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Michelle Ludecke, a PhD student at Deakin, recently took part in the final of the University's Three Minute Thesis competition. This is an edited version of her presentation.
Think about a first time … the first time something important happened to you.
Maybe you’re thinking about your first day of school?
Or holding your child for the first time…
or your first kiss…
Are you thinking of one?
I bet, whether it’s positive or negative, it’s something interesting – dramatic, emotional and somehow a measure of what you find important. This is what’s powerful about firsts and I want to harness this power and put it to use in getting to the heart of what it takes to become a good teacher.
Now you’re thinking about ‘firsts’ let me give you some context.
We all know the Australian Government is searching for ways to promote ‘quality teaching’. But what does ‘quality teaching’ look like and how do you become a quality teacher? And can we measure ‘quality teaching’ just by students’ NAPLAN or Year 12 scores?
The answers may assist us to recognise, reward and retain quality teachers, particularly when nearly 50% of beginning teachers leave the profession within 5 years.
My research focus is on beginning teachers and the formation of their identity, in their first year of teaching. So I’m using their firsts to understand how they become quality teachers. Let me give you an example.
The first time one of my participants was told ‘You’re hot Miss – my brother told me to tell you that’; it was described as ‘only a little thing.’
But the teacher used this ‘little thing’ to reflect on her teacher persona and professional boundaries particularly because she’s teaching at a school she used to be a student at.
She knew in the moment that the comment crossed the line she thought she’d created between her old student self and her new teacher self.
She reacted by talking to the student outside the classroom about how his comment was inappropriate.
More importantly she reflected on how she could prevent something like this happening again - by making more explicit her expectations of her students.
So what this example shows us is a snapshot of how powerful firsts can be as a lens to investigate ways beginning teachers develop quality teaching practices, when it’s still unclear as to how quality teaching can be defined and measured.
By researching what beginning teachers do with their firsts we may understand more about what it takes to become a good teacher.