Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 11

11

“BUT, I AM TEACHING!”: AN EXPERIENCED TEACHER EMBRACES PROFESSIONAL COURAGE

Dr. Tammi R. Davis

Abstract

This qualitative life history study seeks to understand the teaching life of an experienced elementary teacher. Building on the life history research model of Goodson and Sikes (2001), I used the discourse of the teacher to describe the trajectory of her professional life. The primary sources were online forum posts and extensive follow-up interviews. Data were analyzed using a multi-step, narrative-inspired framework through which I 1) compiled an overview Jane’s teaching history; 2) coded for broad themes and representative refrains; 3) analyzed details of individual refrains, tones, deeper themes, and metaphors; and 4) analyzed pairs of refrains for tensions and commonalities. Findings include how examining the metaphors of Jane’s teaching emphasize the importance of teachers finding ways to enact professional courage.

“I do feel like I have given up so much. I think I am still able to ensure that my students enjoy being at school; it's definitely in a different way. But, I think we still do find ways to laugh and to make fun out of what it is we must do.” (Jane: Primary Teacher)

I began this study because I wanted to know more about why Jane, after more than 20 years in teaching, was worried, scared, and stressed while still maintaining a positive attitude. In the beginning of my own 25 years in the K-8 classroom, I would have described being a teacher as hard work, but rewarding. Sadly, during the last ten years, I still would have described teaching as hard work, but I would have replaced the word rewarding with upsetting. Teachers are stressed. In a recent national survey exploring stress levels of 1,201 K-12 U.S. teachers, Jan Richards (2012) indicated that teachers were highly stressed, with the primary reasons of 1) teaching needy students without enough support, 2) being overcommitted with too many duties and responsibilities at work, 3) having a lack of control over decisions that affect them and their students, 4) teaching students who do not seem motivated to learn, and 5) feeling the constant pressure of being “accountable” (p. 302).

Dr. Tammi R. Davis taught elementary school and middle school for more than 20 years in both Florida and Indiana. She recently received her phD from Indiana University and is currently a clinical faculty member at the University of Louisville. She is the director of the Kentucky Reading project and teaches undergraduate literacy methods courses in a Jefferson County elementary school in Louisville.
tammird@gmail.com

tammi.davis@louisville.edu