Telling tales: An auto ethnographic case study of why teachers stay in the classroom.

Year: 2019

Author: Sanders, Tracey, Cain, Melissa, Thorpe, Vicki

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teaching in the new millennium is demanding, multifaceted, complex, and challenging. Research indicates that up to fifty per cent of teachers resign from teaching within the first five years of graduating. We know teachers often leave the profession burnt out, frustrated and exhausted. The fast pace of curriculum change, professional development demands, challenging student cohorts, accountability measures of data gathering, interpretation and analysis, assessment and reporting, as well as differentiating to meet all student needs within the constraints of time, are just some of the catalysts that see teachers leave the profession in the early stages of their career or end a long career in disillusionment. Rarely however, are stories put forward that shine a light on why teachers stay in the profession. Seldom are teachers provided opportunities to describe and savour times of joy, fulfilment, and the rich rewards of teaching.

This presentation presents the voices of six teachers in diverse educational contexts who have documented the joys of being an educator. Fundamental to the research presented are the social, cultural, and political circumstances surrounding the lived personal experiences of teachers currently working in schools. Documented using auto-ethnography, the research has taken these teachers on a journey of self-discovery and reflection, where they have the opportunity to look outwardly, providing them with empowerment and clarity.

Through storytelling and reflection and delivered using performance ethnography, the presenters capture why teachers stay in the classroom, how they overcome adversity and challenging conditions, and how they see themselves as enablers of learning. The main theme, why teachers stay, invites teachers to look at the positive and joy filled aspects of teaching, explore the animating drivers of their own teacher identities, and the way their students nourish their desire to continue in the profession- a refreshing new perspective. This presentation provides an authentic narrative from those who are committed and passionate with a resilience that defies the cries of being overworked, underpaid, and stressed. It unfolds why teachers stay for the ‘fulfilling’ reasons and privileges harmony over discord. The presenters invite conference participants to engage with, and respond to the stories presented, to find meaning in teaching today.