Sustaining hope : a teacher's stories of teaching reading for 46 years in one urban school
This dissertation examines the life stories of Marsha Ethridge (all names are pseudonyms), a teacher who has taught for 46 years in one urban elementary school. The stories Marsha tells about her life are used as lenses to consider the following: (1) What influences most shaped Marsha’s practices and stories to live by as a teacher? (2) What has it been like for Marsha teaching reading in an urban elementary school for 46 years? and (3) What is the nature of caring in Marsha’s stories? The study draws on life story and portraiture methods. Data were collected over a period of three years and includes life story interviews, one focus group interview, observations, and artifacts. Through the process of constant comparative method, three themes emerged: literacy and accountability, teacher development and identity, and caring and connecting. The most salient theme was caring and connecting throughout Marsha’s stories, and it served as a unifying thread to pull her stories together. This study found that in Marsha’s first years of teaching there were few forms of accountability. She felt that this was the primary reason many of her sixth graders had made it through school without learning to read. In the following years she used a variety of measures for accountability, including high-stakes accountability, which caused her to experience increasing professional dissonance. The form of accountability she believed improved her teaching practices the most was accountability situated in the context of caring relationships and it led to hope for future success. Marsha experienced this face-to-face accountability in the teacher-initiated group she had been meeting with for 27 years. Research implications from this study include the need to further explore discourse in teacher-initiated groups over time and in different contexts, as well as consider how the relational dynamics and accountability within collaborative teacher groups contribute to teacher growth. Additionally, the analysis of Marsha’s life stories indicate a need for teachers, parents, researchers, and policy makers to lay aside discourse of blaming and shaming to create opportunities for extended conversations about alternatives to high-stakes accountability.