Narratives of being 'a good teacher': everyday life, morality and teachers’ narratives in Kenyan teacher education

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Narratives of being ‘a good teacher’: everyday life, morality and teachers’ narratives in a Kenyan village

This paper explores how Kenyan school teachers narrate and practise professional work in their everyday lives in an educational context shaped by global and local narratives of education. Drawing on Appadurai (1996), Kenyan schools can be seen as parts of global ‘eduscapes’, where aspirations of local education institutions are inseparable from global discourses on the value and culture of education. Yet local, moral worlds, as conceptualised by Kleinman (1992), are contexts of shared experience that mediate macrosocial forces and shape specific local effects. Morality raises questions about how ideas about teaching and education in general are related to what is considered good in specific contexts (Kleinman, 1992; Lakoff and Johnson, 1999). The question is how dissonance and divergence in educational paradigms shape local narratives of what a ‘good teacher’ is in a marginalised and politically neglected education context.
Ethnographic fieldwork encompassing participant observation, life-story interviews and letters conducted during a period of 11 years from 2000 to 2011 in a small village in western Kenya provided a framework for observing how teachers’ narratives as professionals became mediated through sociocultural forces and everyday life in school, at home and during their spare time. Empirically, the study explores four school teachers and their unique and diverse understandings of what ‘a good teacher’ is and how these narratives become constructed as living experiences.
An analytical framework focusing on narratives as organising and ongoing experiences in a daily everyday life which is often conflictual and opposed with different meanings (Dahl, 2015), but constitutes a paramount reality for the individuals involved (Schütz, 1973), might be useful in exploring the meaning of narratives for personal becoming at the level of the subjects, for instance how teachers re/construct their professional stories. Theoretically, the study therefore draws on theory about narratives (Chase, 2005; Connelly and Clandinin, 1990) to inform us about how teachers and others construct stories of significance about themselves and others. A narrative perspective might inform us how these stories are related to the connection in which the story takes place, and how each person establishes his or her ideas about the world, which is used to organise experiences (Høyen, 2016). The study also draws on everyday life learning (Schütz, 1973; Heller, 1984) and the social anthropology of morality (Kleinman, 1992) to explore how teachers’ narrative learning comprises processes that are not only intellectual but also social, cultural and personal, and to understand how morality acquires different meanings and significance depending on how it is contextually situated, for instance in a rural, non-western context of schools. Local moral worlds according to Kleinman (1992, pp. 171-172) are particular, intersubjective, and constitutive of the lived flow of experiences in the microcontexts of daily life. The study argues that though teachers’ professional lives to some extent are governed by the discursive power of ‘grand narratives of education’ featuring child-oriented pedagogy, personal constructions of professionality depend to a large extent on subjective narratives in which power, morality and personal meaning intermingle.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2 Mar 2017
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2017
EventESREA 2017: European Society for Research on the Education of Adults & LHBN - Life History and Biography Network, 2.-5. March, 2017, Aarhus University, Denmark - Danish School of Education (DPU), Aarhus University., Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 2 Mar 20175 Mar 2017


ConferenceESREA 2017
LocationDanish School of Education (DPU), Aarhus University.

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats


ID: 112507758