Shifting from Stories to Live By to Stories to Leave By: Early Career Teacher Attrition

Feb. 19, 2015

Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 1, Winter 2014

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors were interested to examine the teaching experiences that lead beginning teachers to become early career leavers.

Using a methodology of narrative inquiry, the authors inquired into the experiences of three teachers in Alberta, a Canadian province, and one teacher in Georgia, a U.S. state, who left teaching in K-12 within their first five years.


The authors found that the participants learned to tell acceptable stories about why they decided to leave teaching profession.
For example, one participant argued that she left teaching career because she wanted to become a mother or because she was accepted to graduate school.
However, the authors argue that these answers are also cover stories that silence the struggles she experienced at school.
Her silence about the harder to tell more complex stories could have disrupted the professional knowledge landscape of schools.

The authors found that the participants described their teaching lives as “hard,” because of the long hours, and physical, social, and emotional demands.
They told of struggling to find ways to compose and recompose their whole lives, ones that were lived on and across personal and professional knowledge landscapes.
However the authors claim that teachers who leave also know that most often, if they tell these complex, layered stories, they run the risk of being seen as deficit, as selfish.
The authors provide another reason for teachers' cover stories.
They argue that these stories not only allow teachers to leave schools, they also leave the professional knowledge landscapes unquestioned.

The authors conclude that cover stories may make it easier for teachers to leave teaching.
However, these stories may ultimately lead to policies based on teachers’ alibis for leaving, instead of their more complex and harder truths.

Updated: Nov. 08, 2017