Coming to Know in the ‘Eye of the Storm’: A Beginning Teacher’s Introduction to Different Versions of Teacher Community

Jan. 20, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 29, p. 25-38. (January, 2013)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the experience of one beginning teacher in her first year of teaching.

The participants were Anna Dean, one beginning teacher, and her and her colleagues in T. P. Yaeger Middle School.
The study used Narrative inquiry.
Data were collected through teacher interviews, participant observations of classroom teaching, professional development sessions, sets of notes from department meetings, and sets of notes from faculty meetings, as well as analyzed documents, observations of special meetings and the researcher’s journal, supported the inquiry.


Three themes of global significance available for reflective analysis are interwoven throughout Anna Dean’s narrative of coming to know teacher community in her first year of teaching.

(1) Conflicting versions of teacher community
When Anna Dean first enrolled in her teacher preparation programme, she was generally introduced to professional learning communities (PLCs) as ‘best practices’.
Such practices were held up as universal solutions to school and curricular problems and as prime vehicles to spur school change.

However, when she arrived at Yaeger, she discovered that the veteran teachers had natural ways of interacting with one another when left to their own devices.
She witnessed how the teachers fruitfully used relationships with one another to support, improve and communicate the subtleties of their literacy practices and to sustain their identities-in-the-making in their rapidly shifting school milieu.
Anna additionally learned that her isolation as a newcomer, aided and abetted by less-than-ideal school timetabling, precluded her easy entrée to these communities.
Furthermore, the fact that her mentor was male furthermore may have denied her access to certain female literacy department associations.
Despite all of this, Anna Dean was astute enough to recognize that these communities of knowing were something she wanted to tap into.

(2) Shifting school landscapes shifting teacher identities
When Anna Dean came to Yaeger, she entered a professional knowledge landscape in rapid flux.
The previous principal had cultivated teachers who put their personal stamps on their practices and were praised for their individual signatures.
However, the current principal expected teachers to act as carbon copies of one another and school programmes contained little variation.
Furthermore, Anna's mentor, whom she worked over the year, decided to transfer to another school.

(3) The eye of the storm-the perfect storm metaphors
Anna Dean’s narrative is chronicled through the extended lived metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) of learning teacher community in the eye of a storm, an unprompted comparative frame through which Anna illuminated her initial teaching experiences.
The metaphor Anna chose to describe her first year of teaching and living in community exemplified how her experiences unfurled in somewhat of an insular fashion at the eye, while persistent discomfort churned around her on the storm’s periphery.

The author concludes that Anna Dean’s experience of teacher community in the eye of a storm reveals how what exists in school contexts and in professional relationships between and among experienced teachers, administrators and consultants affects beginning teachers’ knowledge developments.
This experience also shapes and tenors of beginning teachers' knowledge communities, the stories to live/leave by to which they are introduced and how policy becomes lived in particular school settings.

Updated: Feb. 24, 2015