS ONE TO FOURTEEN: -
These questions attempt to get a view on the issues affecting teachers at Rio Claro High School. The following section deals with these questions.
When asked if entering the teaching profession was a first choice or a last resort to gaining employment, 45% replied that it was a first choice and another 45% that it was a last resort. In a similar pattern, 45% said that they wanted to become a teacher because nothing else was available in terms of other career options and 36% said that it was their wish to become a teacher. However, when asked if they believe that there is a future in reaching or whether teaching was a dead-end career, 73% were of the opinion that it was a dead-end.
Attempting to get an insight into how teachers view administrative positions, a question was asked of whether they would accept an administrative position if it was offered to them. The answer was that 73% replied in the negative.
100% of the teachers asked, responded no to the question, “Do you believe that you are adequately remunerated for your services?”
In response to question 10, which dealt with teacher satisfaction, 73% felt that students, staff and administration were all factors that affect their satisfaction on the job.
In relation to the previous question, 55% of the respondents claimed that they do not teach with the same enthusiasm as when they began their career. Similarly, a like percentage indicated that they do not feel motivated to work as a teacher.
On the question of teachers’ role, 45% felt that they were fulfilling a multi faceted role at school, 27% thought that they were going above and beyond their expected role and another 27% claimed that they did not know what their role was. Clearly however, judging from those who responded to the first two, the majority believes that teachers’ roles are complex. Yet 55% of those asked, claimed that they feel capable of handling such roles.
Questions fifteen to twenty two and their results will be dealt with in a subsequent section where they will be used to answer one of the research questions that arose from the project.
THE INTERVIEW: -
Having decided that the sample was to be based on availability, I proceeded to conduct interviews once the questionnaires were completed and returned. It was my intention that at least 10% of the staff should be interviewed and this objective was clearly achieved when indeed I surveyed more than the stated 10%.
It is interesting to note here that while the individual answers may have been worded differently, the general trends were such that the answers given by the interviewees individually, was strikingly similar to the others collectively. The consistencies of the answers were such that I did not feel it necessary to increase the sample number. It would seem, based on the interviews that current perceptions held by teachers are shared by the majority if not universally. Let us look at what was gleaned from the answers posed to the interviewees.
TEACHER ROLE – In determining how the interviewees perceive the role of the teacher, several questions were asked; the first question asked the interviewee to describe ideally, the function of the teacher.
In response, everyone agreed that the teacher’s main role was that of imparting knowledge to the students. In addition to this, the teachers felt that they were there to guide, to council and to help the student develop attitudes and behaviors that would stand him/her in good stead for life.
The teachers were then asked to define what was their own role at school. All of them indicated that besides teaching, their roles were multi faceted e.g. sports coordinator, counselor, nurse, taxi drivers, choreographers, dean, etc. In fact, other teachers shared many of these roles and some were even interchangeable.
What became evident is that, while there was a conceptualization in the minds of the teachers as to exactly what the role of the teacher should be, in reality, most teachers go above and beyond this and have at varied times, assumed a role that should not necessarily be theirs.
EFFECTIVE TEACHING AND TEACHER/STUDENT INTERACTION – During the interview, the interviewees were asked their views on what they considered to be an effective teacher. The answers given were similar in that everyone felt that the effective teacher must genuinely care for or have a love for both the children who are their charges and the job. Other characteristics are that they should be patient, persistent, understanding, knowledgeable, approachable and disciplined. When asked about themselves and their own practice in the classroom, whether their focus was subject centered or pastoral (child centered), the majority claimed that their focus was child centered.
To me, this further helped to define how teachers perceive their roles at school; after all, if the teachers themselves were not already putting these criteria into practice, then they would have been hard pressed to so readily have an answer.
TEACHER SATISFACTION – Are the teachers of Rio Claro High School satisfied with their current jobs? It seemed to me that the most accurate way to gain such information was to ask the teachers themselves to indicate whether they were satisfied or not and to identify the factors responsible for either.
The majority of teachers indicated that they currently were satisfied and cited as their reasons; their love for interacting with children and also that they enjoyed the fact that they were helping would–be adults to gain enlightenment and to promote progress.
A couple of responses were in the negative however and the reason given is that they were teaching for too many years (more than 15) and that the job failed to excite them anymore.
The interviewees were also asked to indicate what factors make their enthusiasm for teaching wane. Two problems were identified and these are, the lack of cooperation among staff and the decline of discipline on the part of the students.
TEACHER – STUDENT INTERACTION – The interviewees were asked several questions about their teaching methods and the success of such methods in terms of student interaction. It would seem that the majority of teachers employ discussion, demonstration and lecture as their methods of choice and claim to have interactive classes the majority of the time. Teachers also believe in discipline in the classroom and tend to focus somewhat on this aspect.
ADMINISTRATION’S INFLUENCE – The teachers were asked to indicate if the school’s administration played any part in their current feelings as a teacher. The majority claimed that they were indeed influenced by this but the feelings of most were positive rather than negative. A few teachers though, emphatically stated that they were negatively influenced.
MOTIVATION TO TEACH – How motivated are the teachers of Rio Claro High School to continue teaching? The main factor for teacher motivation was the interaction with students and assisting them to learn. However, the teachers felt a setback in the lack of infrastructure and new technologies in the current plant and indicated that they would feel further motivated if such problems were rectified.
Interestingly though, when asked if they would leave teaching for another job, the majority responded that they would despite any positive feelings they may have for teaching as a career. However, if they had to remain in the teaching service then they would consent to being trained in pedagogy to help improve their teaching skills rather than stagnate in their career. Given the fact that the upward movement of careers of teachers is restrictive, I consider this to be an indication of the interest of the teachers in their career.
TEACHERS’ STANDING IN SOCIETY – In order to determine how teachers view themselves in society, the last part of the interview dealt with this issue. Interestingly, everyone asked felt that the members of the teaching fraternity are not held in esteem by our society.
Indeed, when asked what they thought of as the status accorded to them by society, the answer most received was that they were just an ordinary man in the street. The teachers felt that while we were respected in school for the job that we do, outside of the school compound, this was non-existent.
Teachers also felt that they do not have the respect of other professions and were unsure as to how they were regarded within their own community. In regards to other professions, they felt that they were ranked somewhere in the middle in comparison to other professions.
In the final part of the interview, the teachers were asked if they would recommend teaching as a choice of career to young individuals. Most of them responded in the negative because they felt that the profession was too stressful for anyone to cope with unless the individual really possessed the convictions to become, and stay, a teacher.
GENERAL FINDINGS – ANSWERS TO THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS: -
1. HOW WOULD THE TEACHERS OF RIO CLARO HIGH SCHOOL COMPARE TO THE STUDY PRESENTED BY Dr. POPPLETON? – As previously stated when discussing the questionnaire, there were two components involved, those questions of my own design and those that were used in the research of Dr. Poppleton (1988). These questions were taken directly from the Final Report ESRC Project submitted by Poppleton (1988). The following section deals with that part of the questionnaire, which was taken from Dr. Poppleton and those results obtained from the teachers of Rio Claro High School and its comparison to the results obtained from the original study. The reasoning for attempting to imitate that part of the study was to find out how a sample of Trinidadian teachers would have answered the questions to a study that was done on an international scale.
Of the eleven respondents, 45% say that they enjoy teaching as an occupation ‘a great deal’; this is comparable to the original study where 46% said the same. More than half considered that teaching did not measure up to the sort of work that they wanted as compared to the Poppleton study where the situation reversed and less than half said so.
A major question arising from the project was the satisfaction of teachers with their job. In Dr. Poppleton’s study, 22% said that they were satisfied with their present job. In my research, no one claimed to be very satisfied with their present job whereas 45% said that their present job brought not much satisfaction to them and 36% said that they were satisfied to some extent.
When asked if, after knowing what they now know, would they, given the choice, had to decide once more to enter teaching, 455 said outright that it was not at all likely and another 36% that it was not very likely.
Dr. Poppleton’s study revealed that 76% of the teachers studied regarded work as very important to them. My study indicates that 82% regarded the same. While 59% in the Poppleton study stated that their thoughts are occupied a great deal of time with work outside of working hours, no one opted for that choice in my study but 55% said that work occupied their thoughts to some extent.
Interestingly, while 64% in the Poppleton study wished to know what was happening outside their classrooms, only 36% in my study would lay claim to the same.
The last item of the questionnaire referred to the stress experienced on the job. The original study indicates that 44% admitted to feeling a great deal of stress as compared to 55% from Rio Claro High.
The comparison between Dr. Poppleton’s study and mine is summarized into the table drawn below:
ITEM Dr. POPPLETON (1988) RIO CLARO HIGH SCHOOL
Teaching enjoyed as an occupation. 46% satisfied a great deal 45% satisfied a great deal
Job satisfaction. 22% satisfied a great deal 36% satisfied to some extent
Work regarded as important 76% a great deal 82% a great deal
Think about work outside of working hours. 59% a great deal 55% to some extent
Wishes to know what is happening outside the classroom. 64% 36%
Levels of stress experienced on the job. 44% a great deal 55% a great deal
Apparently, arising from the study, the figures reported by Dr. Poppleton and those presented by me are comparable with an average of 6% difference between most of the answers. It would seem that, the trends and concepts of teachers in different countries may have an identical or a reasonable facsimile thereof, to the trends of thought that teachers in Trinidad (at least those of Rio Claro High School) seem to have.
3. HOW DO TEACHERS VIEW THEIR ROLE AT SCHOOL? : – It is without a doubt a general, almost unanimous feeling that the role/s played by the teachers of Rio Claro High School are complex and demanding at times.
Teachers see themselves as holding / having multi-faceted roles which sometimes go above and beyond the call of duty but are nevertheless performed. From ambulance driver to dance choreographer, to nurse to master of ceremonies, to coach, to psychiatrist and many others too numerous to mention, these are some of the roles that teachers are from time to time called upon to play. From observation it would seem that teachers couldn’t just expect to come to school and be a ‘font of knowledge’ in the classroom.
The role of the teacher is much more diverse. However, another observation made was that the teachers mostly felt that many of these roles were thrust upon them as one of the demands of the job so that there is a certain degree of reluctancy to perform such roles. Yet it must be done and therefore it is done because of something I have labeled “the conscience factor”. Many teachers claim that it would be going against their conscience to abandon such tasks. However, I have come to believe that, and it was stated by one of the teachers interviewed, that it is a love of the children who are our charges that also motivate teachers to accept their roles, varied as they are.
I must state however that a general feeling by most of the senior teachers interviewed, as well as by personal observation, that they find these complexities of tasks to be quite draining on their time and energy, they even claim that they would not encourage anyone to teach because of the stress generated from their roles. By personal observation, senior teachers very often choose to pass off those extra duties to the junior staff members who are still enthusiastic about performing their jobs and are thusly relegated.
Another observation made however is that part of that enthusiasm on the part of the junior teachers is because of a fear of not being given a good grading on their Staff Confidential Reports. Senior teachers on the other hand, claim that these reports no longer bother them an as such, work their way around it or simply ignore it.
However it is done or whosoever may be doing it, the bottom line is that teachers at Rio Claro High School perform many roles apart from that of facilitator of learning, and are likely to continue performing such roles whatever the motivation. Whether they are satisfied with this arrangement or not is another story.
3. ARE TEACHERS SATISFIED OR DISILLUSIONED WITH THEIR CAREER AND WHAT ARE THE CAUSE/S? – Interestingly, 45% of the teachers claimed that they were satisfied a great deal with teaching as an occupation. However, when asked if they were satisfied with their job at Rio Claro High School, only 22% responded a great deal whereas 36% said to some extent.
On further investigation using the interview responses, it was found that there were a few factors responsible for this trend: -
1. The apparent lack of discipline among students coupled with academic decline – most teachers have realized that discipline among the students is slipping to the point where some are reputed boulders in the otherwise smooth flow of the stream of classroom management. In addition, there are students who seem to lack interest in their schoolwork and academic performance. These two have combined to make the teachers at Rio Claro High a bit disillusioned with teaching in general.
2. Lack of proper teaching facilities and infrastructure. A problem that, while not original among other schools is certainly peculiar to our case. Geographically, Rio Claro High School is situated on a hill that has lent itself to land slippage in two areas of the school compound. Because of this movement, various areas of the school have had to be torn down or condemned from usage because of the structural damage. As such, the school has had to be stuffed in to the existing structures where certain facilities are lacking and where it has proved impossible to adequately provide suitable learning environments. Working in these conditions have predisposed teachers to their lack of enthusiasm.
3. Another factor, although not stated by everyone, seems to be a cause for teacher disillusionment. At this point, I must interject that although it was not stated by the majority, from observation and listening to comments made by the staff, the majority concurs with this statement. This factor seems to be that of administration or, as one respondent put it, an apparent lack of administration. It would appear that, judging by the comments made by staff, most teachers view the present administration of the school as ineffective and, in their opinion, do not encourage teacher enthusiasm for the job. It was indicated in the interviews that they (the teachers) are presently, going through the motions whilst they await a change, either in administration or their own careers.
4. A factor that seemed to hold some importance with teacher satisfaction/disillusionment is that of longevity in the teaching service. All senior teachers asked, meaning those teaching for 20 years or more, concur that they are now tired and do not posses much enthusiasm for the job. Mind you, in their defense, these teachers have seen a major part of the evolution of the teaching service and are not encouraged by both the preceding factors and that of Government policy. Be that as it may, in the words of one teacher, “I am tired and am just cruising until retirement,” seems to be the feeling of the majority of senior teachers.
4. HOW DO TEACHERS VIEW THEMSELVES AND THEIR STANDING IN SOCIETY? – In conversation, when one speaks of a third party and mentions that he/she is a doctor / lawyer / engineer, there is a certain awe implied whether by direct statement, intonation or inflection. It is a common viewpoint that such jobs are those of the cream of the crop and are respectable professions and to those privileged are accorded status in society.
Yet when one speaks of the teacher, it is without such overtones and indeed, teachers take the place of just one in the melee of occupations. Such were the thoughts of the teachers on staff.
Many teachers seem to think that there is no respect for the teacher outside of school. He/she may be respected whist they are in charge of a class of students but outside of the school gate, they are one of the average men / women in the street. Indeed, many of them thought that they were not even respected in their own community. Even viewing their own profession, teachers rank the teaching career as middle class and below those high status jobs such as doctors etc.
What was inferred is that at the end of the working day, despite their hard work and all that is expected of them in their role of the teacher, teachers do not feel appreciated for their work and this may be a contributing factor to their present disillusionment with the teaching service.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION
It would appear that even though teachers are universal, each working under his or her own particular conditions, that the general feelings / concepts of teachers are similar or parallel across the globe. It was particularly interesting to note that the results generated from my research were so compatible to the results of the study of Dr. Poppleton. However, there was a point of difference in the item that dealt with job satisfaction, where no one of Rio Claro High School claimed to derive satisfaction from their job while 22% of the international study responded that they were satisfied. What then could be the cause of the teachers at Rio Claro High School not being satisfied? While a few factors may have been unearthed during the research, this issue bears further investigation. It should be noted that some teachers were sensitive about certain areas of their school life being probed. As such, it may be difficult to gather data on the subject by direct methods such as the interview or even the questionnaire. I would recommend that another methodology be chosen such as a participatory one.
Whilst the results of Rio Claro High School may be similar to and comparable to the results of the Poppleton study, it must be admitted that my research is infinitesimally small as compared to research carried out on an international scale. The original study was performed in seven different countries in schools throughout the country selected. I have only scratched the surface of comparing both studies. For the results produced in Trinidad and Tobago to have any credibility and to properly compare results, I recommend that this research be taken to schools throughout the twin islands where it is hoped that the data generated would prove worthy of comparison to the original.
When dealing with the item of teacher satisfaction, it was discovered that students, staff and administration all had a part to play in the satisfaction of the individual teacher. While these factors are explained to some extent in Chapter 4, it is recommended that further research be carried out in these areas, identifying both negative and positive aspects of each and recommendations made as to how these issues may be resolved. It might even prove worthy to conduct such research in other schools to compare how other institutions resolve / do not resolve these issues.
One of the issues discussed was that of teacher role. It was found that teachers perform no singular role but at any given time, are performing different roles of varying natures both in the classroom and out of it. These roles are foisted upon the teacher whether he / she chooses to accept them or not.
Research into the role of the teacher should be carried out, both to define the role of the teacher as per his / her official duty and to discover the effects of these roles on the teacher, whether physical or mental. During the research, it was discovered that stress is a factor in the life and career of the teacher. An assessment should be done regarding how the role of the teacher contributes to overall stress in the individual teacher. This research should also be conducted nationwide in order to have conclusive evidence toward working out solutions to solving / alleviating teacher stress.
When discussing teacher – student interaction, it was stated that the focus of the teacher was more pastoral (child centered) than subject centered. It struck me that even though I was speaking to some of the more experienced teachers; most were never trained in pedagogy. I was left to wonder what their concept of pastoral / child centered and subject centered really was and if in actuality it was as they claimed, that their efforts were indeed child centered. Research into the actual nature of teacher – student interaction at Rio Claro High School is an area for future study. I would suggest that such research be carried out using the participatory approach and using the method of personal observation.
A point of interest came up during the interview sessions and it dealt with teacher enthusiasm / satisfaction. It was stated by a teacher quite plainly that as far as she was concerned, there was no enthusiasm and very little satisfaction in her career because she had been teaching too long and was drained. My personal observation as well as discussions held with other teachers makes me concur with the teacher’s statement since most of the older teachers were in agreement. An interesting idea for future research might be to plot the careers of teachers at Rio Claro High School whilst identifying “Critical incidents” or points where enthusiasm begins to wane and their causes. It may be that similar incidents may be found linking the teachers. Once these critical incidents can be found, solutions to the problem can be made and implemented.
In my opinion, the administration of the school plays an important role in the running of the school affairs, delivery of the curriculum and teacher / student motivation. An in depth investigation into the effectiveness or the problems experienced by the administration may help toward suggesting recommendations for the improved running of the school or toward motivating both teacher and student alike.
A factor identified as playing a part in teacher satisfaction is that of student discipline and its decline. A good area for future research would be to identify the factors causing this decline and to make appropriate recommendations thereof.
It may also be useful to conduct research among the students to discover what they expect of the school and its teachers so that the curriculum may be planned accordingly.
Although not arising from directly from the project, in light of the recent changes made by Government to the school and the implementation of its new policies, an assessment should be done to determine the effectiveness of the changes made and the impact on both teacher and student alike.
In conclusion, I would like to leave one final thought; at the beginning of this project, I experienced severe doubts about its validity as research capable of generating data. It seemed to me that the data collected, if any, would be minimal. I understand now, on completion of this chapter, how I have created a whole new set of information to be passed on to others and, furthermore, that one area of research can lead into the next as I have identified several areas for further research. Truly, the role of the researcher is a dynamic one for the quest for knowledge leads to the creation of new questions that need answering in a never-ending cycle. Therefore, I can see how important research can be to the lives of all an, in particular, educational research to the educator.
Successive themes of the teacher’s career cycle: a schematic model (Huberman)
Years of Themes / Phases
1 – 3 Career entry: “Survival”
4 – 6 Stabilisation
7 – 18 Experimentation / Reassessment/
“Activism” “Self – doubts’
19 – 30 Serenity / Relational Conservatism
31 – 40 Disengagement
“serene” or “bitter”
1. How long have you been a teacher?
2. Ideally, what do you think should be the function of the teacher?
3. What are your duties at school?
4. What other duties do you perform at school?
5. What, in your view are the qualities of an effective teacher?
6. Would you say that your involvement with the students is more pastoral (child centered) or subject centered?
7. Do you enjoy being a teacher? Why?
8. Which aspect of teaching do you enjoy the most? Why?
9. What do you enjoy the least?
10. What factors make you least enthusiastic for every class that you teach?
11. Do you feel challenged or overwhelmed when you enter a classroom?
12. Would you be satisfied if you were teaching in a school with a population of 1500 instead of 550?
13. What really concerns you about teaching?
14. What types of strategies do you use in the classroom?
15. Do your students respond to your methods?
16. Is your class interactive or passive as you teach?
17. Would you say that your focus is discipline when you are in the classroom?
18. Do you think that your administration plays an important part in how you feel as a teacher?
19. Are those feelings positive or negative?
20. What factors would motivate you to continue to teach?
21. What encourages you to teach?
22. If given the choice, would you leave teaching for another job?
23. Were you trained as a teacher?
24. Do you feel that teacher training can help improve your teaching skills?
25. Would you willingly consent to being trained in pedagogy?
26. Would you say that teachers are held in esteem in our society?
27. How do you view teachers’ standing in society?
28. Is teaching a career that commands respect from other professions?
29. Are you held in esteem in the community as a teacher/
30. Would you recommend teaching as a choice of career to young individuals seeking employment?
31. If not, why?
32. Where would you rank teaching among the listing of careers available?
QUESTIONNAIRE – MY CAREER
Please circle your answers to the questions
1. How long have you been a member of staff at Rio Claro High School?
A. 5years B. 10years C. 15 years D. 20years
2. Is this your first appointment?
a. YES b. NO
3. Was a teaching career?
a. YOUR FIRST CHOICE b. A LAST RESORT
c. DON’T REALLY KNOW
4. Did you want to become a teacher?
a. TO FULFIL YOUR WISHES
b. THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE AVAILABLE
c. YOU WERE PUSHED INTO IT
5. Were you trained as a teacher?
a. YES b. NO
6 Do you enjoy teaching?
a. YES b. NO
7 Do you believe
a. THERE IS A FUTURE IN TEACHING b. TEACHING IS A DEADEND CAREER
8. If offered, would you accept an administrative job?
a. YES b. NO
9. Do you believe that you are adequately remunerated for your services?
a. YES b. NO
10. What do you think, is a major factor that affects your job satisfaction?
d. ALL OF THE ABOVE
11. Do you teach your lessons with the same enthusiasm as when you began your career?
a. YES b. NO
12. Do you feel motivated to work as a teacher?
a. YES b. NO
13 How do you see yourself at school?
a. AS SOMEONE CAPABLE OF CLASSROOM WORK ONLY
b. AS SOMEONE FULFILLING A MULTI-FACETED ROLE AT SCHOOL
c. AS GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND YOUR EXPECTED ROLE.
d. DON’T KNOW
14. Do you fee capable of handling your role/s?
d. DON’T KNOW
15. In general, how much do you enjoy teaching AS AN OCCUPATION?
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
16. In general, how well would you say that teaching measures up to the SORT OF WORK YOU WANTED when you entered the profession?
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
17. Knowing what you know now, if you had to decide all over again whether to ENTER TEACHING, how likely is it that you would do so?
a. VERY LIKELY
b. QUITE LIKELY
c. NOT VERY LIKELY
d. NOT AT ALL LIKELY
18. Considering all things, and thinking about the TEACHING POST YOU PRESENTLY HOLD, how satisfied would you say you are with your present job?
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
19. To what extent is SUCCESS AT WORK important to you?
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
20. To what extent does matters connected with your work occupy your thoughts OUTSIDE WORKING HOURS?
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
21. To what extent do you want to know what is happening in school OUTSIDE your own classroom (e.g. policies or curriculum discipline, etc.)
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
22. All in all, how much STRESS do you experience in your present job?
a. A GREAT DEAL
b. TO SOME EXTENT
c. NOT MUCH
d. VERY LITTLE
Gopaul, Monica (1996) “The teachers’ role”, Trinidad Guardian 22nd September 1996. Trinidad.
Knutton, Stephen and G. Riseborough (1996) “The Lives and Careers of Teachers”, The Foundation Module- Unit six. Sheffield: Division of Education, University of Sheffield.
Menlo, Allen & Poppleton, Pam (Eds) (1999) The Meanings of Teaching an International Study of Secondary Teachers’ Work Lives. Westport, Conneticut. London: Bergin & Garvey.
Pat Ellis Associates Inc. (1995) Educational Research, A Caribbean Perspective & Guide. UNESCO CARNEID. Trinidad & Tobago: Morton Publishing.
Ryan, Kevin (1999) ‘Teaching in Other Nations’, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia. 1993 – 1998 Microsoft Corporation.