Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

From Leaning Comes Meaning: Informal Comentorship and the Second-Career Academic in Education

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

From Leaning Comes Meaning: Informal Comentorship and the Second-Career Academic in Education

Article excerpt

This paper outlines the challenges faced by two second-career academics in the field of education journeying through the process of institutional resocialization as new, tenure-track faculty members. Specifically, it examines how we, as new faculty, used a dyadic, informal mentoring partnership as a strategy for success and affirmation in managing our resocialization in our newly acquired roles in the academy. We define second-career academics in education as teachers, education consultants, or education administrators who have moved from a career in K-12 public or private education to a school, faculty, or department of education at a college or university as a tenure-track faculty member. While we are writing from our experiences coming out of K-12 education, much of what we share in this paper could apply to second career academics across a variety of disciplines.

In the course of the paper we use autoethnographic dialogues to distill nodal moments from our collaborative relationship. Our seminal moments provide a context for how our collaborative relationship evolved, as well as insight into what we learned from each other, our shared and disparate struggles, and our emergent arrangement of an informal comentorship. We hope that our autoethnographic examination may add to the scant available literature examining the resocialization of second-career academics in the field of education (Driscoll, Parkes, Tilley-Lubbs, Brill, & Pitts Bannister, 2009; Kinsey et al., 2006; LaRocco & Bruns, 2006) and provide insight into the experiences and growth of two such tenure-track academics engaged in an informal comentorship. Through mutually sharing our autobiographical stories, we connected the personal to the cultural, and in doing so practically invited an autoethnographic approach to inform our study method; this in turn provided us a substantive method to better understand our position within the academy and make sense of our new roles in our second careers as academics.

Background

Both of us were hired initially as long-term appointees and subsequently into our present tenure-track positions with our terminal degrees in progress. We both completed our doctorates while working full-time at the university, while earlier we had both worked at the same district school board. We also shared a genuine affinity for and love of teaching. In addition to traveling similar career paths, we both came from backgrounds where an overall sense of well-being had been our life-long goal. In addition, we realized that we had common epiphanies or markers in our lives that shaped how we approached both scholarship and mentorship as teacher educators. In short, our core values, beliefs, and concerns were in alignment. In the absence of any formal orientation or mentoring program in our new home in the university, these similarities drew us together, thus providing a foundation for what would become a fruitful, informal comentorship.

Theory Guiding Practice

In the course of developing our mentoring partnership, and as part of our preparation for our informal meetings, we undertook a review of the literature based on our own practices and early experiences in the academy. Specifically, we examined (a) autoethnography as a means to examine our coconstructed experiences in the academy, (b) mentoring in higher education, and (c) the resocialization of second-career academics. In doing so, we were seeking to provide a contextual understanding of how we, as pretenured second-career academics in education, could manage our own resocialization using an informal comentorship.

Autoethnography

The term auto is commonly used in the academy when referencing publications in which the author presents critical reflections and interpretations of personal experience; ethnography, on the other hand, involves a "qualitative approach to studying the rules, norms, and acts of resistance associated with cultural groups" (Hughes, Pennington, & Makris, 2012, p. …

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