Staying in the profession: A study of five public school orchestra teachers
Neal, Kimberly B.
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The purpose of this study is to identify reasons why five Texas public school orchestra directors have decided to stay in the teaching profession. Extant research indicates that approximately half of all orchestra teachers nationwide leave the profession within five years. Furthermore, research has primarily focused on why teachers leave, rather than why others stay. This study is designed to be a proactive approach in finding out why certain orchestra teachers not only remain in the field, but seem to thrive. Using a qualitative approach of data gathering and analysis, participants with seven to fifteen years of experience were both interviewed and observed in class. Interview questions were developed based on historic issues in teacher retention, including administrative support, compensation, student behavior, school facilities and resources, and pre-service teacher training. Participant responses were examined for positive factors that aided in their decisions to remain in the profession. While there were responses that shed light on the challenges orchestra teachers face, participants also shared multiple factors that motivate them to continue in their chosen profession. These include setting and achieving goals, experiencing the intrinsic rewards of music, rich connections with students, and enjoying solid community and administrative support. In addition, certain teacher characteristics emerged among the participants, such as individual determination and perseverance, optimism, creativity, and a desire to improve as educators. This less common look at reasons why orchestra teachers stay in the field may serve to aid teachers as they decide whether or not to continue in the profession, as well as helping teacher educators and administrators retain public school orchestra teachers.
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