10 SES 08 B, Supporting New Teachers: Networking and Induction
This paper builds on the results of the research project "The construction of identities of primary school teachers during their initial training and early work" (MINECO.EDU2010-20852-C02-01) and explores the relationships established between novice primary school teachers and their colleagues as well as the roles played by the other teachers as a group and as individuals.
The growing interest about the situations, processes and experiences related to how teachers construct and negotiate their identities (Sfard and Prusak, 2005) seems to be directly associated with the failure of the educational reforms in changing teachers’ notions about learning and teaching, childhood and youth or what is a good teaching practice (Sarason, 1990). Authors such as Gergen (1992), Burr (1995), Kincheloe (2001) or O’Loughilin (2001) argue that the teacher’s identity is socially constructed and changes with time, societies and groups. The idea of identity as something unified, complete, sure and coherent seems inadequate to understand how different people in different contexts construct and feel their sense of being. The notion of identity is certainly a social construction but not a deterministic one. Walkerdine (2000), Giddens (1995), Luke (1999) and others have also argued that the professional identity is not fixed and static and can’t be simply separated into categories.
The construction of the teacher’s identity entails accessing to a community of discourse (Gee, 2001), which begins before the arrival of the novice teacher at the school. Lave and Wenger (1991) state that the construction of the identity of the novice teacher happens mainly after they become part of a community of practice that may be the university itself or the school. Likewise, those communities find themselves in a process of change and so we are talking about a two-way process of change. Because of that, Wenger (1998) says that the members of a community of practice construct their identities jointly.
To understand the relationships established between the novice teachers and their colleagues we used Lacan’s notion of otherness (Padilla-Petry, P. and Hernández Hernandez, F., 2010). Such notion allows us to comprehend these relationships in two different dimensions. The first is to consider the Other as a symbolic place that defines the constitution of the subject and demands something unknown and uncertain (Roudinesco & Plon, 2000). The group of teachers of a school that tries to assimilate the novice teacher may be understood by him or her as the Other with their implicit and explicit demands. To loose oneself in the Other and to be just one more of a group of people is an option that comes with an imaginary ideal (Lacan, 1991). Imaginary stands here for a total image, and so Lacan is referring to an image of an ideal that one may have by belonging to a group that is seen as a group of undifferentiated people, a mass of people. Thus, by belonging to this mass of teachers, a novice teacher may share an imaginary ideal of a teacher.
The second dimension allowed by Lacan’s theory is the relationship with the other. If the colleagues are not perceived only as an undifferentiated group of people, each one of them may be seen as the other (and not the Other), which means someone that allows comparisons, identifications, rivalries and disidentifications. When it is possible to recognize the differences and the other is no longer just a member of a monolithic group, the novice teacher may learn from the differences and resemblances between him or her and the colleagues. Furthermore, there would be no longer something like an ideal teacher or an imaginary ideal of teacher shared by the group.
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