What keeps teachers motivated? An exploration of teachers' desire to learn and develop in their professional practice.
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During this explorative journey, I investigated what keeps teachers motivated to learn and develop in their professional practice. I employed Bell and Gilbert’s (1994) model which encapsulates and examines the personal, professional and social aspects of teachers’ development. Within this interpretive paradigm, I offered an understanding of what the impetus for change entailed - from their personal and professional self on their practice and what sustains teachers to continue to negotiate the changes in their daily work. Employing participatory methodology as my methodological research approach, I portray and interpret data that was generated from the teachers’ stories. The methods used to produce the data included life story interviews, photographs and drawings. By composing and reconstructing my participants’ stories, I show how the personal and professional aspects of teacher learning are interactive and interdependent. By retelling stories we can foreground crucial processes in teachers’ development and show what motivates them to learn and develop in their professional practice. Through the reconstructed stories, these particular teachers in this study were able to, through particular social relations and practice, create new meanings and definitions to their professional identity and responsibilities as teachers in a changing schooling context. The findings of the study indicate that within their school context there were many challenges with which teachers were confronted. However, the teachers in this study chose to uplift, inspire and motivate themselves. Although they followed prescribed policies and curriculum, they engaged in certain relationships and enacted certain practices that went beyond their teaching responsibility. The teachers’ initial frustration and restlessness had led to a personal change in their attitudes, values and beliefs. There was an inner desire to bring about change in the personal meanings and definitions of teacher self. Through particular practices and relationships, new thinking, new ideas, new interests and new meanings about the teacher self were invoked. It was through the creative use of these social spaces that teachers cultivated new ideas and new meanings of the kind of teacher they wanted to be for a South African classroom. The teachers engaged in innovative ways in terms of their professional development to bring about change. The teachers indicated that their identity as a teacher was linked to being a learner iii and a researcher. In addition, the relationships of love and care towards learners brought new meaning to their teacher self. It translated into what they were doing in their relationships with learners and the subject/s they taught - this, became a deeply rewarding engagement between the teacher and their work. In response to my main research question, what keeps teachers motivated? These particular teachers were not blind to complexities they faced on a regular basis but against all odds worked within the complexity. Imbued with renewed vigour, hope and love they forge ahead.