Vulnerability and resilience: Working lives and motivation of four novice EFL secondary school teachers in Japan
Contributor(s)Casanave, Christine Pearson
Beglar, David; Childs, Marshall; Rosenkjar, Patrick; Sawyer, Mark
KeywordsForeign Language Instruction; Educational Psychology; Teacher Education
English as a foreign language; narrative inquiry; teacher development; teacher motivation
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This study is a longitudinal, qualitative, interpretive inquiry into the work motivation of four novice EFL teachers at public secondary schools in Japan. I employed constructivism as my philosophical framework and narrative inquiry as my primary methodological tool, and attempted to capture the four young teachers’ changing motivation as embedded in their life histories and teaching trajectories over their first two years of teaching. The narratives of the four participants, constructed mainly from the multiple interviews, revealed various kinds of tensions in their transitions from student to teacher. Such tensions included a chasm between classroom realities and their beliefs, conflicts between collegiality and individuality, and also tensions that derived from the inherent nature of teaching such as uncertainty, extensive range of duties, and reflection on the self. In varying degrees and frequencies, all these tensions damaged the participants’ occupational motivation, demonstrating the vulnerable side of novice teachers’ motivation. The same narratives, however, also displayed a completely opposite feature of young teachers’ motivation: resilience. In the midst of the adverse circumstances, the participants continued to engage in the profession, sometimes restoring their motivation through interactions with students and colleagues, and other times returning to their original goals and ambitions. Among various sources of the sturdiness of their motivation, what was unique to novice teachers was a sense of discovery (Huberman, 1993). The four teachers’ discoveries included not only learning about teaching techniques or social norms but also new understandings of themselves as a teacher, and as a person. Although the process of negotiating and reshaping their self-concepts (Dörnyei, 2005, 2009; Markus & Nurius, 1986) disturbed their emotions and damaged their motivation temporarily, all four participants exhibited robustness of their self-concepts and motivation when they rediscovered their motivational goals at a higher level of self-awareness. The four young teachers’ narratives invite authorities such as policy makers, teacher educators, school administrators, and researchers to seek ways to support the growth of young teachers more effectively. In my conclusion, I suggest several measures to reduce the amount of tension and pressure to ease novice teachers’ entry into secondary school teaching.