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Negotiating Self on the Professional Knowledge Landscape

Updated on April 22, 2013

This is a story in which a teacher was put into an impossible situation and had to make a difficult decision about her future and her “story”.

This is a story in which “impossible contradictions, gaps, and silences are named” (Huber & Whelan, 1999, p. 382).

This teacher, called Naomi, was chosen in order to reconstruct a teacher’s story, in and out of the classroom, that readers may learn about the true life inside of schools.

As the teacher who lived this experience “uncovers her struggle to understand and to resist the response she received through negotiating herself within her professional surroundings,” the authors focus their narrative article around issues of “integrating students with special needs into regular programs” (p. 382).

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The Research

The researchers conducted eighteen months of taped and transcribed research conversations between a group of five teacher co-researchers, focusing on one teacher’s identity and the professional contexts in which she lived and worked. (Huber & Whelan, 1999, p. 382)

From a thematic analysis of the data, the authors presented several “borders” needing to be crossed by those within the “professional knowledge landscape” (p. 386), being ownership, positional power, sameness, distance, confrontation, arrogance, judgment, and silence.

They described each of these in detail, discussing the significance of each one of the life and professional decisions of this one teacher.

This paper was concluded by focusing on the ways in which “response was continuously negotiated and lived out on this school landscape” (p. 382).

In the end, this study contributed to uncovering the borders shaped out of response, as well as the possibilities for border-crossings.


Defining Features

The defining features of this study that described it as a narrative study are as follows:

-The researchers collected stories from a single individual, a teacher in a large junior/senior high school, in a western Canadian province, Naomi.

-This story shared an individual’s experiences and shed light on the identity of the teacher and how she felt about herself.

-Data was collected in various ways, including interviews and conversations as the major source, and observations.

-Data was collected over eighteen months, so there was ample opportunity ti examine the unfolding events over time. The story was shaped into a chronology as events and tension were clearly building throughout the telling of Naomi’s sad story.

-Naomi’s story had a very obvious turning point as she reached her moral limits on what she would tolerate in her classroom and school environment and was forced to make the difficult decision to resign from her position.

-In joining in clandestine meetings of five teachers sharing their stories of teaching, the researchers built a collaborative relationship of trust between themselves and the research participant.

-The researcher used a thematic analysis to report what happened to each individual involved in Naomi’s story all along the way.

-The article discussed the place and context of both Naomi’s school, where all of the incidents occurred that were reported in the narrative, and the teacher’s home where the stories were shared.



This was an extremely interesting article that brought light to the harsh realities of what it's like being a teacher, in and out of the classroom, today.

In addition to being a great buffer for new teachers on their way into the field, it's also great for those considering teaching as a profession, and hopefully comfort for those already there.

Being a teacher is not like it looks in the movies. It's not all runny noses and helping kids zip up their pants.

Teachers all over the country are fighting for the lives, the well-being, and the education of each of their students every school year. It is a battle-ground fraught with destruction and casualties.

This article shows readers what's life as a teacher is truly like.


Huber, J., & Whelan, K. (1999). A marginal story as a place of possibility: Negotiating self on the professional knowledge landscape. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15, 381-396. Retrieved from

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