‘I want to open up windows to the world’: Reflections from teachers in the making

    Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


    English teaching is a career chosen for passionate reasons relating to love for the subject, belief in the importance of teaching and the capacity to make a difference to the lives of all students. The decision to teach is strongly shaped by the ‘service theme’ (Lortie, 1975) which manifests itself in the desire to help students overcome barriers, reach their potential and to be supported in the development of the skills necessary for effective involvement in a dynamic world beyond school (Manuel & Brindley, 2005). This paper will present key findings from a study tracing the process of ‘becoming’ (Britzman, 1991) inherent in learning to teach. The qualitative research explored the factors shaping the identity of four pre-service English teachers in New South Wales, Australia, as they made their journey through Initial Teacher Education (ITE). An innovative approach to critical reflective practice was employed whereby participants crafted and then annotated narratives at key points during ITE. The annotations explicated the literal and metaphoric voices identified as challenging and/or affirming the pre-service teachers’ beliefs. A strong body of research has noted the resilience of initial beliefs (Heinz, 2015; Manuel & Hughes, 2006) however the annotative techniques unsettled the pre-service teachers’ prior hegemonic beliefs (Brookfield, 2016) and facilitated an imagined ‘conversation’ with self and the voices of significant others from the broader educational context. The annotations offered a curated and creative borderline space (Batchelor, 2012) that was conducive to experimentation and that revealed the factors enabling and constraining commitment to personal and social empowerment within classrooms. In the current context of curriculum debates, increasing teacher regulation and early career teacher attrition (Manuel & Carter, 2016), this research has implications for ITE and the broader teaching profession. The findings showed a non-linear pattern whereby the gaze of the pre-service teachers moved outwards from self (to an awareness of broader contextual factors) and inwards to considerations of the teaching self (Conway & Clark, 2003). This ‘nimbleness of gaze’ involved the capacity to modify and re-direct gaze depending on contextual requirements. Despite being in a liminal phase of ‘now-but-not-yetness’, participants’ sense of self as teacher included a strong social justice dimension including a perception of English teaching as an emancipatory subject that could challenge social barriers and power structures (Goodwyn, 2016). Taken together, the participants’ narratives reveal a pattern of altruism and enthusiasm for teaching that is rewarding and reassuring for the future of the teaching profession.
    Period5 Dec 2019
    Held atAustralian Association of Research in Education (AARE), Australia
    Degree of RecognitionNational