The Four Stages of Teaching

June 10, 2007 at 10:42 am | Posted in education, teachers | 4 Comments

The Four Stages of Teaching (Kevin Ryan, The Induction of New Teachers)

  • Fantasy
  • Survival
  • Mastery
  • Impact

The Fantasy Stage

Some people call this the idealistic stage. This is usually the period before a new teacher walks into the classroom. The new teacher feels that she/he would make a fantastic teacher because of various reasons, that the new teacher is there to save the world or at least save the children, and that every school day will be fun, fun, fun! The new teacher might voice the idea that, “Certainly, teaching will be hard.” Inwardly, the teacher knows that it would be easy.

The Survival Stageharried teacher

This usually begins sometime during the middle of the first day of teaching. I kid you not. The Fantasy Stage meets the reality of real personalities in the form of 20-40 children all with their own wants, needs, and demands. The Survival teachers begin to rely on practices that they see other teachers use, some effective, most ineffective, to get through the day. Teaching becomes a matter of getting through one day after another and holding on till paycheck day. Many Survival teachers begin to whine and make excuses, give busywork, and take no responsibility for the students’ learning. They make fun of professional development meetings and never actually develop as a professional. Their conversations in the lunch room begins with “These kids …” in a high, whiny voice. Because the Survival teachers do not succeed in teaching their students, they will try to convince the teachers around them that it’s not possible and make fun of teachers who are working hard. Unfortunately, many teachers never leave this stage.

The Mastery Stageteacher teaching

The Mastery Stage begins when teachers take responsibility for what goes on in their classroom and hold themselves accountable for their students’ learning. Suddenly, the Master teacher uses effective practices, have high expectations, and strive to improve professionally at all times. The Master teacher is not afraid to ask for help or “How did you do that?” This is where true enjoyment of teaching begins. The Master teacher is very threatening to the Survival teachers because they are living proof that “these kids” can learn, therefore all the Survival teacher’s excuses are a sham. The Master teacher may not yet be the model teacher, but their attitude and professionalism will soon lead them there.

The Impact Stage

This is the ultimate teacher, the award winning teacher who makes an impact on his/her students’ lives. Every day is focused on learning effectively, rigorously, and in an engaging manner. The students may view this as fun, fun, fun and in a real sense, the Impact teacher has achieved the dreams of the Fantasy teacher. The teacher has come full circle and teaching is an everyday joy.

Now, I view these stages as a spectrum or even that full circle. I am somewhere in the Mastery stage and working on heading toward the Impact stage.

My Survival stage lasted about three years and on the third year, I almost succumbed to the negative views of my fellow teachers. Thank goodness I somehow got out of it, perhaps because I saw that I was having a positive effect on this one particular child.

Where are you on the spectrum? I invite teachers with blogs to reflect on their teaching using the Four Stages of Teaching.

I pulled out the Four Stages of Teaching as a frame of reference, the context, for my discussion about the “Inner City Teacher Blues” blog.   Again, I shall not opine anything till later.

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4 Comments »

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  1. I love how you always have these thought provoking and “reflective” pieces to your blog. As I read your comments, it is very difficult in an urban district to not let the comments of other affect how you work. It can make the type of work that we do grueling and ineffective. I’m glad that you are not listening to those voices anymore.

    You asked where are you: I feel like I’m in between survival and mastery. I’m going into my third year and I won’t be operating in survival mode anymore. But, I wouldn’t quite say I’ve mastered things. After re-reading, I’m definitely in the mastery stage. I’m looking forward to a new year–I actually feel like I’ll be effective in my classroom this year. During my first year and part of my second year, it felt like: “I can’t continue this way” And you have doubts about the profession. Now, I feel like this is my career. I love what I do and it is not about the paycheck anymore.

  2. I echo what Proverbs said – I love your thought-provoking and reflective pieces. I believe I’m moving out of the Survival Stage and moving into the Mastery Stage. I thankfully have a strong, supportive principal who supports me in the face of those teachers who think I’m a problem. To me – it’s about the kids and how I can reach them. Building those relationships is important to their success.

  3. […] blog talked about the Four Stages of Teaching (Excellent blog, by the way).  I’m moving out of […]

  4. […] blog talked about the Four Stages of Teaching (Excellent blog, by the way).  I’m moving out of […]


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