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Working At Rio Claro High School – A Teachers’ Perspective Essay, Research Paper

Table of Contents























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.

Objectives –

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.

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