The experience is in the journey: an appreciative case-study investigating early career teachers' employment in rural schools
Hazel, S & McCallum, F 2016, 'The experience is in the journey: an appreciative case-study investigating early career teachers' employment in rural schools', Australian & International Journal of Rural Education, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 19-33.
Rural communities play a vital role in the Australian economy; their viability can be determined by the school, located at the centre of most towns. Yet rural communities struggle to attract and retain professionals, including teachers, who are central to their livelihood. This study investigated the positive experiences of five early career teachers' attracted to teach in one rural school in South Australia. A case-study methodology collected data through surveys, digital representations, narrative inquiries, and semi-structured interviews. Early career teachers reported they faced: economic factors associated with relocation; social challenges in building relationships; having to learn about rural communities; and, dealing with personal preconceptions, expectations and possible anxieties as a result of being moved from one's comfort zone. However, a key factor that contributed to their sustained employment included their own personal approach or attitude to the change, as this helped them to participate in and be accepted by the rural community. Other contributing factors included: a focus on rurality in initial teacher education; and, personal and professional support that built a sense of belonging to the rural community. The positive experiences of these early career teachers in sustained employment is shared through their views on how to adjust to living and working in a rural area. These perspectives may be applicable to other communities and professional groups considering rural employment: how the change impacts on an individual's attraction to particular work in rural areas; the extent to which certain professionals are retained in rural towns; and, ultimately the long-term sustainability of rural communities.