We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies
Professional Life and Work

Studying Teachers' Lives

Studying Teachers' Lives - an emergent field of study

In the literature on schooling, this tendency is also apparent. It is perhaps most evident in those studies using a primarily anthropological method. Here schools are seen as very special and unusual environments. As Philip Jackson says in his germinal Life in Classrooms, the life that is experienced in schools is unusual because 'classrooms are special places'. In these special places it is almost as if a separate species of life exists. Yet it is a separate world that remains familiar to all of us:

Even the odours of the classroom are fairly standardized. Schools may use different brands of wax and cleaning fluid, but they all seem to contain similar ingredients, a sort of universal smell which creates an aromatic background that permeates the entire building. Added to this, in each classroom, is the slightly acrid scent of chalk dust and the faint hint of fresh wooden pencil shavings. In some rooms, especially at lunch time, there is the familiar odour of orange peels and peanut butter sandwiches, a blend that mingles in the late afternoon (following recess) with the delicate pungency of children's perspiration. If a person stumbled into a classroom blindfolded, his nose alone, if he used it carefully, would tell him where he was [i].

Jackson's world of classrooms is instantly recognizable: if we try we can recall the smell and some of the substance of our own schooldays (only the peanut butter strikes a European as unrecognizable!). But as ordinary people we do our period of service in classrooms and then pass on. While we are at school we may take on features of a separate species of person but ultimately we move into the 'real world'. But what of the people that stay on, who live their lives in those special places? Certainly there is evidence in this volume that they come to see themselves as different. A woman teacher in Vermont saw that 'teachers were a thing apart', 'you couldn't do anything that other people did'. Do teachers then come, in any sense, to constitute a 'separate species', to see themselves as a separate race? Seeking an answer to this question is itself an important reason for studying teachers' lives.

[i] Jackson, P. (1968) Lift in Classrooms, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, p. 7.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Next page

Studying Teachers' Lives Ivor Goodson
  • Date of publication: 06/02/1992
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Studying Teachers' Lives
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £42.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-06858-1
  • Purchase this book:
  • Buy used and new from: Amazon