Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 17

In this pair of stories, Jane talked about what instruction used to look like in her classroom and how it looked at the time of the interviews. The primary tension across refrains seemed to be about role shifts in the classroom for her and the students. Whereas she used to view herself as curricular decision maker and facilitator of learning, it seemed now she felt “constrained” as a follower because she was “teaching determined content.”

She described the role of the students in the past as very active in their learning. In two instances, she not only talked about students engaged in reading but in rereading the texts and even begging to take them home to read again at home. Conversely, as she talked about typical instruction in her current classroom, she used words like curriculum calendar, core-reading program, small group instruction, and content determined by our previous assessments. When she talked about the students, she said they knew exactly what to expect and had very little freedom. In the second part of this story, she told about a day she did not do the expected. Sadly, it is only in this section describing her current practice that Jane mentioned students reading and writing.

These refrains of Jane’s teaching life confirmed the findings of Valli and Buese (2007), who reported the “rapid-fire, high-stakes policy directives promoted an environment in which teachers were asked to relate to their students differently, enacting pedagogies that are often at odds with their vision of best practice, and experience high levels of stress.” The summative effect of this included teacher discouragement, role ambiguity, and superficial responses to administrative goals (p. 519). In particular, Jane’s comments in these refrains revealed a teacher who was very discouraged, in fact “anguished” over her current instructional practices, particularly as they related to her students. As Valli and Buese also mentioned, it would be different if all of these role changes for teachers resulted in the “greater good for students.” It was clear that their participants and Jane would not agree that these changes were best for students or for student learning.

I believe that it was Jane’s early teaching memories that inspired her to try to find ways to teach children how she saw best. Thus, her most memorable metaphor was Teacher as Warrior of Small Battles. It was striking to me that it took so much effort and justification to herself and her peers to do something small like allow her students to research about a whale. It was interesting to me that she described her students as “just giddy” when they were allowed to do this. All I can think of is what the other tasks they are asked to do daily must be like that makes this task seem so exhilarating.

Because of her somewhat timid and self-proclaimed worrying personality, Jane really tried hard to do what was asked of her in most situations and most often smoothed over, or tried to make everyone happy. Instead of talking about how her students would be happier if they did not have to do so much test preparation work, she talked about how much fun they had coloring in data charts and setting new goals for themselves. This smoothing over type talk was as much for herself as her students. Her smoothing over talk helped her remain positive. She seemed to take the most pride in the whale story because she stood up and rewrote what was expected of her in a typical teaching day.

I easily think of teachers I taught with in my last few years in the classroom and teachers I am working with now in my university position that are like Jane. They are doing their best to “make the best of their situations.” It is important to recognize that Jane and teachers like her are trying to find ways for elementary aged children, in Jane’s case 8- and 9-year-olds, not only to enjoy school but also to engage in learning that is not tied to standardized tests.

Discussion and Implications

This study confirmed the importance of resiliency- bouncing back from adversity or change, in the lives of teachers. This focus on resilience (Monteiro & Bueno, 2008, Muchmore, 2001; Nieto, 2005) is more important than ever because of the current climate of mandates affecting a number of aspects of teachers’ daily lives. This trait of resiliency¬ was evident in how Jane continued to persevere despite feeling overwhelmed by what “she must do.” My study confirmed the importance of resiliency in the lives of teachers as Jane, in spite of her worries and misgivings, continued to work hard and be devoted to the profession. bravery and strength, is an additional attribute, which helps teachers feel professionally renewed.