Teaching firsts helping to unlock the key to 'what makes a good teacher'

1 July 2011

"You're hot miss," the student yelled across the classroom, "My brother told me to tell you that."

Inappropriate? Embarrassing? The anecdote is just one of the many Deakin University's PhD candidate Michelle Ludecke is hearing as she speaks to first year teachers about their experiences in the classroom.

The experiences are part of Michelle's PhD thesis which is looking at what makes good teachers, and will form part of her 'pitch' at the University's finals of its Three Minute Thesis competition on July 7.

"I believe that beginning teachers learn a lot about becoming good teachers through their experiences – particularly in their first year of teaching," Michelle explained.

"The first year is a period full of drama and emotion, exhaustion and elation.

"Ask any teacher about their first year of teaching and they will tell you about one of their 'firsts'.

"The first time something important happened to them."

Michelle said the firsts were particularly important as it was during this time teachers were on a steep curve, making mistakes and learning from them but also having good moments as well all of which formed their teaching personality and were stored away for use in future situations.

"What made the experience of the teacher who was told she was hot intriguing is that the teacher had attended the school as a student and the brother was in her year, her protagonist knew her from that context," Michelle said.

"She used this incident to reflect on how to create a persona that was 'the teacher' not the friend while acknowledging the past connections."

Michelle said the first year was also the time teachers realised they were 'a teacher' "this is my class' and as they looked back realised how much they had learned since then.

But spare a thought for the first year teacher who was sworn at in class for the first time, a challenging question for many teachers.

"It turned out that swearing was part of the culture of the school, students used it flippantly and without aggression," Michelle explained.

"They were not however to direct it at a teacher.

"For first year teachers it's about how they adapt to their new environment."

Further information:

Finals of the Three Minute Thesis will be held in Western Australia on Thursday 29 September 2011.

Research students have three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis topic and its significance in a language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.

News facts
  • Beginning teachers learn a lot about becoming good teachers through their experiences – particularly in their first year of teaching
  • PhD thesis looks at what makes good teachers

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/0422 005 485

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1st July 2011