At what stage are you at?
You might not be familiar with the “Phases of First Year Teaching,” documented by New Teacher Center Founder and Ellen Moir but it might ring a few bells.
It’s not the only model illustrating developmental stages of teachers but it is a useful one.
It can be used as a guide to recognise the phases newly qualified teachers go through in their first year and the ups and downs they experience. As we are now in the month of November then some disillusionment might be setting in.
Image: Wisconsin Education Association Council
Moir’s phases are as follows:
1. Anticipation Phase
This begins during the trainee year as student teachers get to completing their placements. This is an anxious but exciting time and many can romanticise the role of the teachers and their first position. Newly qualified teachers enter with a huge commitment to making a difference and a somewhat idealistic view of how to accomplish their goals. This feeling of nervous excitement is something NQTs carry through the first few weeks of school.
2. Survival Phase
The first month of school is very overwhelming for NQTs because there is so much to take in and learn. All of a sudden they are facing a tsunami of issues and are bombarded with a variety of problems and situations. The realities of teaching hit hard and so NQTs can find they struggle to keep their heads above water.
They become very focused and consumed with the day-to-day routine of teaching. There is little time to stop and reflect on their experiences. It is not uncommon for new teachers to spend up to seventy hours a week on schoolwork.
NQTs are particularly overwhelmed with curriculum issues and developing lessons for the first time which is very time consuming.
3. Disillusionment Phase
After the first half-term of nonstop work and stress, NQTs can enter the disillusionment phase. They realise that things are hard and impostor syndrome can be an issue as some disenchantment sets in. NQTs start questioning both their commitment and their competence and can go off sick.
The second-half term is full of stress and contains some tricky events such as parent’s evenings and the run up to Christmas.
They express self-doubt, have lower self-esteem, and question their profession commitment. In fact, getting through this phase may be the toughest challenge new teachers face.
4. Rejuvenation Phase
Post-Christmas there is light at the end of the tunnel and NQTs start to shift their attitudes toward teaching because they have survived the first half of the year. The festive break really makes a difference and seeing family and friends helps enormously along with rest, social time and exercise. It’s a breath of fresh air and a chance to recharge.
They seem ready to put past problems behind them. A better understanding of the system, an acceptance of the realities of teaching, and a sense of accomplishment help to rejuvenate new teachers.
NQTs start to develop coping strategies and skills so they can prevent, reduce, or manage the problems they are likely to face. Rejuvenated, NQTs focus on curriculum development, long-term planning, and teaching strategies.
5. Reflection Phase
May is a good time for NQTs despite the reports that need doing. This is ‘almost there’ territory and so they can start to think back over the year and consider their highs and lows. They start to plan for their second year as an experienced teacher which brings a new wave of anticipation.
They think about the various changes that they plan to make the following year in management, curriculum, and teaching strategies.
Moir argues that experienced staff need to understand the phases that NQTs can go through because the transitions can be rough without support. In fact, without support, some NQTs might not make it to phase 5. Support programmes are therefore crucial which acknowledge the roller coaster ride that is the first year of teaching.