The Teacher's Homecoming: Understanding Vocational Identity Development of Military Career Changers

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As increasing numbers of teacher candidates enter the field of education from other careers, teacher educators must consider the complexities of career transition. Insiders' accounts of vocational change can help teacher educators act with tact and authenticity in a way that is sensitive to the experiences of career changers.

This study uses philosophical hermeneutics to develop understanding related to the sociocultural process of vocational identity development for two military career changers as they become teachers. The concept of identity is explored, and it is developed both as lived experience in community as well as a sense of self, fashioned through rememberings and imaginings. Two case studies center on Caucasian males with military experience who are transitioning into secondary English teaching positions. Thomas, a 50-year-old Air Force retiree with 24 years of service, is enrolled in a local school system-sponsored alternative preparation program. Rob, a 38-year-old past Verizon employee and current lieutenant in the Army Reserves, is enrolled in a Master of Arts in Teaching program. This study employs a participatory paradigm in which participants serve as co-researchers.

The study follows each co-researcher into three communities of practice related to their teacher preparation and/or induction to teaching. Their experiences as persons-in-community are analyzed using a sociocultural perspective. The following constructs are explicated for each community of practice under study: place, social structures, practical tools, conceptual tools, metaphors, narratives, and imagined futures. Each community is shown to promote certain teaching identities while constraining others, although the process of vocational identity development emerges as a negotiation among person and community. In the spirit of Wenger (1998), each individual's nexus of being is then discussed, and vocational identity is explored in relation to coordination and contradiction of multiple communities as well as in mutual constitution with an individual's rememberings and imaginings.

A vocational meta-story is told in archetypal language to represent the reverse coming of age which military career changers undergo on their journeys to become and belong as teachers. Finally, a synthesis of understandings related to identity, ways to make meaning, and the needs of military career changers is offered.