Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Threading a Golden Chain: An Attempt to Find Our Identities as Teacher Educators

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Threading a Golden Chain: An Attempt to Find Our Identities as Teacher Educators

Article excerpt

Multiple Layers, Multiple Perspectives

Several years ago we met over coffee and discussions about teacher education at an international conference. With mutual interests in the role of teacher educators' development of their professional identity, we developed an intellectual relationship as we pondered questions related to our interests. We found our conversation together provocative not in small part because of geographical differences. Teacher education programs and what it takes to be a teacher educator differ between the United States and The Netherlands. Since we did not realize this immediately, the discovery of similarities and differences strengthened our relationship as colleagues and raised critical issues.

We began our current work together by asking each other to address a series of questions and issues regarding the identity of teacher educators. At the start, these questions were rather broad and random, but during the year we worked on this project, discussing the identity of teacher educators and studying literature, some questions proved to be central. Throughout this article we use our own shared writings about these central questions to situate ourselves within the layers and perspectives in the literature on teacher educator identity.

Mieke: I identify as a teacher educator, not as a teacher or professor. Sometimes I identify as a researcher ... that's because people in The Netherlands don't always expect teacher educators to do research. Outside of that, I see being a teacher educator as preparing future teachers and doing it on the basis of experiences, theory, reflection, and learning to be critical of their own work.

Mary Lynn: I think that my identity as a teacher educator is contextual. Sometimes I am a teacher, sometimes I am a teacher educator, sometimes I am a researcher, and sometimes I am professor. It depends on who I am with and what I want to accomplish. This, I think, is the problem with the identity of teacher educators, at least in the United States. There are instances when I feel that I am devalued when I identify as a teacher educator where the title of professor or researcher achieves greater status or attention. There is a fallacy in academia, and perhaps beyond, that teacher educators have less knowledge, or less intelligence, or less something, and their work is devalued. If I look beyond the contextual issues, I see that my commitment as a teacher educator is to prepare the best teachers possible so that they can work with all students. While I would describe a teacher as thoughtful, creative, and someone who understands the research process, I would describe a teacher educator as one who thoughtfully and creatively teaches and engages in research.

As seen above, based on our own writing, feelings, and experiences, being a teacher educator complicates things. Teacher educators are not one identity or another and being a teacher educator in one country does not seem to be the same as being a teacher educator in another country. In the United States teacher educators usually attain doctorates in curriculum and instruction or related areas. While they often have experience in public schools, that may not serve as a job requirement. Moreover, teacher educators in the U.S. often engage in research, but not always. In The Netherlands, teacher educators are usually experienced and excellent teachers with a master degree in a specific subject like English, history, or science. Only a minority of teacher educators are engaged in research, even fewer teacher educators have a terminal degree.

As we explored our situations and experience we saw dramatic differences and contrasts yet similarities and likenesses. Our feelings and experiences are confirmed by literature: the profession of teacher educator is neither well-defined nor recognized as being an important profession on its own merits and this seems to have effects on the identity of teacher educators. …

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