Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

The Writing of Teachers' Lives-Where Personal Troubles and Social Issues Meet

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

The Writing of Teachers' Lives-Where Personal Troubles and Social Issues Meet

Article excerpt


I met Michael Huberman only once, in Boston, on a chilly afternoon in April of 1990. His article, "The professional life cycle of teachers" (1989) then had been in print for a few months. Already, phrases like, "easy beginnings" and "painful beginnings" and terms like "stabilization" and "reassessment" were making their way into talk about teacher development. His influence on my thinking has been profound. The first recipient of the Huberman Award, Ivor Goodson, also has profoundly shaped my thinking, beginning with his seminal work, "Life histories and the study of schooling," published in 1981. I still find myself referring to the essays in Teachers' Lives and Careers (Ball & Goodson, 1985), which was published in 1985. It was a bad day when I went to the shelf to check a reference from Teachers' Lives only to find a space where it had been. I thought I knew who borrowed the book, but when asked he said he did not have it. For me this was no ordinary loss. I actually purchased a hard back copy and the back pages were filled with copious notes. Months later it turned up with an apology attached. That was a good day.

I came to be concerned with teachers' lives as a research interest along a circuitous path. In some respects this is a surprising admission; given my history a more direct route would be expected.

Growing up my father was a junior high school art teacher. Evenings he worked at a Standard Station pumping gas and fixing tires, at Farr's Ice Cream, or as a sweeper in his own school. The advantage of working for Standard Oil was that he could count on full-time summer employment. He was also enrolled in classes at the university. I do not know how or when he planned lessons, but I do know that he slept little and always had a sore throat. He smelled of Old Spice after shave and Smith Brother's Menthol Cough Drops. As a child I recall sitting in the car with my parents and siblings outside of Keith O'Brian's, a clothing store, and listening as my parents talked about how they were going to pay for something that one of us needed. My father, who graduated from the university with highest honors and was and is a very proud man, turned around and asked if he could borrow the dollar I had been given earlier. My parents had decided we children needed to learn how to handle money and intended to give each of us a dollar a month for an allowance. That plan didn't last long.

In high school I was acutely aware of social class differences and remember being rather embarrassed that my father was a teacher, a mere teacher. I knew him to be extraordinarily bright and talented. He could do just about anything. Why teaching? I also knew something about how poorly teachers were treated by some parents and often by students. From observing my parents' lives I came to a seemingly inevitable conclusion: teaching was not for me. Teachers work unbelievably hard for comparatively little money and almost no one outside of their colleagues and immediate family members knows how difficult their work is. Moreover, few seem to care.

Still, I became a teacher. I shall not recount the story here (see, Bullough, 2008, chapter 3). Suffice it to say that events of the late 1960s turned my world upside down. Teaching offered a way to spend a life that qualified as moral. I loved books and talking to the dead and I came to understand the power of ideas, how words can and do change the world. The child's taunting rhyme response, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is, of course, a terribly hurtful lie. Words destroy, but they also create. In Genesis 1:3 God speaks and there is light. I've often thought about and been amazed by the emancipatory power of education, a generous liberal education, to open us so we can experience the world more fully and through others' eyes. Such power enables seeing things not as they are but as they might be, to become wide awake (see Maxine Greene, 1978). …

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