The Lived Experience of Beginning Teachers Defining their Pedagogical Way of Being

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This hermeneutic phenomenological study explores the lived experience of beginning teachers defining their pedagogical way of being. Many beginning teachers have found frustration and disillusionment during their first year in the classroom, leading to high levels of attrition. Those beginning teachers who remain in the classroom may develop a way of being that opposes how they are as an individual and that pulls them further from the students in their care. How do the individuals who experience this phenomenon make meaning of that experience? What insights about the preparation and support of beginning teachers can be drawn from these experiences?

This research is conducted in the tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology, grounded in the work of philosophers such as Heidegger (1962), Gadamer (2006/1975), and Merleau-Ponty (1962). Drawing from these philosophers, van Manen (1997) provides a detailed process used to conduct this form of research. This methodology serves to uncover the essences of this phenomenon, eliciting lived experience through hermeneutic conversation.

To uncover the nature of the lived experience of beginning teachers defining their pedagogical way of being, six participants were recruited from urban, suburban, and rural secondary public schools in a south central county in Pennsylvania. The phenomenological text from this study not only reiterates the often noted "challenges" inherent in the first year experience, but also identifies a language of beginning. I seek to understand this language by connecting it to the three Buddhist ways of being, which guides my questioning of the "basics" of the beginning teaching experience, offering a new way of being in the flowing language of becoming.

The experiences shared by the participants in this study uncovered many insights that may assist those charged with the care of beginning teachers during the periods of pre-service "formation" and in-service "orientation." I suggest the importance of "reflective conversations" to elicit the language of beginning, facilitated by a caring mentor. As the languages of "blockheadedness" and "splitheadedness" emerge, varying supports may be implemented to permit reflection and growth.