By Dr Julianne Mullen, Dramatherapist at The Tinnitus Clinic
Reading that 50% of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are leaving the profession after five years was a shocking statistic to me.
As a former teacher myself – and with friends still working in education – I know both first and second hand the pressures of a constantly changing curriculum and overbearing workload.
In fact, I worked as a teacher for six years before I got to the point where I was questioning my ability to cope with what seemed an ever-increasing workload and a lot of unnecessary pressure.
I took some time out, went part-time and continued my work as a Dramatherapist when I realised I was bringing quite a lot of my teaching stresses to the clinical supervision I received for my Dramatherapy work to that role.
A lot has changed, and significantly, in education since I taught – from the introduction of academies to curriculum changes to three different Education Ministers (at the last time of counting!)
But hearing that NQTs were starting to ask themselves, even earlier than I had, if they were cut out for the role, I knew something was not right.
For my PhD research at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge (where I also lecture) I decided to explore providing NQTs with clinical supervision underpinned by Dramatherapy.
My study aimed to investigate if strategies from Dramatherapy supervision could enhance NQTs’ experience of self-efficacy and coping strategies in their new role.
According to recent research, teacher turnover is more prevalent in disadvantaged urban schools as a result of factors from an increasing workload and turbulent student-teacher classroom dynamics, to the conflicting agendas between teachers and educational reform.
The study’s theoretical framework draws from teacher education, psychodynamic theory and Dramatherapy supervision theory and practice, to help NQTs develop coping pathways for self-exploration and personal growth
In clinical terms this means things like ‘obtaining an increased awareness of the social and emotional processes involved in teaching and learning’ and ‘managing both individual and contextual factors that influence their sense of efficacy in their new role as a teacher’.
In layman’s terms this means helping NQTs understand not to take things personally as well as the need for them to have an outlet to offload and safely explore their challenging workload and the difficult interpersonal dynamics between teachers and students.
By developing a better understanding of the issues facing pupils, teachers and the education sector in general they would be less likely to carry around a lot of the emotional fallout affecting their students, themselves and their colleagues, leading to improved job satisfaction.
Conclusions drawn from the results of my doctorial research highlight that methods from Dramatherapy supervision can indeed be beneficial for developing NQTs’ self-awareness, deepening their understanding of the challenging dynamics of their workplaces and helping to provide them with a reflective ‘meditative’ space.
My research concluded with a series of recommendations for education which included:
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