The nature and experience of a teacher's calling: a case study of New Zealand early childhood teachers/teacher educators
Kung, Susie Poh Ghim
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This study aims to investigate New Zealand early childhood teachers/teacher educators experiences of a call to teach. In particular it examines teacher’s perceptions and experiences with their call over time. Stories from teachers who perceive their work as a calling provide insight into the complex and dynamic world of professional practice. This interpretive case study research gathered stories from seven early childhood teachers/teacher educators in the wider Auckland region (New Zealand) through semi-structured interviews. These interviews were analysed on a case by case basis and then a thematic analysis approach was used to analyse themes across the cases. The findings of this study reveal that early childhood teachers are drawn to the teaching out of an internal desire to love, care, support and advocate for children and community. They appear to have altruistic tendencies and find teaching a medium to use their gifts and talents meaningfully. External circumstances, which include significant life events, family members, critical friends and the notion of a higher being, help clarify, shape and direct an original call to teach. Such a calling is lived in practice and engenders a sense of hope, joy, and meaning to a teacher’s life. As lived, teaching is experienced as a spiritual, emotional and ethical endeavour rooted in loving and caring relationships. The teachers in this study appear to be intrinsically motivated with an inner satisfaction that motivates and sustains their call to teach. Amongst the implications for this research is the need for policy makers and educators alike to appreciate the emotional and relational nature of a teacher’s calling. This study indicates that the source of a teacher well-being is emotional satisfaction. For a profession that is rooted in care, teachers’ emotional well-being needs to be the focus of on-going professional concern. Efforts to retain teachers in the profession need to be cognisant of this humanistic image of the teacher who is not motivated by material but intrinsic benefits. This study has also shown that teachers’ stories are a powerful tool for making a teacher’s calling visible. Teachers’ narratives provide a window for all involved in education to view a teacher’s world from the inside out.