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Teaching and travelling in tune: Identity in itinerant band programs



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This narrative inquiry explores teacher professional identity and curriculum making (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988) in the experiences of three itinerant band teachers. The narrative experiences of Grace, Cole, and Denise reflect the complexity of teaching in multiple schools and working within a curricular framework that is diverse and multi-faceted. While most classroom teachers work with one group of students in a single school, the travelling nature of itinerancy sets them apart from this standard. Benson (2001) argued that “limited involvement in any one single school site, places her or him in a significantly different position than the regular classroom teacher” (p. 3). Staying in tune with students, parents, and colleagues, while concurrently working in several school settings, can be a challenge for managing relationships, assessment practices, concert obligations, and school events (Roulston, 1998). An itinerant band program is a collection of stories with individual narratives being interwoven into a patchwork of identities, or narratively speaking, as people’s stories to live by (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Clandinin, Huber, Huber, Murphy, Murray-Orr, Pearce, and Steeves (2006) explained that curriculum making and identity making, acts that shape the stories to live by of teachers and children, are closely aligned. Students are immersed in musicking (Small, 1998) and curriculum making alongside their teacher. As stories are composed in unison, curriculum making represents "teachers' and students' lives together" (Clandinin & Connelly, 1992). Curriculum, viewed as a course of life (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988), involves the composition of identities and stories to live by. It is wrapped up with assessment making and identity making, with school stories intersecting with personal experience (Huber, Murphy, & Clandinin, 2011). Individual identities dance with the collective identity of the group as curriculum-as-lived (Aoki, 2012) is brought to life in the ensemble experience. Beyond the study of notes, rhythms, and technique, there is a web of interaction that pervades curriculum as it is embodied in the lives of students and teachers. It encompasses routine happenings in a rehearsal space, personal exchanges during recess breaks, recollections of events from past experiences, and future plans for the ensemble. It is coloured by the experience of itinerant teachers who weave parallel storylines across a series of learning landscapes. The complex nature of teaching initiates an ingrained inter-connectedness between personal and professional lives (Hargreaves, Meill, & MacDonald, 2002). Plotlines are blurred, making it difficult to distinguish between the two as they are inextricably linked by experience and emotion (Connelly, Clandinin, & He, 1997). Lack of a single, permanent teaching space calls for deeper exploration into implications for curriculum and teacher identity. Narratively inquiring into stories of itinerant band teachers is one approach that studies the contextual nature of identity. Storytelling represents a mode of knowing (Bruner, 1986). Each story is told from “a particular vantage point in the lived world” (Greene, 1995, p. 74), holding a plurality of experience and interpretation. Stories are closely tied to how teachers conceive themselves in the place of school (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999). Working on the periphery of collegial connections and the school community imparts physical and emotional tolls on professional identity. These factors contribute to an overall perception about the nature of itinerant teaching (Roulston, 1998). The shifting framework of itinerancy compounds the variable nature of teacher identity. Gathering artifacts and conversations about the storied existence of three itinerant band teachers, tensions appear over curriculum hierarchy, loss of instructional time and place, and collegial isolation. These are plotlines that exist within these school "borderlands" (Anzaldua, 1987). Contrapuntal lines of temporality, sociality, and place (Clandinin & Connelly, 2006) intersect with one another, some moving in relative harmony, while others create bumping points that influence perceptions of personal practical knowledge. Itinerant band teachers experience temporary shifts in self as they make sense of the fluid and changing world around them.



Teacher identity, band teachers, itinerant, band program, tensions, curriculum making, narrative inquiry



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Curriculum Studies


Curriculum Studies


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