Providing support for first-year, alternatively certified, bilingual teachers in high-poverty, urban elementary schools



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This study sought to explore the experiences of first year, alternatively certified, bilingual teachers in high-poverty, urban elementary schools. The three areas of focus for this study were (a) the support and professional growth needs of these particular teachers, (b) the strategies and sources identified that best meet those needs, and (c) the experiences of the participants. Data for this study were collected using in-depth interviews and observations with three, alternatively certified, bilingual, first year teachers, their teacher mentors, and their principals. The interviews began with open-ended questions; subsequent questions were generated from the participants’ responses. As each interview was completed, the interview was transcribed and analyzed. Data analysis began with a process of coding the participants’ responses to develop categories and themes. Themes that emerged from the participants’ responses in the first area of focus included the need for praise, recognition and appreciation, professional autonomy, self-confidence, technical information about school operations, and needs related to professional development. Most dominant in the study was the beginning teachers’ need to manage time and stress. The themes that emerged from the data in the second area of focus included that the teachers employed personal background experiences, applied professional development learning, and engaged in reflective practice. Also, the teachers received support from school staff members including the teacher’s mentor and the principal. Outside of the school, the alternative certification program cohort group, family, and friends provided support. Two themes dominated the data in the third area of focus for this study—the experiences of the first year teachers. First, each of the beginning teachers expressed a strong personal sense of calling to be a teacher and dedication to their students. Second, the home/family lives of the students served, given the particular circumstance of poverty and a home language other than English, were cited both as a source of challenge and as a source of reward.