Exploring orientation speeches of school principals : inspirational invitations to student teachers.
The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the messages conveyed by principals in one context, that of well resourced schools. The contents of the messages and how these messages are influenced by the context of the schools were interrogated. Also of relevance are principals presenting a desirably, inviting message about the teaching profession. This study is part of the TP120 project that is being conducted by the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal to evaluate the placing of context at the centre of a learning to teach approach. The school environment has become diverse and dynamic since the implementation of changes after 1994. Teacher training institutions are faced with trying to adequately prepare teachers to adapt and adjust. The thinking therefore, is to include diverse contexts as one of the major components in the teacher education curriculum. One initiative to achieve this is to enlist the help of principals, who are the experienced counterparts in schools, to assist university personnel with the training of student teachers. This is done when first year student teachers are taken to schools of varying contexts and where principals are given an opportunity to address these students. The belief is that, what principals say prepares students teachers for the world of work in a particular context. A case study using the interpretivist paradigm was conducted with the participants being principals in well resourced schools. The participating schools and the participants were selected by pre-determined criteria in keeping with the requirements of the TP120 project. The principals’ speeches were recorded and transcribed. Thereafter a discourse analysis was embarked on. The theories that underpin this study are the invitational theory of Purkey and Novak (1996) and the learning to teach approach of Amin and Ramrathan (2009). The findings show that a well resourced context is established and maintained through hard work, dedication, commitment and support of all stakeholders. The messages conveyed by the principals prepare the student teachers for the teaching profession in general and for the well resourced context in particular. The main conclusion of this study is that principals can be an invaluable source of knowledge to student teachers and can assist in teacher training. They articulated a sense of purpose and direction and inspire the student teachers by motivating, encouraging, guiding and inviting them to the teaching profession. Recommendations of the study were that the universities should continue to provide student teachers with the opportunity of experiencing different contexts, principals can be provided with guidelines on what to talk about in their orientation speeches, student teachers should prepare questions to get clarity on issues in particular contexts and principals can be provided with professional development around communicating motivational and inspirational orientation speeches. Recommendations for further research are that a variety of contexts be researched or the student teachers can be interviewed to gauge the exact message that they go away with.