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‘I really want to make a difference for these kids but it’s just too hard’ : one Aboriginal teacher’s experiences of moving away, moving on and moving up

Santoro, Ninetta (2013) ‘I really want to make a difference for these kids but it’s just too hard’ : one Aboriginal teacher’s experiences of moving away, moving on and moving up. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26 (8). pp. 953-966. ISSN 0951-8398

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Abstract

This paper draws on longitudinal data to examine the changing professional identity of one beginning teacher over a three-year period. Using a post-structuralist framework and theories of social class and capital, I highlight the complexities, contradictions and impossibilities of new graduate, Luke, sustaining an identity as ‘Aboriginal teacher’ in Australian schools. I trace the shift in his commitment to working with underachieving Aboriginal boys in challenging school contexts at the beginning of his career, to his move into a middle-class white girls’ school towards the end of his third year of teaching. I suggest this was a result of the ongoing stress associated with the expectation that he take sole responsibility for the education of the school’s Aboriginal students, as well as his own upward social class mobility. The paper concludes by raising a number of concerns for education systems, including the retention of Aboriginal teachers in Australian schools.