Thumbnail Image

‘Business managers’ in children’s playground: A call for re-envisioning teachers’ professional identities in Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood policies and practices

‘Business managers’ in children’s playground: A call for re-envisioning teachers’ professional identities in Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood policies and practices The impacts of neoliberal education reforms on the early childhood education (ECE) sector have been widely criticised in Aotearoa New Zealand (May, 2009; Mitchell, 2017). Interestingly, only a few studies addressed how the neoliberal policy directives have influenced teachers’ professional identities (Farquhar, 2010; Kamenarac, 2019; Warren, 2013). Internationally, authors (Skattebol, Adamson, & Woodrow, 2016; Thomas, 2012) recognised the need for more studies on teachers’ identities within the increasingly changing landscape of ECE services, policies and practices. Furthermore, authors have been invited to engage in a transnational dialogue about complexities, contradictions and limitations of prevailing professional identities on a global, national, and local level, and collectively explore possibilities for transformation and change revealing the ways in which teachers can interrupt neoliberal subjectivities (Arndt et al., 2018; Kamenarac & Gould, 2019). Responding to the calls for understanding complexities of teacher professional identities, this paper discusses a construction of teachers as ‘business managers’ in the context of the increasing dominance of neoliberal and neoconservative discourses in the New Zealand education policies and practices. The paper draws on my doctoral study that investigated how teachers’ professional identities have been re-constructed in response to shifting discourses in ECE policies and practices in Aotearoa New Zealand over the last two decades. To conceptualise teachers’ professional identities, I utilised a framework of poststructural discursive studies and theoretical ideas of feminist poststructuralists (Baxter, 2016; Weedon, 1997). A discourse-analysis approach (Bacchi, 2000; Gee, 2014) was employed to examine the construction of teachers in three different data sets - key New Zealand ECE policies, focus group and individual interview transcripts with teachers and managers from both community-owned and private for-profit ECE services. By simultaneously negotiate multiple and yet conflicting discourses in ECE policies and practice, I argue that the constructions of teachers ‘business managers’ may hinder the idea of ECE as a democratic, socially just and equitable place for all children, families/whānau and communities. I maintain that such identity constructions move teachers away from the concept of democratic professionalism, which has been developed from within the teaching profession. On this ground, I invite scholars, teachers and policy makers to re-envision collectively the prevailing constructions of teachers in ECE and discuss possibilities for straightening the advocate-activist early childhood profession and professional identities that favour well-being of children, families and community over for-profit interests of ‘ECE companies’. Keywords: teachers’ professional identities, managerial (business) professionalism, teachers’ advocacy and agency References: Arndt, S., Urban, M., Murray, C., Smith, K., Swadener, B., & Ellegaard, T. (2018). Contesting early childhood professional identities: A cross-national discussion. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 19(2), 97–116. https://doi.org/10.1177/1463949118768356 Bacchi, C. (2000). Policy as discourse: What does it mean? Where does it get us? Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 21(1), 45–57. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300050005493 Baxter, J. (2016). Positioning language and identity. Poststructuralist perspectives. In S. Preece (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity (pp. 34–49). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315669816 Farquhar, S. (2010). Ricoeur, identity, and early childhood. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com Gee, J. P. (2014). How to do discourse analysis: A toolkit (2nd ed.). Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Kamenarac, O. (2019). Who am I as an early childhood teacher? Who would I like to be? Early Childhood Folio Online First, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.18296/ecf.0060 Kamenarac, O., & Gould, K. (2019). Call for proposals. Special Issue on Transnational Conversations: (Re)Forming Teacher Identities in Policy and Practice. Retrieved from Policy Futures in Education website: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/pfe May, H. (2009). Politics in the playground: The world of early childhood in New Zealand (2nd ed.). Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press. Mitchell, L. (2017). Discourses of economic investment and child vulnerability in early childhood education. Waikato Journal of Education, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v22i1.552 Skattebol, J., Adamson, E., & Woodrow, C. (2016). Revisioning professionalism from the periphery. Early Years, 36(2), 116–131. https://doi.org/10.1080/09575146.2015.1121975 Thomas, L. (2012). New possibilities in thinking, speaking and doing: Early childhood teachers’ professional identity constructions and ethics. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37(3), 87–95. Warren, A. (2013). ‘I wondered does this make me any less of a teacher …?’ Early childhood teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand claimed by and claiming authority within a dominant discourse. 12(2), 185–194. https://doi.org/journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1476718X12463914 Weedon, C. (1997). Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory (2nd ed). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
Conference Contribution
Type of thesis
Kamenarac, O. (2019). ‘Business managers’ in children’s playground: A call for re-envisioning teachers’ professional identities in Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood policies and practices. Presented at the NZARE 2019 Conference, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.