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Teachers must serve as mentors and good role models to their students. Bandura (2002) expects 'teachers to regulate their behaviour with respect to professional standards'. Park (2004) also reiterates that 'teachers, being important adults in youths' lives, have an impactful influence on their student's character growth and development'. As beginning teachers aspire to fulfill their different identities, they seek to build up good rapport with their students but then 'find it difficult to draw the line between being strict and friendly with them' (Zoe, 2011). They not only require the necessary skills and knowledge to manage students' emotional and affective domains, but also have to maintain a strong ethical compass to cultivate their students' minds to help them 'overcome social dilemmas and champion morally responsible causes' (Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi & Damon, 2001).
With the rapid influence of social media, some beginning teachers are conducting themselves unethically when they fail to distinguish the student-teacher boundary on cyberspace (Cindy, 2011). The technologically-savvy get into more trouble when they befriend their students using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (David & Patrick, 2012). Such sites often blur the student-teacher professional lines. Beginning teachers, being new in their profession, may be used to expressing their opinions, posting inappropriate photos or even using explicit language on such social networks without realizing that the public and their students can view their posts. This would have detrimental consequences on the young, impressionable minds that they are entrusted with.
The teaching of non-examinable subjects like CCE is 'a concern for beginning teachers who strive to make efficient use of time to prepare their students for tests instead' (Darling-Hammond, 1997). Only 26.5% of trainee-teachers surveyed supported the idea of teaching CCE. Many felt the idea of teaching the citizenship component as 'propaganda and challenging' to incorporate them into everyday teaching (Wang, 2008). Research has shown that when teachers are less enthusiastic about the subject matter, students' intrinsic motivation to learn will decline (Patrick, Hisley & Kempler, 2000). This definitely gives beginning teachers a hard time when they try to strike a balance between the school's emphasis on academic achievements and fostering character and citizenship values.
In shaping the future generation, teachers are seen as key figures to maximize the potential of every student holistically (Gregory & Clark, 2003). MOE's 21st century competencies framework outlines civic literacy, global awareness, cross-cultural skills, critical thinking and communication skills as the desired outcomes of education. Not surprisingly, MOE constantly focuses on teacher-development to empower them with professional knowledge and essential life-skills so that their students can also benefit. Professional Learning Communities are also introduced to get experienced teachers to share their expertise in dealing with problematic students, and new initiatives such as the Holistic Health Framework and Form Teacher Guidance Period, which aim to develop good social, emotional learning competencies in students, also increase the burden of beginning teachers to learn and adapt quickly to the new educational landscapes.
Students today are more eloquent and educated as their attitudes and worldviews have been shaped by the economic prosperity and the internet revolution (Derfel, 2011). The stable economic environment and the internet revolution have made students less afraid of change and more expressive in their views. They may be less fearful of authority and more rebellious too. Beginning teachers find it a challenge in managing them and 'will have to earn their respect from students by setting good examples, listening and treating them equally, regardless of their genders, races and classes (Whitney, 2000). Appropriate and fair punishments should be given out to students where necessary although Brophy and Good (1970) believe 'naughty students, usually boys, get more attention from their teachers'. However, beginning teachers should also learn not to neglect praising the well-behaved students for their exemplary conduct.
Classroom diversity can also pose serious challenges for beginning teachers, especially since it involves 'relating groups of students who may have differing viewpoints, backgrounds and temperaments' (Holmes Group, 1986). A study by Goddard and Foster (2001) revealed that while beginning teachers may have noble aspirations to effectively teach a diversified class of learners, they are unaware of the real world demands on their practices. Beginning teachers are frequently in for a 'reality shock' as students tend to articulate out varying perspectives or experiences. Teaching students to be empathetic, sensitive and accepting of one another's opinion is pivotal during CCE lesson. This allows students to be more engaged in national issues through active flow of innovative and enriching thoughts, and make them respect the cultural diversity. In addition, beginning teachers may encounter students who come from poor family backgrounds without proper parenting support. They have to give more supervision to these students so that they will not feel neglected and become a menace to society.
The teacher-parent relationship is essential in developing good character and citizenship values in students as Fleming (1993) believes that 'parents play an increasingly impactful role on the educational lives of their children.' As Henderson and Berla (1997) wrote, 'when teacher-parent ties are close, students not only benefit in school but also throughout life'. Ironically, research shows that many beginning teachers fail to understand the need to establish such relationships as they view parental involvement not integral to their teaching and student's learning (Canter & Canter, 1991). This perspective among novice teachers has to be changed as parental involvement brings positive impacts on the child's holistic achievements (Epstein, 1995). Beginning teachers are often challenged when they have to deal with ill-disciplined students. By collaborating with cooperative parents, teachers will be able to encourage good behavior in the students both in school and at home. If parents are unreasonable, demanding and yet disagreeing with the handling of their child's behavior, it will further hamper the teacher's efforts in building good character in the student.
It is also crucial for teachers to actively seek interactions with parents and maintain good relationships with them (Howe & Simmons, 1993). Concerned parents will heed the advice from teachers and pay more attention to their child while nonchalant ones will just create more responsibilities for the teachers. However, many beginning teachers lack these skills to promote such two-way communications between parents and the school (Shartrand, Weiss, Kreider, & Lopez, 1997). With effective communication between both parties, the student's character growth and development can then be closely monitored.
As education is critical to the development of good character and citizenry, the community and other stakeholders expect much from teachers. Beginning teachers, being in the fraternity, are expected to deliver the outcomes and help students fit into society. They have to be wary of public perception of their school and help to ensure that their charges do not create a negative image through disciplinary problems like smoking and other related issues. They also have to ensure that their students respect public properties and care for the environment. Also importantly, their students must be savvy of current affairs and global trends to be confident, concerned and active citizens.
In conclusion, beginning teachers have to rise to the challenges when they take on the responsibilities of developing character and citizenship values in students. The ever-changing profile of the students, the heavy educational demands in both curricular and co-curricular domains, the incessant critique from stakeholders, public and the community, and the new economy are all the more challenging for the beginning teachers in molding their charges into upright and concerned citizens. Coupled with these demands are the need to undergo professional development regularly, maintain cordial relationship with stakeholders and the community, and to keep abreast with the changing educational policies and landscapes. Capping all these salient requirements, the beginning teachers have to maintain a professional image, and subscribe to the education ethos and teachers' creed as a member of the noble profession. The challenges and high expectations are innately a part of the beginning teachers' work to develop good character and concerned citizens, and achieve the national goals of social cohesion and economic growth.