Early Career Teachers in Rural Schools: Plotlines of Resilience

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Resilience in Education: Concepts, Contexts and Connections, 2018, pp. 131 - 146
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This chapter explores the plotlines of resilience as narrated by three early career teachers (ECTs) in rural schools and the deliberation process they undertook in response to their key challenges. Regular online reflections about their transition into rural teaching were collected through www.goingok.org, a digital tool (see Gibson A, Willis J, Morrison C, Crosswell L, Not losing the plot: creating, collecting and curating qualitative data through a web-based application. In The Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA) 2013 Conference, July 2013, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD. (Unpublished), 2013). Drawing on a transactional-ecological theory of resilience, the qualitative analysis was informed by current literature (see Day C, Gu Q, Resilient teachers, resilient schools: Building and sustaining quality in testing times. Routledge, Oxon, 2014; Mansfield CF, Beltman S, Broadley T, Weatherby-Fell N. Teach Teach Educ 54:77–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2015.11.016, 2016) that highlights the dynamic and ongoing process of interaction between the contextual and personal factors. The analysis was also informed by Archer’s (2000) theories of social realism that enables the interplay between the personal powers of humans to act (PEPs), the affordances and constraints of the structural-material (SEPs) and cultural-discursive systems (CEPs). Rather than focusing solely on the capacities of individual ECTs, or structural and cultural conditions, together the transactional-ecological theories of resilience and Archer’s theoretical concepts enable a more nuanced analysis of the transition experiences for these rural ECTs. The data suggest the ECTs relied heavily on their available personal resources (PEPs) to maintain their resilience; however in doing so, they experienced strong fluctuations as they navigated the constant uncertainty inherent in the first year of teaching as well as the tensions of settling into a small rural community. Furthermore, the researchers recognised that these highly agentic early career teachers were seeking greater access to structural and cultural opportunities (SEPs and CEPs) within their resilience ecologies to affirm their own experiences, expectations and practice with colleagues and school leaders. The findings have implications for initial teacher preparation programs, school leadership and policy development in regard to retaining quality teachers in rural and remote schools.
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