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Successful teachers : a Cubist narrative of lives, practices and the evaded.

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This research presents an understanding of the world of successful teachers. In documenting their life histories, I composed a research text which explored the presences and absences, identities and differences, changes and continuities, variations and uniqueness, which characterise how teachers perform their success in the present educational context of continued shifts and constantly changing images. Working with Trevor, Anna, Ursula, Daryl, Eddie and Hlo, I co-created stories of lives "told and experienced", a journey that pressed me to look at the transcending and shifting line between the private/public. Written through a composition of stories, poems, photographs, musical pieces and illustrations, I have engaged in the risky, poststructural practice of redescribing their worlds in order to understand what it means to think, know and act differently, in the struggle with the desire to be "free". Employing a cubist metaphor as a heuristic device, I was able to entertain the possibility of other "worlds" within the discursive practice of "being teacher": creating potential explanatory and diverse descriptions other than the one available as the singularly defined identity category of "teacher". Employing a poststructural analytical framework, I documented the multi-dimensional nature of identity and meaning, and drew attention to the play between discourse and practice in teachers' agenda for agency. Teachers' agenda for agency is described within "Patterns of Desire" within which the evaded or marginalised in teachers' lives become available as spaces for change and moments of freedom. I present an understanding of teachers' selves through excavating the "interior" of their lives to provide a more three-dimensional approach that injects the private into the public, rupturing the fine line as a way to maintain an "aura" of desire, love, friendship, hope and familiarity in their daily lived experiences. Emerging along two axes, "Practices of the Self' and "Practices on the Self', this composition that I have created, identifies the complexity of teaching discourses and practices enacted out and enacted on teachers' daily lives that resist and disrupt those hierarchical grids of normalcy and regularity. In particular, I attended to those elusive eruptions of teachers' selves when teachers articulate their resistance to normalcy and surveillance and make themselves available to refiguration and transformation. Investing in particular historically emergent social practices and relationships that teachers effect, by their own means, there is pleasure in challenging anew the bond between teachers' private lives and public responsibilities. Agency of teachers lies in the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct identity within the discursive formations and cultural practices. In troubling the structures that often imprison and violate, teachers are able to slip through and open their thoughts and desires to their differences - the other categories that are evaded in the single identity category teacher, thereby sustaining potential for ongoing continuity and change. Continued metamorphosis of thought and act, simultaneous and consecutive, is what offers teachers moments of deep meaning and awareness that keep the private/public alignment and variation in the ways of experiencing their world, in their 'desire to be', 'desire for' and 'desire to please' as a possible condition for being a successful teacher.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Durban-Westville, 2003.


Theses--Education., Teacher effectiveness., Teachers--Professional relationships.