2013. Vol.4, No.4A, 1-8
Published Online April 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce) DOI:10.4236/ce.2013.44A001
First Months in Teaching—Novices Relate to Their Difficulties
Gordon College of Education, Haifa, Israel
Received March 12th, 2013; revised April 10th, 2013; accepted April 25 th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ditza Maskit. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribu-
tion License, which permits unrestr ic ted u se, distribution, and r eproduction in any medium, provided the original
work is properly cited.
The study aimed to identify the main hardships and challenges encountered by teaching interns and the
ways in which they cope with these difficulties, as they emerged from personal diaries that the interns
kept in the first year of teaching. Findings from the diaries identified the following main categories of
hardship on entering the profession: 1) difficulties in the personal dimension, including difficulties in-
volved in navigating between private and professional lives; 2) difficulties in the personal-professional
dimension relating to the transition from the status of student to the status of internship; 3) difficulties in
the inter-personal dimension including communication with colleagues and parents and a sense of isola-
tion; 4) difficulties in the professional dimension including coping with the complexity of teaching, han-
dling a class and burdensome workloads. The findings also relate to coping strategies employed by the
interns to cope with these difficulties. Early pre-service teaching including exposure to the difficulties in-
volved in teaching may facilitate initial work experiences, lessen the shock of the first plunge into the
classroom and reduce the phenomenon of early dropout from the profession.
Keywords: Internship; Interns’ Coping Strategies; Interns’ Hardships; Interns’ Diaries
Entry into the Teaching Profession
To enter the teaching profession is to cross a bridge between
an incomplete experience, teaching under controlled conditions
as an intern and the assumption of all the obligations of the real
world of the classroom and the school. Although teaching is
perceived as a formative experience both before practical train-
ing starts (Lortie, 1975; Weinstein, 1990), and throughout the
training course (Britzman, 1991; Stoeber & Rennert, 2008), the
actual entry stage is nonetheless important in developing a
fuller and more realistic perception of teaching (Cochran-Smith,
2004) and in forming attitudes and perceptions vis-à-vis the
unique characteristics of the profession. This stage begins the
shaping of the teacher’s professional development that will
continue throughout their career (Gaudelli & Ousley, 2009;
Johnson, 2004; Loughran, 2004). Research relating to the first
year of teaching1 indicates that it exposes the novice teacher to
information concerning teaching work and its complexity, the
broad spectrum of its roles, the great responsibility and com-
mitment it involves, and the variety of people engaged in this
Additionally research on this stage of the profession dis-
cusses circles that support interns (Colley, 2002; Feiman-
Nemser, 1983; Harrison, Dymoke, & Pell, 2006; Hawkey, 1997;
Hobson, Hobson, Malderez, Kerr, Tracey, Pell, & Tomlinson,
2005; Kyriacou & Kune, 2007; Leshem, 2008; Rippon, &
Martin, 2006; Schmidt, & Knowles, 1995; Wang, 2000) and
relates to the difficulties facing interns and novice teachers at
the inception of their teaching career. Predominant among these
difficulties are “organizational difficulties” expressed in en-
counters with the organizational culture of the schools, includ-
ing the principals and the role that they play (Spindler & Biott,
2000; Kelchtermans & Ballet, 2002). Novice teachers voice the
expectation that the school’s organizational culture will be clear
and supportive, and the work environment will promote per-
sonal and professional fulfillment, valuing the newcomer per-
sonally and professionally (Friedman, 2004; Gavish & Fried-
man, 2010). Since research has shown that the school’s or-
ganizational culture and the novice’s encounter with it are both
formative factors for their careers as teachers, difficulties in
first encounters with the organization can produce disappoint-
ment and frustration for new teachers. Such difficulties may
include assignment of the teacher to a large number of classes,
a split timetable and awkward hours, expectations to perform
the same duties and responsibilities as experienced teachers
(Andrews, Gilbert & Martin, 2007; Angelle, 2006; Darling-
Hammond, 2003), as well as assignments to teach student
populations with behavioral and academic problems. An addi-
tional area of difficulty mentioned in the research literature
relates to student “discipline problems” and class management
(Hobson, Malderez, Tracey, Giannakaki, Pell, & Tomlinson,
2008; Jarvis & Algozzine, 2006; Jarvis & Algozzzine, 2006;
Kyriacou & Kune, 2007). Other difficulties relate to the new
teacher’s teaching abilities, including difficulties regarding
1It is noted that concepts such as “interns”, “Newly Qualified Teachers
(NQT)”, “beginners” and “novices” are all used in the relevant research
literature to relate to new teachers during the first stage of their professional
work. In Israel a distinction is drawn between interns (experiencing their
first year of teaching in the educational system) and novice teachers who
have successfully completed the first probationary year, yet are still consid-
ered to be n ewcomers to the p rofession. The p resent study relat es to interns
in their first year of teaching.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 1
lesson preparation, adapting the teaching to the class level and
the extent of the students’ interest, and relations with parents
(Sánchez, Rosaes, & Cañedo, 1999; Romano, 2004; Veenman,
1984). Jarvis and Algozzine (2006) relate to difficulties that
arise concerning content and curriculum knowledge, student
evaluation, and the design of tests, quizzes, and other instru-
ments to evaluate what the students have achieved (Athanases
& Achinstein, 2003).
The burden of extra-role factors imposed on the interns must
also be considered as a difficulty expressed in time constric-
tions, onerous paperwork, a need for planning time, non-in-
structional duties, long role-related and non-role-related meet-
ings (Gilbert, 2005; Jarvis & Algozzzine, 2006). Other studies
show that the intern’s “status” in the school may cause diffi-
culty, especially when novices sense alienation and isolation in
the school, and they need emotional support to overcome these
feelings (Austin-Huling, 1992; Harrison, Lawson & Wortley,
2005a, 2005b; Stanulis, Burrill, & Ames, 2007).
The difficulties reviewed above and the ways in which new
teachers cope with them constitute an indivisible part of their
early work in school.
In the last decade in Israel, much thought and activity has
been invested in studying the first stages of a teacher’s career
and programs have developed to improve orientation and sup-
port for novice teachers. Given these developments it becomes
important to identify typical difficulties that arise when the
intern enters the teaching profession.
The present study therefore focused on the following ques-
Which main difficulties characterize the first year of teaching
Which strategies are employed by interns to cope with the
difficulties they are exposed to in their first work year?
Entry into the Teaching Profession in Israel
In order to be accredited with a teaching certificate from the
Ministry of Education all new teachers in Israel must experi-
ence a one-year internship (the induction). During this period,
they are defined as interns and required to work at least 1/3 of
the statutory hours of a full-time teacher. Two circles support
the intern during their internship year: 1) Each new teacher is
assigned a mentor from the school. The mentor is expected both
to support and assist the interns, to supervise their work and to
conduct a formative and summative assessment of their pro-
gress as a teacher2 (Ministry of Education, 2000); 2) Interns
participate in a weekly support workshop at one of the teacher
education institutions (university or college). Interns are award-
ed a license to practice the teaching profession after complying
successfully with the evaluation and completing all internship
duties. After obtaining their license the interns become novice
teachers for a period of two years. The introductory stage of
teaching in Israel is therefore spread over a period of three
years and the present study deals only with the first year of
entry into teaching—the year of internship.
The Research Method
Participants were 50 interns; 45 females and 5 males, chosen
as a purposeful sample (Patton, 2002) to represent the intern
population participating in intern support workshops in an op-
timal manner. The population was drawn from three weekly
support workshops operating in three teacher training institutes.
All participants expressed interest and involvement in the writ-
ing of their journals. All of them had just finished their training
and had been assigned to elementary schools as interns.
The research presents an analysis of the interns’ reflections
as they were recorded in their diaries during the first month of
their internship year. Their reflections recorded the experiences
of the processes they underwent during this year. Personal dia-
ries have been employed as a research tool in previous studies
to inquire into the lives of interns through their reflective writ-
ing (Gilar, Maria de los Angeles & Castejón, 2007; Stoughton,
2007) and have been used to describe the practical experiences
of students, novice teachers and teachers in general (Clark &
Lampert, 1990; Duckworth, 1977; Francis, 1995; Gilar, et al.,
2007; Kitching, Morgan, & O’Leary, 2009; Leavy, McSorley,
& Boté, 2007; Leshem & Trafford, 2006; Maskit & Yaffa, 2010;
Sykes & Bird, 1992). Keeping a diary and recording reflections
on their experiences makes it possible for narrators to develop a
critical attitude and to take a second look at events (Connelly &
Clandinin, 1988; Connelly et al., 1997; Handal & Lauvas, 1987)
and to develop critical thinking. This process enables teachers
to study and evaluate themselves and consequently to develop
their skills (Lampert & Clark, 1990; Sykes & Bird, 1992). The
reflective thinking of the interns concerning their work served
as a primary source allowing the researcher to gain a “back-
stage” view of their trials and experiences.
As part of their participation in the weekly support workshop,
participants were asked to keep an open personal diary. Each
intern was asked to send a detailed personal weekly report (a
total of 4 reports for a month) to the group instructor by e-mail.
The reports described processes they experienced in their
teaching work during that week. Interns were not required to
relate to any specific subjects, so that the choice of subjects and
manner of description and the scope and timing of the events,
writing style etc. were left to their discretion. The workshop
supervision read the diary entries and provided feedback at
least twice a month. The findings of the present research are
based on the 50 diaries of the participants, including 400
weekly reports that were sent to the supervisors during the first
two months of their internship.
Analysis and Interpreta ti on of Findin gs
Qualitative content analysis was applied to the findings (Pat-
ton, 2002), allowing the author to examine the data as a whole,
identifying themes and grouping them into categories. This
strategy allows the researcher to observe and understand the
writers’ individual worlds through their writing (Elbaz-Luwisch,
2002; Richardson, 1994), and to infer insights from the content
(Clandinin, 1986; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1990; Strauss &
Corbin, 1994). This analysis has been employed in various
research studies to understand the new teacher’s world (Butt &
Raymond, 1989; Floden & Huberman, 1989; Hargreaves, 1995;
After analyzing the content, through open coding (Strauss,
1987) several subjects were found to recur with conspicuous
2These proc esses are performed th ro ugh observ ation, and mentoring sessions
providing feedback and operativ e suggestio n s .
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
frequency, allowing the identification of a number of categories
and components. The unit of analysis was the “episode”—a
limited independent content unit relating to a single event or
The qualitative analysis focused on the difficulties to which
the interns were exposed in their work and the coping strategies
they employed to deal with these difficulties. Other content
categories including inter alia the supportive workshop, the
relationship between the intern and the workshop mentor, and
the interns’ evaluation process, were separated from the overall
system of data and were not included in the derivation of the
findings. The findings were therefore only based on some of the
categories collected during the research.
Each participant signed a consent form. Confidentiality of all
details was strictly maintained and anonymity of the interns
Analysis of the diaries revealed that the interns experienced
various types of difficulties during their first year in teaching
and employed various coping strategies to deal with each of
these difficulties. The identified types of difficulties and coping
strategies are now described by category and illustrated with
quotations from the diaries. All names are fictitious.
Difficulties in the Personal Dimension
One of the intial personal difficulties that most interns
immediately face on entry into the teaching profession is their
doubt concerning their ability to maneuver between the de-
mands of work and family. During their studies as pre-service
teachers they looked forward to become professional teachers
as well as parents, but they often did not realize how difficult it
would be to cope simultaneously with the demands of both
family an d workloads:
I was worried about the long journeys to and from school
and the restricted free time I would have with my new born
I didn’t know how I’d manage to be both a teacher and a
I waited three years to become a mother, I thought that I
would manage to work as a teacher while raising children but
dealing with the reality is quite shocking. I have no time, no
money and many demands; it is so hard (Dora).
This dilemma is echoed in words of Shir: “I can’t stay after
school hours because my child’s kindergarten closes at exactly
13:00” and of Shani “the school is far from my home… I arrive
barely breathing… in college I began to study at 9:00, but now
I have to arrive earlier”, while a male teacher, Alon writes: “I
can’t do this financially, buying additional software for geog-
raphy, and I don’t have the reservoir of computer programs that
I had in college”. Rama explained the difficulty she experi-
When I studied in college I was a student and students are
allowed absences in up to 20% of the lessons… it was a good
arrangement. This week my baby felt bad but I couldn’t stay at
home, I don’t have a 20% allowance. I had to go to the class…
the class had a maths exam and I had no replacement.
Rama explained the mechanisms she employed to cope with
I went to work feeling bad that a “stranger” was looking af-
ter my baby. This feeling accompanied me until I entered the
classroom. When I saw the children I understood that I wasn’t
neglecting my daughter. I’m simply a teacher with commitment
and responsibility. This thought comforted me.
This perception of the importance of her role as a teacher
made it easier for her to cope with the difficulty. Other diaries
described similar situations:
In the end I ordered the new software that I needed for
teaching. Although it was at the expense of my family I under-
stood that I needed the program for my regular work, to ad-
vance and succeed at work… I decided to buy the program
despite the cost (Alon).
I understood that if I wanted to do my work properly, to have
time to talk with the students, colleagues, I needed to stay an
extra hour… I asked the babysitter to stay longer so that I
could function better in school… I understood it was an in-
These contents reveal that the interns tend to base their ar-
rangements on their perception of their role as teachers includ-
ing their sense of the responsibility and commitment required
for the profession. This perception, professional in substance,
represents the beginning of a professional progression and
serves as a lever for the interns’ decision-making, when coping
with the need for commitment to their role as teachers despite
their family commitments.
Difficulties in the Personal-Professional Dimension
The interns’ narratives revealed that the transition from being
a student to becoming a teacher constitutes a predominant dif-
ficulty in the first year of teaching. This was described exten-
sively throughout all the diaries, and especially in the first
weeks of their work.
The era of being a student ended. Instructions ended. There
are other commitments I am a teacher in a classroom; if I don’t
plan I won’t know what to teach. I can no longer afford not to
understand because I am the one who has to explain. It was
easier to be a student because I could allow myself “conces-
sions”. I was given consideration because I was a student; I
was allowed not to know, not to understand. Now that’s no
longer so. It’s a rapid change, just yesterday I was a student
and today I’m already a teacher. I have to quickly get used to it
and to ensure that the students don’t feel I’m a new teacher and
don’t relate to me like a student teacher visiting the class.
Anat experienced the significance of “being a teacher”. The
responsibility involved in being a teacher is well described in
her diary, in contrast to her time as a student. The diary re-
vealed that Anat understood that being a teacher means arriving
at the class on time, planning lessons, and establishing her new
status as a teacher. Later she described the strategies that she
adopted to succeed in this mission:
I felt that I needed to find a way that would help me to pro-
gress… I decided to proceed step by step. I pre pared a chart, I
recorded all the tasks that I needed to perform, the resources
that could help me, the time that it would take to perform the
tasks and all the time I was telling myself “now I’m a teacher”.
Anat used structured tactics and conducted a dialogue with
herself concerning the change that had occurred in her status.
Yael3 describes the transition from the status of student to
that of a teacher from a different viewpoint. She misses the
3A detailed analysis of Yael’s diary was described in another article (Maskit
& Dickman, 2006).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 3
college, which constituted a safe place for personal growth and
describes the difficulty involved in the transition to teaching: I
understand why this transition is difficult for me. In the college
I always felt safe, a sense of confidence… I felt comfortable in
the college, felt secure to do things and experiment, even when
I had problems… I always had someone to talk to, I felt that
they listened to me, that I could tell them and be understood. …
even when I had problems or made mistakes, I felt that in the
college they reinforced me… The difference is that now I can’t
make mistakes, and there is no-one with whom I can talk or ask
advice at the class I can get advice from my mentor only after
the lesson … I don’t have someone to “watch over me”.
Later she wrote:
In college when I was a student I only wanted to be a teacher
and now this transition worries me. They taught me everything
in the college… to teach, to plan, to set goals, to consider the
students, to educate the students… suddenly I have to perform
everything I was taught. To be a teacher, to act as they taught
me and I cannot make a mistake.
The difficulty involved in the transition to teaching that
mainly relates to a lack of confidence, isolation, and a sense
that as a teacher “you cannot make a mistake” was also evident
in other places in Yael’s diary. Later on she described how she
copes with this transition:
As a student I wanted to be like my teachers, they had pro-
fessional power, knowledge, and pedagogic knowledge. They
knew how to teach, to explain… when I was a student the men-
tor teacher solved the problems… now the problems are mine,
so I decided to be clear when I instructed the students; to do
things slowly but surely.
This solution, coping in stages and in a focused manner was
proposed in several of the diaries, and suggested as an effective
solution on the way to becoming a teacher’.
An additional area of difficulty in the personal-professional
dimension that all the interns described in their diaries was a
sense of isolation and alienation in the school: “I’m really
alone” (Yael); “in contrast to the college, I feel foreign and
Mostly they coped with loneliness and alienation with the
help of their mentor teacher. Interns indicated that the mentor’s
support was very significant; explaining how the mentor be-
came a “professional friend”, increasing their motivation to
When I meet with my mentor I feel that she improves my mo-
tivation, challenges me to work better and resolves my feeling
of isolation (Tamar).
Recently I’ve noticed that she [the mentor] listens to me and
helps me in precisely those situations where I’m having prob-
lems and difficulties (Annette).
She assists me all the time, she really listens, she really pro-
vides the help I need (Yael). She has become a real friend at
school, a professional friend helping me (Galya).
The weekly workshops constituted the second support circle.
The diaries frequently referred to the supportive workshops
provided by the training colleges as important resources, which
improved the interns’ ability to think more deeply.
From time to time I ran into problems... I talked about them
at the workshop and the other intern s suggested recommenda-
tions and solutions from different angles… This is a most help-
ful aspect of the workshop, different ways to solve a problem.
From the very first workshop session I felt that the advice
and guidance, direction, help and experience was essential to
keep difficulties to a minimum during the first year (Susan);
I got so much encouragement and support from the work-
shops, it provided strength and help for this difficult entry into
the profession. I felt that the workshop was the most practical
part of all (Annette).
The workshop also helped interns to overcome their difficul-
ties and increased motivation to teach: “Every Wednesday after
the workshop I feel stronger, more motivated” (Gil); “I’m eager
to go into class on Thursday and to try out what I’ve heard and
what I’ve learned.” (Iris).
The experience of being together at the workshops, as a
group of interns, provided the interns with a deep sense that
their experiences were generic and common to all beginners in
The workshop is the most significant meeting of the year. I
wait for it every week so that I can meet with all the other in-
terns. I feel that they understand what I’m talking about, and I
can speak freely (Adele).
The workshop was my meeting place; I felt I was waiting for
it all week to meet my colleagues and to know that I wasn’t the
only one with problems (Galia);
I sat in the workshop with girls who studied at the college
with me, not as classmates this time but as colleagues in the
teaching profession… Everything I thought I’d never tell any-
one burst out. I heard about my friends’ troubles, we spoke,
and I recovered. Everyone spoke about their troubles and we
soon found we had common problems and tried to solve them
together, supporting each other, and it helped (Rachel).
The awareness that other interns had common hardships
helped them to expose their problems, to ask for help, to talk
about their work, and eventually to find independent solutions.
Difficulties in the Interpersonal Dimension
Many of the interns indicated that they had difficulty com-
municating with colleagues in the school. For example it was
obvious that they found it difficult to integrate socially and
professionally with other teachers: “I have no one to talk with,
they ignore me in the staff lounge” (Anat); “I can’t catch a
teacher and speak with her. They are in one circle and I’m in
another circle” (Orna); I try to join in the conversation in the
teachers’ lounge but my voice is not heard” (Michal); “I turned
to one of the maths teachers in school asked her to help me to
plan my lesson… she told me to ask someone else who under-
stood the subject better” (Shani); “I asked N. how to create
groups in my class and she uttered two sentences and walked
away” (Naomi); “its very difficult in the staff lounge… I don’t
know where to sit… I can’t find anyone to talk to… I’m con-
tinually wondering how to change the situation” (Galia). Yael
related: All week long I tried to get help from the teachers in
school. They promised to help me but very quickly I under-
stood that I was alone”. Noa wrote:
I was so pleased that the history teachers decided to com-
pose joint work papers. Before the meeting I prepared things at
home, I listed challenging suggestions for assignments. I looked
up materials. In the meeting I saw that we weren’t communi-
cating on the same wavelength. Almost all the teachers didn’t
listen to my suggestions at all, one teacher looked at the page I
had written but did not say anything.
The diaries revealed that the other teachers often related to
the interns with apathy and that the interns found it difficult to
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
communicate with the staff. In her descriptions of strategies
that she used to cope with this phenomenon, Tamar explained
how she chose to bring new materials to school that she had
acquired at college as a way to negotiate:
I approached the homeroom teacher in the class parallel to
mine, I told her about the new learning program that I had
studied in college and suggested giving her the disc about the
program and this opened up a conversation… later she sat
down beside me during the recess and it was already easier.
Shani volunteered to buy a present in the name of all the
No-one volunteered. Each teacher said that she was busy
and had no time, so I volunteered to buy it… it opened a good
channel of communication with the teachers… everyone said
that I had chosen well and there was already something to talk
Adi had asked her “mentor teacher to sit with me and another
teacher to plan the lesson and then we were already a threesome
of teachers and later I turned to her by myself and we went over
it again together”.
Other communication problems related to the relations be-
tween the intern and the students’ parents. Chen explained:
In the parents’ meeting I already felt that they were not with
me, even a little opposed to me. They asked how many years of
experience I had, I asked for volunteers for the class committee
and no one responded… I despaired that I hadn’t managed to
form a relationship with the parents. I had no committee… I
didn’t know what to do.
Chen felt that that she had no go-between to link her with the
parents and that she “had lost any ability to do something with
the parents” and so she decided to act in a different way: “I
decided to phone the parents according to the list… in the end
two of them agreed. Now I have a committee and I hope it will
help”. It is clear from Chen’s words that she did not give up and
chose to act in an orderly and controlled manner. In this way
she succeeded in changing the situation and creating a new start
for her relationship with the parents.
Certain expressions were repeated in other diaries, such as
“the parents test me, if I give homework I get phone calls to my
home telling me that the teacher in the parallel class doesn’t
give homework” (Dana); “I announced that there would be an
exam on Friday and already in the evening I received five
phone calls from parents that I shouldn’t give an exam because
the students are stressed by the subject matter” (Alon); “there
are parents who consistently wait for me by the classroom door
with a list of complaints” (Rachel).
The message that the parents did not trust the interns aroused
a sense of lack of confidence and unrest for the interns. “I don’t
know what to do” (Rachel); “sometimes I get angry at them and
feel that they don’t rely on me as a teacher” (Alon); “if I needed
to work according to the parents’ instructions I wouldn’t suc-
ceed in teaching anything in the class” (Dorit). In the attempt to
cope with these feelings Rachel explained: “I decided to listen,
I announced that each Tuesday I would have a free hour and if
someone wanted to come and talk I would be at the school.
This option that I gave them to talk with me solves some of the
problems”. Anat decided “to devote an hour in the evening. I
told them that each day between eight and nine in the evening I
would be available for phone calls. It was a good idea they
phoned during those hours and we could talk in peace… I un-
derstood that to listen to the parents quietly was a profession-
ally correct strategy that facilitated good relations with the par-
From the interns’ reports it was clear that they did not usu-
ally ignore the problem but tried to find solutions to difficulties
concerning their relations with the parents. The combination of
boundary setting: determining an hour for conversations and
their willingness to listen and implement things created the first
buds of parent-teacher communication and neutralized the
sense of frustration that the interns had felt.
Difficulties in the Professional Dimension
Professional difficulties pointed up in the interns’ diaries fo-
cused on the professional substance of teaching in general and
specific components involved in the novice teachers’ work. All
the diaries described teaching as difficult, complex and ex-
hausting work: “the work is difficult, wearying, tiring and frus-
trating” (Yael); “It incredible what is involved in being a
teacher” (Rachel) “being a teacher is so complex, I didn’t think
it would be so hard” (Alon); “I found myself under continuous
pressure… I didn’t know where to start” (Hagit); “teaching was
very difficult, unexpected… I had not been trained to deal with
the difficulties” (Galit); “there are many difficulties, I teach for
many hours… its difficult to teach so many hours” (Dorit).
I suddenly saw what it means to be a teacher. I needed to
teach the subject matter itself and to distinguish the different
levels of the students, and to solve problems of noise, and ar-
guments between the students, and to prepare work sheets, and
to ensure that we completed the subject matter, and to run be-
tween the different classes in different age groups. There were
a lot of details that were all part of teaching and I found it dif-
In her efforts to cope with this difficulty Rachel decides:
I’ll work according to the book, slowly, without skipping
from subject to subject, making lists… I noticed that if I work
according to the book it helps me, that if I work with lists I
don’t forget and especially I saw that experience in the field is
the best possible learning for me and that the experience itself
helps me to cope with difficulties.
Rachel’s words clarify that she does not succumb to diffi-
culty, she uses certain techniques to help her cope with difficul-
ties and the very fact that she manages to cope and her experi-
ence itself make things easier.
Controlling the class in the face of breaches of discipline was
noted as a problem in all the diaries. This was expressed in
statements such as: “there’s noise all the time and I can’t teach”
(Anat); “its incredible what they can do in class and they don’t
even hear my voice” (Michal); “as soon as I turn to the black-
board several children get up, I’m already scared to write on the
This serious difficulty led to despair, a sense of helplessness
and total inability to cope.
In the last hour of the day, it’s very hard. Lots of discipline
problems and an unpleasant atmosphere (Aviva).
Grade 11 has thirty-one pupils, with serious discipline prob-
lems, which makes it my most difficult class. The problems ap-
pear as noise and talking during most of the lesson, [cell phone]
conversations coming in during the lesson, ring tones from the
mobiles, leaving the room without permission, and even during
a film in the audio-visual room—the disturbances don’t stop
The discipline problem is, as I see it, a key factor in reducing
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 5
the teacher’s self-confidence. … The discipline problem is un-
bearable; particularly with one pupil. I felt exhausted from the
amount of attention I had to give her, it was impossible to ig-
nore her… As a beginner in teaching, the discipline problems
diminished my image/OR status in the pupils’ eyes… My inabil-
ity to overcome the problem became my burden (Shirley).
Nothing that I tried succeeded. I didn’t manage to teach the
Despite their very real problems, the interns did not give up;
they tried to deal with their difficulties, attempting to find solu-
tions, for example:
I know that discipline and learning habits are no simple
matter, and the more classes I encounter, the sharper this
knowledge becomes… I sense that the situation in this area is
getting worse, and I ask the staff I work with to help, trying to
figure out the right ways to cope. Lately I have begun to think
more about ways to transfer most of the responsibility to the
pupil. Perhaps if the pupils know that no one else will assume
this responsibility, and that success depends only on them, they
will be motivated to exercise some internal discipline, rather
than waiting for the external discipline the teacher imposes.
But I’ll admit that I’m not fully convinced that this is going to
I admit that I want to learn how to hold them on a tighter
leash, so to speak. I’d like to be more assertive. That’s my task
for next week, to see how I manage the discipline issue… This
week I tried: I came into the class and I was “tough.” I wrote
down in the register the names of everyone who disrupted the
lesson, and saw that on some it had an effect, but for most of
them—those who are the cause of the trouble, it had less ef-
fect. … But I didn’t compromise, meaning: no eating during the
lesson, no roaming around the room, and if someone cannot
pay attention—yes, I’ll send him out of the room to calm down
for a few minutes (Tali).
Dorit talked about another experience relating to discipline
After my lack of success, I consulted another teacher who
recommended that I should punish the disruptive students. I did
exactly what she told me, but it didn’t help me.
Dorit’s attempt to apply solutions suggested by her colleague
did not help her and so she looked for other coping strategies:
I understood that I needed to do something else, something
that would suit me and the relationships I had with the students.
I decided to try to talk about the difficulty in individual conver-
sations with the students. I took all the disruptive students and
talked with each of them separately. That reduced some of the
problems but not all.
Dorit also chose to work according to her own “credo”, de-
voting time to individual discussions with the students. Turning
to the individual students represents the educational approach
that she adopted to cope with the problem.
To summarize: It seems that the diaries entries indicated that
the interns understood that they could cope with discipline
problems when they were related to their teaching methods,
their relations with the pupils, and their pedagogical percep-
tions. In these cases they modified their teaching strategies,
consolidating their attitude and above all decided not to give in.
The interns’ attempts to cope with their hardships are encour-
aging, since they indicate their ability to seek out solutions that
will help them to improve their classroom performance.
To summarize, it appears that intern teachers in Israel en-
counter many difficulties, yet they find ways to cope with them.
Apparently, exposure to difficulties constitutes a typical generic
and universal phenomenon in the work of new teachers.
Insights and Practical Implications
The findings of this study identify various difficulties en-
countered by teaching interns during their first year as teachers,
and the coping strategies that they employ to deal with these
difficulties. In affinity with the Israeli context it seems that
despite the long training period of novice teachers that in most
cases is spread over four years, interns still face many difficul-
ties on entry into the teaching profession. It can therefore be
assumed on the basis of these findings that first year hardships
and difficulties experienced during induction are generic and
universal characteristics. The universal concerns of interns was
also illustrated in previous study in which “The messages con-
veyed in novices’ stories deliver a holistic and inclusive por-
trayal of… while conveying… at the same time, a universal
humanistic message about teachers and teaching” (Orland-bark
& Maskit, 2011: p. 446). Induction, as illustrated at the profes-
sional literature is a meaningful stage in teachers’ professional
development, during which they examine their activities, iden-
tify needs for professional development and accept personal
responsibility (Vonk, 1993, 1995). The findings of the present
research reflect the interns’ world as they cope with the diffi-
culties encountered on entry into the teaching profession, with
their first exposure to the reality of teaching. These difficulties
were categorized according to the following themes: personal,
personal-professional, interpersonal and professional; together
these themes produce a fuller picture of the interns’ hardships
and the ways in which they cope with these difficulties.
In the category of personal-professional difficulties, the dif-
ficulty involved in “the transition from the status of student to
the status of teacher” appeared with the highest frequency. This
finding tallies with the findings of previous research that nov-
ices, who are in the transition period from studentship to teach-
ing occupation, have to assume a multiplicity of roles acting as
a student, a teacher and a researcher (Smith & Sela, 2005). At
this stage, many interns deal with personal emotional and pro-
fessional dilemmas that result directly from the passage from
“being a pre-service teacher” to “being a teacher”. Intern teach-
ers wish to prove their abilities at the school and even to them-
selves, but they often lack the professional circumstances at
work (Romano, 2008). The sense of independence that charac-
terizes the move from the status of a pre-service teacher who
depends on his instructors, to that of a stand-alone teacher often
clashes with the true position of the intern at school (Schlichte,
Yssel, & Merbler, 2005).
In the category of professional difficulties, “coping with dis-
cipline and steering the class” was the difficulty most fre-
quently noted in all the interns’ diaries. This finding resembles
previous findings, which have consistently revealed that class-
room management is an essential component of teaching, and
teachers rank it as one of their major concerns (Evertson &
Weinstein, 2006; Friedman, 2006; Raosas & West, 2009).
An additional finding that emerged from the study was that
the interns are not deterred by the difficulties they encounter
and they search for strategies that can help them to cope suc-
cessfully with the difficulties. The interns’ diaries revealed
various coping strategies employed by the interns including
working in small, gradual and calculated steps. They simul-
tanously relied on their prior knowledge, and auxiliary re-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
sources that enrich their professional world, relating both to
pedagogy and their disciplinary subject matter.
Appealing for support and assistance also constituted a
popular coping strategy for the interns. They mainly turned to
two familiar support circles: 1) mentor teachers and 2) their
colleagues in a support workshop. They did not hesitate to try
to ask for help from other sources including colleagues in the
school, who are willing to cooperate. Reliance on such re-
sources for assistance as recorded in the interns’ diaries is in
line with other research indicating that mentoring is an impor-
tant component during induction, serving as a major factor in
reducing interns’ negative feelings (Schlichte, Yssel, & Merbler,
2005; Salinitri, 2005) and that support workshops also provide
an important contribution to beginning teachers as they begin to
become absorbed in teaching work (Harrison, Dymoke & Pell,
2006; Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).
Another lens of the research findings exposed the interns’
ability to reflect on their work through an internal mirror, illu-
minating and clarifying teaching contents and processes during
the first year of work in education, as a credible reflection of
the interns’ world. These recorded reflections indicate the in-
terns’ strong capacity to think, to reflect on professional matters
and, to present an accurate picture of the teaching conditions
Since knowledge concerning the effects of induction pro-
grams and policies is still limited (Feiman‐Nemser & Carver,
2009), it is recommended that interns conduct an ongoing re-
flective dialogue (recorded in a reflective diary) during their
academic training and at the inception of their professional
career. This dialogue can provide a channel of communication
and activity that helps the intern to improve and advance pro-
fessional training methods, as well as their own professional
As noted, in Israel, there is a three year introductory period
of entry into a teaching career includes three years during
which new teachers are provided with circles for support and
assistance. The findings of the research reinforce the call for
this long-term assistance while at the same time they indicate
the important value of exposing interns to information con-
cerning the difficulties in the field, even earlier than the practi-
cal stage, during their studies, through knowledge on the ex-
periences of other interns, initiating discussions on this issue
and even through educational encounters between interns and
student teachers. The findings sharpen the understanding that
suitable solutions should be provided in the early stages of their
training, so that, interns can be informed about and exposed to
difficulties expected in their initial work experiences and to the
possible ways of coping with these difficulties. Discussion
concerning these difficulties at such an early stage can help
prepare student teachers for their entry into the profession and
this early groundwork should assist new teachers at the incep-
tion of their career.
It seems that the statement: “What I learned in particular
was how to try to cope with my difficulties. I learned that I
needed to deduce conclusions from all my trials, I learned that
I needed to learn more, I learned that I need to deal with deci-
sion-making, that I need to be helped, to ask, to receive help,
and to cope” (Dora) points to one of the important insights
from this study, that coping with difficulties is an indivisible
part of the interns’ work, necessitating professional learning
and growth combined with an ability to ask questions and to
request assistance. These can be established as stepping stones
for other interns beginning their teaching career.
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