A teacher’s research on teachers’ work

When I began my doctoral research it was with a sense that teachers’ work is often misrepresented, and consequently misunderstood and undervalued. The public perception of teaching, largely based on the fact that everyone has experienced schooling from the other side of the desk, is often limited and unfair. Nothing frustrates me more than ill-informed focus on teachers’ short days (we go home by 4’clock don’t we) and long summer holidays (because we can’t really be exhausted enough to need six weeks off, and don’t spend holiday hours changing courses and updating resources to meet the demands of the latest prescribed curriculum or program).

The concept of teachers’ work has become harder to define and its boundaries are expanding in immeasurable ways. It is increasingly visible to the public eye (not that there is anything wrong with transparency) and has become subject to greater measures of local and national control and accountability than ever before. It’s hard to keep up with the pace of change and the demands on teachers: new curricula, achievement standards, technologies, pedagogies, professional development, and performance standards and evaluation. I don’t know what your ‘normal’ working day looks like, but I suspect that, like mine, it is more accurate to talk of teachers’ ‘day/night work’. Somewhere along my professional journey, I became conscious that I was being ‘done to’ by people and policies outside of my knowledge and understanding. To regain some sense of control, I began to explore what was shaping my work, hence my research and thesis ‘Control, shift, insert: living and enacting policy in teachers’ day/night work’. There is a great need for teachers’ voices to be heard to disrupt the discourses and misconstructions that continue to shape teachers’ lived experience in their everyday work. Where are teachers’ voices in what Dorothy Smith calls the ‘ruling relations’ (2005) that control the purpose, direction and shape of teaching and teachers’ work locally, nationally and globally?