Academic journal article High School Journal

Teacher Voice, Teacher Education, Teaching Professionals

Academic journal article High School Journal

Teacher Voice, Teacher Education, Teaching Professionals

Article excerpt

Introduction

The ideas presented in this article are based on a reconstruction of narratives of two beginning teachers. The ideas, however are guided by forces outside of these narratives at least as much as they are by the words within them. Two forces which inform both the reconstruction and the analysis deserve attention here. First, the author's personal experience as a classroom teacher has been influential in the direction of her research agenda as well as in analysis of qualitative data. On-going discourse about teaching throughout graduate work helped me recognize the absence of this type of professional discourse while I was a classroom teacher. The collegiality I found in graduate school provided opportunities to reflect on my work and grow as a qualitative researcher and teaching professional. The value of these relationships for my personal practice clearly influences the direction of this analysis.

A second force informing the analysis of these narratives is related to basic theoretical assumptions. "Post" critical theory both uncovers the hegemonic in schools and also reveals spaces where teachers' voices are heard. The analysis presented in this article assumes the power of the state in determining school structure and proceeds to acknowledge teacher agency and voice in shifting that structure and thus impacting school culture.

Culture is emergent and is continuously in flux. This statement holds true for the culture of schools despite the image of the rigid power structure and conservative school culture portrayed in critical educational research. Structural theory has promoted a base of critical ethnography in education which portrays images of school structure and the marginalization of teachers and students within this structure. The inequitable power structure described in critical education research leaves little room for the evolving nature of school culture and the active role of both teachers and students in the continuous construction and reconstruction of this culture. The image of the school as an egg carton portrays teachers who are isolated from each other and powerless in impacting progressive change in schools.

The power of the state and the silencing of teachers within the hegemonic discourse of schools is a fundamental piece of structural critical theory. As stated, this perspective in critical theory does not provide space for the teacher agency clearly documented in poststructural research. Still, structural critical theory is useful and should not be neglected. While postmodern theory provides a lens through which we see agency of the oppressed and recognize the inherent bias in the limited perspective of much critical theory, the two perspectives should be integrated rather than treated as oppositional and mutually exclusive. Michael Apple and Anita Oliver (1998) argue that critical educational studies would benefit from an integrative approach in terms of theory, emphasizing both "the power of the state and the ideological currents within common sense and the power of cultural movements from below" (p. 142). The "post" critical construction and analysis of teachers' stories presented in this chapter recognizes the hegemonic in teachers' experiences in schools, but also challenges the image of teacher as silenced within this structure. The stories of beginning teachers provide insight into the ingredients which support the active practice of teachers in the construction and reconstruction of school culture. Preservice teacher education programs which have continued to distinguish course work from field work, assume a fixed power structure in schools and neglect to help teachers develop the tools necessary to be informed agents in the development of school culture.

These forces inform the analysis of stories reconstructed from the narratives of two beginning teachers. The preservice experiences of these two "successful" teachers indicates that success is related to the degree of autonomy and collegiality, characteristics essential to being a professional. …

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