Becoming a teacher: breaking silences

Yesterday I wrote about my journey to becoming a teacher. I did not become a teacher the day I walked out of university. I was trained as a teacher but it took many years for me to become a teacher.

Often transition takes years. There is a lot written about how to act in the first year of a new education environment. There is a lot written about what we should know and what we should do. There are myriads of competing ideas about what a good induction or orientation looks like. What drops through the gaps is often the very challenging identity work that happens as you move from being a university student to becoming a teacher.

How do we shift into our new identities in our new environments? It takes a long time to feel like a teacher even though we might call ourselves teachers.

A lot of the first year of teaching is learning what not to say and how not to act. Negotiating new personalities and politics.  A university degree cannot make you classroom ready let alone system ready. That is what the first probationary year of teacher registration is for. You will not really know what it is like to be a teacher until you get paid for it. Once you begin to associate your day with the amount in your bank account at the end of the week is when you will really know if you want to be a teacher.

Once you begin to tell yourself that permanent work comes with a certain type of behaviour or performance, then you begin to pick and choose what you talk about with colleagues and what you keep silent about. You may hide that you don’t really know how to do something. You might be less than honest about how your Year 9 class is to teach. You might talk about the student centered activities you have facilitated and played down the amount of  direct instruction. You might be buying things for your classes because it is easier than ordering them through the school budget. You tell your official mentor that things are going well but cry into your pillow at night.

You take a big breath, hold your head high, tell  yourself it is only five hours out of your day and walk back in. You can fake it till you make it.


Teaching has a massive attrition rate. The availability of secondary teaching staff is reaching a critical point. It is not that we don’t have enough teachers in Australia. We have plenty. But they are no longer in teaching.

I spent a long time wondering if I should post yesterday’s blog. What will people think of me if they find out I hated teaching for the first five years? What if they found out I was in it for the subject rather than the kids? Will it affect my future career? Will people take me seriously as an educational researcher interested in school transitions?

I took a big breath. Wrote out my early career experiences because the silence needs to be broken. Being a teacher is not easy and it is not smooth sailing. It takes years to become one.

I am not saying that early career teachers should break their silence. I am saying experienced teachers should. When a dynamic and well regarded teacher says that they had a terrible second prac, it demonstrates something that cannot be taught in a pedagogy or curriculum class.

Breaking the silence demonstrates that we learn by jumping hurdles; not by pretending they don’t exist. In fact, the more hurdles we jump the better we get at it. Maybe this way we can encourage trained teachers to stay in schools and become teachers.



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