Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Relational Identity Making on the Professional Landscape as a Substitute Teacher: Interruptions and Continuities

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Relational Identity Making on the Professional Landscape as a Substitute Teacher: Interruptions and Continuities

Article excerpt

Introducing the Research Puzzle

This article, which comes out of a research project exploring teaching as intellectual work, (1) focuses specifically on a young woman who worked as a substitute teacher after she graduated from a two-year teacher education program at her local university. For Penny, substitute teaching was an interruption as she shaped a professional life moving toward a full time permanent contract in a western Canadian urban school division. Although she yearned for a permanent contract, Penny's many experiences as a substitute teacher helped her learn what she wanted and what she did not want in her identity as a professional.

One place where the intellectual work of teachers can be studied is in the moment where teachers' and children's lives interact as they meet in schools. This interaction can be understood as curriculum making, a concept that has grown out of the work of Clandinin and Connelly (1992), who believe that curriculum "might be viewed as an account of teachers' and children's lives together in schools and classrooms ... in which teacher, learner, subject matter, and milieu are in dynamic interaction" (p. 392). Lives are shaped in and out of schools. Children and teachers bring their lived experiences outside school into the classroom where their lives meet, along with situations of subject matter, where they inquire into and negotiate learning together. This view of lives together in a classroom shapes their "vision of curriculum as a course of life" (p.393). Understanding curriculum making as an account of teachers' and children's lives together opens a place for researchers and educators to focus on teachers' integral role midst a negotiated experience with others. In this view of curriculum making, the children's curriculum influences a teacher's identity. In other words, the children around a teacher shape her or his professional identity.

Understanding identity as a narrative term implies identity as always in the making. A narrative term for identity is "stories to live by" (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999). Relational identity making in this article refers to the stories that a teacher composed about who she was in relation to the children she met in classrooms. Each person, including the teacher, brought stories into their curriculum making space from their lives outside the classroom, which intersected with the stories of others in that place.

The spaces of curriculum making, where children's and teachers' lives in motion met (Huber, Murphy, & Clandinin, 2011), held complex layers of identity making because each individual contributed to the negotiation of learning together. This article focuses on a particular teacher named Penny. (2) Exploring her stories to live by on the professional knowledge landscape, furthers understanding of how her experience was shaped, but also

... develop[s] understandings of children as developing and living out their own shifting and multiple stories to live by, stories shaped by their knowledge and context. In this view we draw attention to the narrative life compositions of children, a view that allows us to see children as shaped by, and shaping their contexts. (Huber & Clandinin, 2005, p. 314)

This notion of children shaping their own contexts illuminated the way children shape a beginning teacher's story to live by. The children Penny taught were significant in her identity making experience.

Wonders about curriculum making and identity making as intellectual work shape this article and make central the role of personal practical knowledge. Personal practical knowledge (Clandinin & Connelly, 1992) refers to knowledge that is influenced in part by the sociality of the personal out-of-school-life and professional in-school-life. Clandinin and Connelly (1995) describe personal practical knowledge as "that body of convictions and meanings, conscious or unconscious that have arisen from experience (intimate, social, and traditional) and that are expressed in a person's practices" (p. …

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