Uniting the stories of new and veteran educators
Berry, Tammye Nisewonger
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This is a descriptive qualitative study using narrative inquiry to build upon research on mentoring and support for practicing teachers to advance how we think about retention. Each participant offers a specific case for consideration. Guided by the conceptual framework of Dewey’s focus on experiences, this study has the potential to shed light on new and veteran rural educators by listening to their combined voices. The significance resides in the viewing of their ‘lived expectations’ and ‘lived experiences’ through a constructivist’s lens of what the participants expected teaching to be like, what they experienced and are experiencing, and what the opportunity to reflect together meant to their practice. By providing a space for individual voices to be heard and honored, the study focused on the research question: What do new and veteran teachers have to say to us about their expectations and experiences in teaching? In a rural Georgia community, seven participants were purposely selected based on years of experience as teachers, new and veteran. Data collection included lists of expectations, individual open-ended interviews, focus groups, and reflections collected over an eight-month period. Throughout the inquiry process, narrative analysis was used in re-telling their storied educational experiences. The analysis and findings made visible the differences in these new and veteran teachers’ expectations and indicated similarities in the teachers’ experiences regardless of age or experience level, while acknowledging the bond with their community. Two proposals were made: (1) the new and veteran teachers’ expectations of being a teacher were different; (2) these rural teachers had a background with a rural community or an attachment to the rural community in which they taught; acknowledged the supportive and challenging characteristics of experiences with people in rural communities; and, talked about similar educational experiences. As a result, this study contributes to the knowledge base in teaching and mentoring. The similar experiences in this study, despite the years of experience, require us to think more about ‘teacher’ as a role with very little variance. This study is a touchstone text for considerations regarding teacher preparation, retention, and how we think about mentoring.