Competing and Conflicting Identity Plotlines: Navigating Personal Narratives of Entering Teaching

Aug. 01, 2011

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 7, No. 2, August 2011, 145–154
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author lives on two professional knowledge landscapes.
The first landscape is a public school, where she has taught at a junior high school for the past eight years.
The second landscape is a university.
For the past six years, the author has worked at a large private university where she teaches in an endorsement program that prepares teacher candidates to work with English learners in their future classrooms.

The purpose of this self-study was to identify implications of self-positioning for the author's practice in the stories she tells on both landscapes.

Implications for the Author's Practice

Several issues were raised during the course of this study.

1) Harmonizing Two Plotlines
The first issue revolves around the author's two plotlines of becoming a teacher and why she believes that these plotlines are competing and not conflicting.
Using positioning theory and narrative inquiry tools, the author identifies and unpacks a canon of stories that have one of two plotlines: “Of course I am a teacher” and “I never intended to become a teacher.”
These two plotlines seem contradictory and, therefore, problematic to maintain.

2) Recognizing the Complexity of the Becoming a Teacher Question
Another issue raised by this study centers on the idea of the interrogative act of asking someone how they became a teacher, and what assumptions are concomitant with that kind of an inquiry on various landscapes.

Since conducting this study, the author has become increasingly aware of the ways in which she leverages students’ self-positioning as well as my own engagement in advocacy.
On the junior high landscape, the author realized how important the idea of possibility is for adolescents. As a consequence, she has become wakeful to the ways in which she has suggested teaching as a profession to students, along with other career options.

3) Noting Changes in Interactions with Students
The third issue deals with changes in the author's interaction patterns with students on both the public school landscape and the university landscape.

The author finds herself listening to the stories that teacher candidates share about becoming teachers and the ways in which those narratives position them.
She also encourages them to consider other possibilities for grade levels or specialties.
In the past, most of her recommendations for their education revolved around navigating the university system or embracing specialties or taking classes where they would be more employable.
Now she is more aware of the ways in which she takes up not just the learning of her teacher candidates, but also their lives, and position them to take up various aspects of education as they complete their course work.


The author concludes that she has come to consider the ways in which the self-positioning that takes place during the telling of these stories reveals both distinction and overlap in coming to teach, becoming a teacher, or defining teaching.
Examining how stories of coming to teach, becoming a teacher, and what teaching is bump into each other, and examining how they shift over time might lead to more productive pedagogies in teacher education programs.

Updated: Dec. 10, 2013