Huie, Mary Lynn
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Seeking to privilege the knowledge of experienced teachers regarding teacher identity, this qualitative research study was designed to gather written and oral interview data regarding teachers’ lives over lengthy careers. This study included two participant groups, each comprised of three teachers. Each teacher had taught on average 33 years in a large Southern, metropolitan public-school district at the time of the study. As part of an effort to privilege the knowledge of the participants in this study, the researcher experimented with data-collection methods designed to minimize her influence on data production, most clearly exhibited in group conversations in which participants asked one another questions with minimal influence from the researcher. In this study a social constructionist interest in the ways teachers shape and are shaped by the contextual worlds of their classrooms combines with a postmodern awareness of the necessary fictions at play in all constructions of meaning (including those of the researcher). Foucault’s analysis of the classical concept of care of the self influences data analysis. By opening spaces within the project for participants to determine the questions asked, discourse used, and conversational paths explored, participants produced data that reflected their thinking in their terms about their concerns. However, giving participants freedom in how they produced data meant that ultimately the data centered around the participants’ interests rather than the researcher’s. These participants discussed numerous teaching practices of good teachers, which I have grouped into three sets of virtuous practices: practices of orderliness, energy, and passion. Practices of orderliness and energy help teachers become competent as they master skills necessary to manage the classroom environment and their own resources. Practices of passion take teachers beyond competence toward a career that continues to inspire them and their students.