Learning to be a school counselor: reflections on the development of the subject and the activity



The present paper is part of a broader research project that was conducted in Brazil with the aim of inves- tigating teaching work. It proposes a theoretical discussion of three concepts: genre of activity (Clot), genre of discourse (Bakhtin) and habitus (Bourdieu). These concepts not only anchor but are also taken as the object of study in the relations between the theory and the empirical field. The research was conducted under the inspiration of the methodology in the Clinic of Activity (Clot). The selected material for this paper focuses on a school counselor's enunciations about his own activity, based on discussions during the "instruction to the double" methodological procedure. The analysis based on notions of professional genre and style (Clot), con- tributes to the understanding of a beginner's entry into the metier, and gives visibility to how a novice appro- priates the genre in operation and participates in its construction, imprinting a personal style to the professional activity.

General Information

Keywords: Teaching supervision, genre of activity, habitus, school practices, development.

Journal rubric: Problems of Cultural-Historical and Activity Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Anjos D. Learning to be a school counselor: reflections on the development of the subject and the activity. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2013. Vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 55–62.

Full text


The present research[1] aims at investigating the conditions for accomplishing teaching work in Brazil, also proposing a theoretical discussion of three concepts: genre of activity (Clot), genre of discourse (Bakhtin) and habitus (Bourdieu). These concepts, taken as guidelines for the research, will be addressed in their interrelations and also problematized as an object of study in the relations between the theory and the empirical field.

The research proposal derived from a previous investigation (Anjos, 2006) that focused on the conditions for carrying out the teaching activity of novice teachers in the Brazilian public educational system. In that investigation we found relevant contributions from studies that conceive the teaching work as part of a professional genre (Saujat, 2004; Faita, 2004) substantiated on the works of Clot and Faita, and also from studies that consider it a professorial habitus (Ferreirinho, 2005; Silva, 2005) based on the concept of habitus proposed by Bourdieu.

These concepts lead us to view the teaching practice as immersed and emerging from/in living conditions, differing from the conceptions that bring a subjectivist notion or even a teleological approach to the profession. They helped us to broaden the understanding of the conditions and difficulties experienced by novice teachers. When talking about their experiences, the teachers we interviewed pointed out the existence of stabilized ways of doing their jobs in the schools they first entered, and reported a series of practices they did not know, modes of action considered common and natural by those who were already part of the institution. Generally speaking, starting the teaching profession in the public educational system in Brazil represents a huge disappointment as soon as the reality of the school and the limitations of the work are felt and/or identified.

In this sense, our interest is to investigate, from a cultural-historical perspective, how the teaching work is carried out in its many possible ways, taking into account the concrete working and living conditions. Following Vygotsky, we assume that human beings are produced in the web of interpersonal and social relationships and that the constitution of the subjects happens in and is a result of living experiences, which are mediated by the other: "a person's psychological nature is the set of social relations" (Vygotsky, 2000, pp. 21—44[2]).

Based on these assumptions, we have been raising several research questions with regards to the develop- ment/constitution of teachers over the years of professional activity: what happens when novice teachers become experienced teachers, when the modes of doing are "mastered"? What changes in relation to their wishes, aspirations and pedagogical practice? How do the concrete conditions influence the constitution of teachers and the task of teaching? What practices are (re)produced, daily forged in the school and in the history of work relations? What possibilities of (trans)forming the teaching activity are presented? Although we do not intend to answer all these questions here, they have been orienting our investigation.

In order to investigate these issues we have developed an empirical approach inspired by the principles of the Clinic of Activity (Clot, 2008). We intend to think with the teachers and school counselors about how they deal with the concrete conditions of carrying out the work, as we search for ways of doing and saying that become stabilized in their school practices.

Given this general frame, in this article we will focus on the entrance of a novice school counselor into the metier. We inquire about the appropriation of a professional genre (Clot) attempting to understand how this young counselor participates in the genre construction by developing a professional style.

Professional Genre and Style

The concept of professional genre is elaborated from Bakhtin's (2003) concept of genres of discourse. For this author, speech happens through discourse genres, taken as typical forms of utterances produced in the human history, in the different fields of activity. Utterances reflect specific conditions and purposes of the most diverse fields of human activity not only for its content and language style, the selection of lexical, logical and grammatical resources, but also for its composi­tional construction:

All of these elements — thematic content, style and compositional structure — are indissolubly linked to the whole of the utterance and are equally determined by the specific nature of the particular sphere of communication. Each separate utterance is individual, of course, but each sphere in which language is used develops its own relatively stable types of these utterances, which we call genres of discourse (Bakhtin, 2003, pp. 261—262).

Speech is not an isolated act of the individual activity, but is inscribed in human history. The possibility to speak, to choose words occurs based on what has been uttered before, by the subject himself, by others. "A singular utterance, in spite of all its individuality and creative character, can in no way be regarded as a completely free combination of forms of the language" (Bakhtin, 2003, pp. 285—286). Speech genres are given to us like a first language, which does not come to our knowledge from dictionaries and grammars, but from concrete utterances that we ourselves hear and reproduce in the living discursive communication with others.

We learn to cast our speech in generic forms and, when hearing other's speech, we guess its genre from the very first words; we predict a certain length [...] and a certain compositional structure; we foresee the end; that is, from the very beginning we have a sense of the speech whole, which is only later differentiated during the speech process. If speech genres did not exist and we had not mastered them, if we had to originate them during the speech process and construct each utterance at will for the very first time, speech communication would be almost impossible (Bakhtin, 1986, pp. 282—283).

Genres have a normative character for the subjects. Besides ways of saying that become stabilized in the different fields of human activity, there are also ways of doing that become stabilized (Clot 2006; Clot and Faita, 2000). According to these authors, the same criticism made by Bakhtin to the dichotomy "prescribed language/real speech" in the Linguistics field may be applied to the sciences of professional work, with the dichotomy "prescribed work/real work." The authors propose a renewal in the francophone tradition in job analysis.

In our understanding, there is not the work organization on one side (...) and, on the other, the subject's activity. Between the work organization and the subject himself there is a work of reorganization of the task by the collective of professionals (...) Between the prescribed work and the real work, there is a decisive third term that we designate as professional genre (Clot and Faita, 2000, p. 119).

In order to act, workers impose prescribed forms onto themselves, forms that then become resources for the action. Remembering Bakhtin, Clot and Faita state that.

If it were necessary to create each of our activities at every turn in the action, work would be impossible] (...). Genre is the implicit part of the activity, what workers in a given metier know and see, expect and recognize, appreciate or fear; what they know they have to do thanks to a community of assumed assessments, without the need to respecify the task each time it presents itself. It is like a "password," known only by those who belong to the same social and professional horizon (Clot and Faita, 2000, p. 11).

In most cases it concerns unwritten or even unut­tered rules, but which are known to those belonging to the same professional horizon. When a novice enters a professional environment, he finds himself facing several assumptions, implicit rules that can define his actions as dislocated. However, genres are always unfinished and their vitality depends on stylistic variations.

The analysis of the arrival of new professionals in a given working environment helps to perceive the existence of a professional genre (Anjos, 2006; Saujat, 2004). When someone enters a new working environment, there is a process of appropriation of the professional genre that happens in the relations with the prescribed task, the implicit of the collective work (the genre) and the unexpected concerning the reality. According to Clot and Roger (2005), styling begins from the moment the subject dominates the genre in operation, turning it into one's own. This is the process of functional migration, which is placed at the center of Vygotsky's work. According to the authors,

The social is not external to the subject; neither is it merely internal, but it is the movement by which the subject becomes himself by liberating himself from the social in which he is immersed, contrarily to the Piagetian perspective. It is necessary to get rid of the activity of the other in order to develop one's own activity. But, paradoxically, this is not done by denying the social, it is done by means of the development of the social. Here is, we think, the central point of the Vygotskian thesis (Clot and Roger, 2005, p. 5).

Therefore, the appropriation of a genre does not mean setting a certain chain of mandatory actions, but to benefit from a content that allows each one to 'make use' of operative and symbolic schemes already constructed in order to create others (Clot and Roger, 2005). This means repetition without repetition; not merely an adhesion to stocked practices, but a dialogue with them.

Style can be taken as the distance a professional interposes between his action and his own history. In contact with reality, the subject's individual experience acquires an important role. His operative, perceptual, bodily, emotional or even relational and subjective schemes form a kind of interior genre which enters into dialogue with the impersonal dimension of the professional activity and genre. It is at the intersection of these three dimensions that styling can be achieved.

According to Clot and Faita (2000), the existence of genres is sorely mistreated in contemporary organizations. The negligence of the genre is always a sign of a deregulation of the individual action. Whenever it does not exist or is mistreated, personal mental life is affected.

From this perspective, the genre has a decisive role in the psychological mobilization of work, for it is a means through which the subject can have the feeling of belonging to a collective of work. The transpersonal dimension of the genre plays a psychological function in the personal activity. According to Roger (2007),

...[T]he current atrophy of the transpersonal dimension and the lack of generic resources allowing to honor the obligations of the work to be performed can be translated as a deregulation of the interpersonal dimensions of the metier. The professional conflicts can then turn into personal intrapsychic ones with no solution. Similarly, when, for lack of the collective, the personal dimension of the metier and its interpersonal dimension get blurred, the work becomes difficult, too effortful, and sometimes unbearable (Roger, 2007, p. 31).

The methodology in the Clinic of Activity presented below (Clot et al., 2001) proposes professional dialogues and the raising of controversies as a means of revitalizing the collectives of work.

Methodological foundations

The methodological proposal takes as premise the discovery of new possibilities of action, based on the idea that the realized activity is but one among many other possibilities. According to Clot, referring to Vygotsky, the human being is always full of unrealized possibilities, and these possibilities which are not carried out are no less real. Hence,

.... [T]he reality of the activity is also that which is not done; what one cannot do; that which one tries to do but fails — the failures — , that which one would have wanted to do or been able to do, what one thinks of doing or dreams of doing otherwise. It is to be added — which is often a paradox — what one does in order not to do what one has to or even what one does without wanting to. Not to mention what you have to redo (...) (Clot, 2006, p. 116).

These hindered, suspended, restrained activities, continue acting within the subjects and must be considered in the analysis of the work (2006). However, these activities cannot be directly observed, therefore an indirect method of analysis of the work was created in the Clinic of Activity: simple and crossed auto-confrontation, and "instruction to the double."

In simple auto-confrontation, the worker is filmed when performing his activity. He then he watches some of these scenes, which are previously selected by the researcher, who provokes an intense dialogue on the performed actions. The crossed auto-confrontation is an attempt to put the collective into discussion. Two workers are filmed, and then they both watch some of the scenes and discuss the development of the activity, the differences and similarities in the ways of acting. The crossed auto-confrontation exposes the relations between the reality, the experienced and the representation of the activity pointing to the relations between genres of activity and speech genres (Clot, 2006).

The realized activity is analyzed in another context by the worker himself, allowing its transformation. Clot cites Vygotsky to support the issue, "the action sifted through thought becomes another action upon which it reflects itself" (Vygotsky, 1994 as cited in Clot, 2006, p. 130). But the Bakhtinian notion of active understanding is also at the core of the proposal of auto-confrontation. Understanding, "as an active process (...) is above all to act, in such a way that one anticipates himself to the activity of the other in answer to his own [activity]" (Faita and Vieira, 2003, p. 34).

The "instruction to the double" follows the same assumptions stated above. This method was initially used by Oddone in the 1970s in the formation of the FIAT workers at the University of Turin, and later developed by Clot (2006) as part of the interventions in the Clinic of Activity. The worker is invited to talk about his activity to a supposed double as assigned: "Suppose I am your double and I will replace you at your work tomorrow. What are the instructions you must provide so that no one notices the replacement?" The worker must explain how he performs his activities; what he does, how he does it, what should not be done etc.

According to Clot, Vygotsky emphasized the indirect methods:

[The] methodological problem that was posed to him was to invent a device that would allow the subjects to transform the lived experience into the object of a new experience in order to study the passage from an action into the other, exactly where the activity is realized (Clot, 2008, p. 171).

This is the idea that is pursued in the creation of the methods in the Clinic of Activity. For the author, the central point of a historical-developmental methodology is to allow the subject to transform the actions performed on objects in order to study the actual development — possible and impossible — and its principles. This methodology seeks to understand how the transformation of the action is organized, while it proposes a means of transforming the action. "Therefore, development is, at the same time, its object and its privileged method" (Clot, 2005, p. 7).

According to Clot's elaborations, a key to the development of an activity would be the observation and analysis by the workers themselves of working situations. The idea is that instead of only being determined they can also influence and transform the activity; in conjunction with others they can rediscover other ways of doing things by stretching their power to act in a situation. Simple and crossed auto-confrontation, as well as "instruction to the double" are methodological constructs based on Bakhtin's dialogical principle and Vygotsky's assumption of communication as the source of development used to mobilize the workers' dialogue.

The realization of the empirical work

Inspired by the Clinic of Activity principles explained above, we have developed an empirical study with a group of professionals working in the public educational system in Brazil, in the region of Campinas, Sao Paulo. Four elementary teachers and five school counselors participated in the study. We carried on simple and crossed auto-confrontation sessions with the teachers and worked on "instruction to the double" with School Counselors. The selected material for this article comes from the part of the study that included the five School Counselors, focusing on Pedro[3], the one who had less experience in the metier.

Pedro began to work in the institution in April 2009. This was his first experience as a school counselor, as well as in a public educational system in Campinas. He faced difficulties in his professional practice and asked researchers for help in order to reflect upon them. We invited other School Counselors to join the project in order to conduct a co-analysis, providing moments when they could discuss the different ways of carrying out the tutoring work, and could also talk about the dilemmas and solutions they had encountered. An "instruction to the double" was carried out with each one of them, and they also participated in three collective meetings in which the themes they raised in the individual meetings were collectively discussed.

In the next section of this article, we will analyze Pedro's movement towards taking himself into account as a counselor. The analysis will be oriented by the notions of professional genre and style (Clot, 2006, 2010).

The Beginning

Pedro joins the municipal school system in Campinas as school counselor. This is his first experience both in this position and in this municipal school.

Upon his arrival, the only assignments he has are the prescriptions figured in the announcement of the public service exam for that position. However, those prescriptions soon clash with the reality of this activity and its several contradictions.

The school counselor is in charge of coordinating the pedagogical work of a group of 13 teachers, most of them with extensive experience and some about to retire. He takes over the position when the school year is already in progress — classes began in February, but his entry takes place only in April, so when he starts he undertakes activities that are already underway, which had been somehow initiated by the former school counselor.

Among these assignments are:

— Conducting the school council,

— Tutoring organization,

— Organizing the committee for school evaluation,

— Continue preparing a governmental project for the development of the education,

— Concluding the preparation of the political-pedagogical project of the school, to be yearly fulfilled,

— Planning and carrying out the pedagogical weekly meeting that brings all teachers together,

— Other additional daily activities — dealing with disruptive students, absences and/or teachers' delays, organizing and scheduling parent meetings, evaluating meetings, attending the meeting with school managers, and so on.

When performing each of these activities, Pedro feels perplexed and becomes surprised with the practices he finds — with the genre at work... Many of these practices clash with his conceptions of school, education, work.

At the "instruction to the double" session, Pedro points out some of the initial clashes he faces in the outset of his work. Trying to perform his job consistently with what he believes Pedro makes some propositions that conflict with established school practices so far. Several teachers react to his proposals and many times his attempts to act are frustrated. He found both the climate of the discussion and the way people treated each other to be too rough.

Many times Pedro considers quitting and going back to his position as a teacher. When starting as school counselor he had two years to decide whether or not to return to his job as a teacher.

In the context of a research meeting at school, in May 2010, in which some of the school teachers were present, Pedro refers to his work with the teachers:

As for myself, I just realized that if the organization of the work is like this, and I... realize that this difficulty in the relationships is not unique to us, if the relationship is like this, I acknowledge my incompetence, and I made it clear to you, my expiring date of April 2011 is near. I cannot handle this. The work taking place within this sort of relationship, I can t handle.

And I try to make it as explicit as possible to you, in a rare moment of discussion at the conference, which is the pedagogical meeting. I tend to make it clear, you put it there on the paper (...): "This has to be discussed collectively". But then I see that there is a sick collective there too. In the same way that we have difficulties to point things out here, the emotional outbursts that occur there... I doubt that A. is a mentally disturbed person that blows up like that simply because of the discussion that what was going on there. It was the result. That is a lot of... I doubt that R., you know, who blew up the way she did just because of what had happened there... It was the result!! And then, you know. I'm at a crossroads of what is, in this... I understand how much of it is my responsibility (silence). So, in acknowledging this, I understand how much of it is due to my incompetence in conducting this...

I’ve been in this miserable position since last April and then becoming aware of this perception ... [noticing] the flaws in conducting these meetings in a relationship that happens the way you know it does there, in which there is a huge difficulty in pointing out, perhaps due to the way of (...) but of pointing out, giving feedback. Dude! try imaging yourself, a teacher, in a room where students don t give you feedback. And then, well., capturing feedback is not simply: "Hi, what's up?"It's not that, but, you know, feedback.

Amongst the several instances of astonishment and puzzlement experienced by Pedro while performing his job, here we will highlight his attempts to monitor the work developed by the teachers. Activity which, for him, is what gives meaning to the work of pedagogical tutoring.

Dialogue with pairs

In one of the meetings with the group of school counselors (SC), Andrea, who is SC in another school system, shows how she organizes her work. She presents a different experience, because in her job she really can closely follow the work of students and school teachers. When listening to the account of this experience, Pedro starts questioning his own work.

P: Ah, so check it out. (...). So I made an attempt; during the collective pedagogical meeting, I asked: — How do you register what you do? But I could not talk about the work. The teacher said: I have 25 years of experience,' I do not know for how many years, I don?t know that, I open my closet and everything is there, there is no record, you shall give me a warning. Are you going to give me a warning if I don?t do this thing?' So, that was a movement, an attempt of putting me down.

P: I'm really in a moment of trying a relationship with the record, with the teachers, with the weekly records (...).I arrive in 2009 and take this action of. "Gee!," and then, how do you talk to the teacher when having such a short time to work along with the teacher. There was a great resistance last year in this thing of... What are you doing? Going into the classroom was out of the question, even less this year, and then, that?s why I stood up and said: — Okay, then, if I'm not doing this what I am doing? Because then you start thinking: what am I doing every day, what am I busy with and leaving school so tired and destroyed?

Pedro is new in the system, in the school, and a novice as school counselor. He believes it is his responsibility to monitor the work of the teachers more closely, and he seeks to find ways to accomplish this. However, he faces the teachers' open refusal to his proposals. Andrea describes that when she took over the position in the new school, she faced the same movement. Early on she asked the teachers about the planning records of the daily work. She also faced resistance since registering and planning was not a usual practice for teachers in the school system she entered. Andrea, however, had no questions in relation to the value of monitoring the work of teachers, due to her previous experience in another school system; so, she insists and gradually carries out this monitoring work.

Andrea's context is different from Pedro's. She has the support of her fellow management team (principal and deputy principal) to perform her work the way she does. They ensure her the time and conditions to perform the activities related to pedagogical tutoring. This would seem obvious, but considering the reality of public schools today, it is not. Many times the counselor has to deal with bureaucratic and disciplinary issues, and must ensure the implementation of governmental programs, etc.

In face of Andrea's report, Pedro questions what he had been spending his energy and time in school on: "whati sort of energy am I choosing to spend on those relationships and this one thing that I think that, hey, would highlight what the pedagogical part of the job is, and then of my relationship with them, I end up not spending that energy." By catching a glimpse of other possibilities for carrying out the work as counselor, he questions his work and his priorities. He also raises another issue: the hierarchical position of the counselor and how teachers relate to the figure of the school counselor, especially him.

But from their resistance I also picture this question, ok, even if he says, even with this blah, blah, blah: no, it s your record, I want you to do it your way.' But my position is that of the counselor, not the position of a teacher talking to a colleague, saying oh, okay, so show' me how you 're doing this again.

Many issues traverse the school counselor's desire to follow up the teachers' work in a more systematic way. One of them is the very issue of the records. Do the teachers have any sort of record of their daily work? Do they make a written plan of the work to be carried out? The reaction of some of the teachers might be related to the very fact that this type of record does not exist at all. Paulo comments that not even the Classroom Activities Log, which in theory is an official and mandatory record, is frequently written by all the teachers.

Beyond this problem of the record itself, whether it does exist or not, there is the issue of what the recorded work would demonstrate and the relation to the teachers' realized work: to accept the suggestion of doing a weekly registry is to expose the pedagogical work being done, open it to dialogue with someone who is hierarchically superior, and, in turn, accept the questionings and suggestions.

Here we could say that we see the school habitus in operation. For quite some time these teachers were not required to show any form of registration, and historically there is no dialogue about work in the school. In a previous research project focusing on teachers who were just starting their careers (Anjos, 2006) this was one of the complaints of the teachers who were interviewed. However, when someone from the school staff proposes to do this monitoring of the work, how is it seen? What meanings are produced? They have to be read in the history of the teacher?s relations with the work, with other advisors, etc. In many moments Pedro experiences a sense of impotence and incompetence, and finds himself alone in facing the dilemmas of the profession.

The municipal educational system in Campinas does not provide prior preparation for novice school counselors. Although there are some official regulations for this work and even advice meetings, they do not comprehend the complexity of the daily practice.

When theorizing on the professional genre, Roger (2007) states that currently genres have been devitalizing. They have failed to be a resource for individual action, leaving the professionals to bear the difficulties and dilemmas related to the profession by themselves. The stabilized genres, even momentarily, "are a way to know how to position oneself in the world and how to act (...) Neglecting the genre can generate many irregular individual actions... every time he (the professional) is ignored or mistreated, his personal psychic life is affected" (pp. 47, 48).

According to Clot et Faita (2000), without the resource of common forms of professional life we see a deregulation of the individual action, a decrease in the power of action and of the vital tension of the collective, a loss of effectiveness of the work and of its own organization. These authors state that the difficulty in cultivating a collective history of the profession, and of having a history of shared practices that sets up the genre of activity, may result in the worker becoming ill.

In the dialogues conducted with the school counselors, we see that they do not find a history of shared practices that could assist them in the development of their profession. tThe responsibility of finding out how to be a school counselor is relegated to each counselor's personal experiences. A complicated point is that the knowledge of practices is poorly shared and each new school counselor who takes the job is "reinventing the wheel," even when there are others who have already experienced the same situations and have experiences they could share about the diverse aspects of daily life on the job.

Hence, when talking about the school counselor's activity and profession, many questions arise: How does one learn to organize the moments of the collective meeting with the teachers? What are the possible ways of following and participating in the teachers' work in the classroom? How does one organize a class/series council? How to manage the construction of the school Political Pedagogical Project?

The mere fact of having already experienced these situations as a teacher does not necessarily offer the required know-how to be responsible for the development of these actions. The change of position involves a series of new responsibilities and perceptions that one does not have when occupying the teacher?s role.

As we can notice, the professional dialogues produced at the "instruction to the double" sessions as well as during the meetings with other school counselors can contribute to the development of this work activity, at least in the case of this group of school counselors that has been willing to think collectively about their professional practice.

Change in working conditions

From the end of 2010 on, a working condition similar to Andrea's begins to take shape in Pedro's school, opening a new space and creating new conditions for his work with the teachers. One can read in Pedro's report (Oliveira, 2011):

In October 2010, the school gets a new principal. [Maria], the new principal, was a teacher in early childhood education, with some experience in the municipal teaching system in Campinas. When arriving at school she shows, through her way of taking over the role of principal, her concern with breaking the dichotomy between administrative and pedagogical work. Since the beginning we have been creating a very articulated way of working with many discussions about the decisions and possible ways forward. (...)

The registering and planning of the pedagogical work would be required of all teachers and each counselor would be responsible in his/her group for the implementation of this measure, in order to make this planning effective.

That proposal, which was received in a so tense way when I presented it in many pedagogical meetings during 2009, takes another shape. It is no longer an individual decision of the counselor, or a strategy he created to work with some of the teachers in the school. It becomes a management strategy — a way of action designed for the school as a whole (p. 11).

The way Pedro finds to put the monitoring of the teachers' work into practice is by allocating 50 minutes of the weekly pedagogic meeting so that the teachers write down the plan with their peers who teach the same grade. The possible accomplishment of this part of his job represents a significant change in Pedro's activity and gives meaning to his whole work.

According to Clot (2008), one who enters into a new working situation has no choice but to stick to the prescription that initially serves as a resource so that one can do what he/she has to do. However, the discovery of the obstacles in reality reveals the conflict between the prescription and the range of personal activities one sees developing around them.

In the specific case of Pedro, we can highlight at least two complicating factors — the prescription of his work is extremely vague and he does not work directly with a group of peers that perform the same activity as he at the school level; his role is to coordinate the work of others.

By participating in the group of school counselors (SCs) on the occasion of this research he had the opportunity to listen to fellow workers talking about the work they perform and the solutions they found to solve everyday problems. The other SCs who participate in the survey reported the ways they monitor the teachers' work. These conversations have led Pedro to think critically about his professional practice and to get a glimpse of other possibilities.

It is only in late 2010, with the arrival of the new school principal who ultimately enabled new working conditions, that Pedro can perform his monitoring work as he had intended to do from the very beginning, which makes us ponder on how the objective conditions of performing the work affect the possibilities of action of the individuals in a situation.

Summing up: the development of the subject, the development of the activity

In this paper we have discussed a young school counselor's process of entering the metier. We attempted to analyze the ways he engaged in daily work, the dilemmas he faced and how his particular ways of performing the job are related to a generic dimension of professional activity.

We could see how the counselors' possibility of talking about their activity was fostered in the context of the proposed methodology — "instruction to the double" interview, collective meetings — allowed them to jointly reflect on the conflicts they face in performing their work.

To invest in situations where professionals can effectively talk about how they carry out their daily work, where they can bring to the fore different ways of facing the problems and where they can make the controversies explicit, may contribute to the broadening of forms of action, to the development of not only the subjects but also of the work activity.

Among the official prescriptions, the implicit generic and the new working conditions, Pedro finds his own and innovative way to perform the activity of monitoring the teachers' work. According to Clot, this "intake" of the prescription makes the novice an experienced worker, able to get rid of the prescribed task and of the genre, because he masters both of them. Paradoxically the professional activity is finally more personal than it was in the beginning

"Professional styling cannot come true unless done by this responsible act that is never a "solo" or solitary break. But the novice transformed into an expert becomes a kind of author in his metier" (Clot, 2008, p. 265). He is not merely someone who is part of the metier, but appropriates it; the metier is in him.

[1] This work is part of an ongoing doctoral research supported by FAPESP (Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo), Brazil.

[2] All quotes in the text have been translated from Portuguese or French into English.

[3] The names presented in this paper are fictitious.


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Information About the Authors

Daniela Anjos, PhD Student — Faculty of Education, University of Campinas, Brazil, e-mail: danjos04@yahoo.com.br



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