Treasures and damages : portraits of veteran teachers with/in the standards era

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2014-05

Authors

Flint, Mary Jo

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Abstract

This project examined the life narratives of four veteran teachers, each of whom began their careers before the onset of the Standards Era and were still teaching in 2013. Seeking to surface both their ways of resilience and negotiations of their identities as teachers through their decades-long careers, the question is positioned in the neoliberal turmoil of high-stakes accountability, national curriculum standards, and widespread, large-N assessment, to determine if resilient, long-career teachers exhibit particular characteristics and support systems that enable their accomplished status. Using the postmodern, interpretivist methodologies of portraiture and oral history, richly contextualized narratives for each teacher were crafted as an initial analysis. A secondary analysis revealed three manifestations of identity: the socially constructed identity, the bureaucratically informed identity, and the emotionally shaped identity. Findings suggest that having a fully developed and robust set of identities might encourage teacher resilience and longevity, supporting existing bodies of research, and that storytelling is an important aspect of identity development and maintenance. An additional finding was the absence of adversity through veteran teachers’ careers, which pushes against current research on resilience, as it positions resilience against adversity. An interesting question remains, which is in what ways might these veterans have renamed themselves—through the development of multiple and fluid identities—and renamed the challenges and disruptions of their world of work so that they might continue in the classroom. As school leaders typically rely on the knowledge base of seasoned veterans—to inform curriculum development, novice teacher support, and professional learning communities—it seems important to consider the power of storytelling in those venues. In conclusion, the author suggests that the addition of research from the field of knowledge creation, usage, and stewardship could be useful to future research of veteran teachers and the ways their professional knowledge might be better leveraged for improved educational outcomes.

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