Shifting from Stories to Live By to Stories to Leave By: Conceptualizing Early Career Teacher Attrition as a Question of Shifting Identities

  • Author / Creator
    Schaefer, L M
  • Up to 40 per cent of early career teachers in Alberta, Canada, and elsewhere, leave teaching in Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in their first five years of teaching. My research puzzle was shaped by wonders about the experiences of 3 early career teacher leavers. I engaged with the participants over a six-month time span. As we engaged in a series of one-on-one conversations we explored their stories of who they imagined they would be as teachers before they began teaching, as they entered teaching, and as they left teaching. The field texts co-composed with participants were transcripts of conversations, annals, and stories composed around memory box artifacts. I inquired into their stories of teaching and was attentive to how their stories to live by, a narrative concept of identity, eventually shifted to what Clandinin, Downey and Huber (2010) call ‘stories to leave by.’ As I engaged with participants, I attended to how the shift from stories to live by to stories to leave by, that is, the fluid negotiation of teacher identity making, is a way to narratively understand the experiences of early career teacher leavers. It became apparent that their leaving was not an event or a moment, but a constant unfolding negotiation of their stories to live by as their embodied narrative threads, and imagined stories of teaching, intermingled with the contextual landscapes within which they lived. Being attentive to the unfolding of early career teachers’ lives allowed me to make visible, and to disrupt, the dominant stories around retaining early career teachers. I found that as they left K-12 classrooms to enter other professions, they were able to improvise ways to continue to live out their imagined stories of teaching, and were, in a sense, still teaching. This study provides insights into how we might think differently about pre-service teacher education and working with teachers within school landscapes.

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  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.