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Beginning teachers: modern day robinson crusoes

David Battersby

These are comments from the noted Sociologist, Willard Waller, in 1932. After 50 years and nearly 500 research papers there  seems to have been little change. Indeed, in recent literature one finds repeated reference to 'discipline' and 'classroom methods' problems, as well as to the 'idealism' of young neophyte teachers. Coupled with this are numerous emotive gems: beginning teachers are 'strangers in an unfamiliar environment never equipped with a sense of belonging'; all new teachers have 'formidable', 'painful', 'confusing' and 'frightening' experiences which 'panic' and 'terrify' them; while one author even refers to the 'undesirable gastric distress' which often besets young uninitiated teachers. Is it true that all beginning teachers suffer such hardships, distresses and problems during their first year of teaching? To date, our surveys and questionnaires tend to suggest that our beginning teachers are like Robinson Crusoes, each alone on his island, struggling to survive with a few bits and pieces salvaged from the wreck.

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