Term of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Robert Lake

Committee Member 1

Daniel Chapman

Committee Member 2

Julie Garlen

Committee Member 3

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 3 Email



Many perceive education and teaching as hopeless, so why do some teachers stay in the profession? This dissertation is focused on the stories of veteran public elementary school teachers in rural Georgia who continue to teach in spite of the current seemingly hopeless state of education at the local, state and national level.

The theoretical framework of this inquiry builds upon a wide array of works such as the work of Freire (1994, 1998) and Fromm (2010) on critical hope, as well as, multiple theorists’ work on versions of hope (West, 2004; Giroux, 2013; Duncan-Andrade, 2009; Lear, 2006); the work on passion for teaching (Palmer, 2007; Nieto, 2003, 2005, 2008; Ayers, 2008; Villerand et al., 2003; Fernet et al., 2014; Phelps & Benson, 2012), as well as, morale in education (Evans, 1997; Mackenzie, 2007). Methodologically, I utilize narrative inquiry (Clandinin, 2013; Clandinin & Connelly, 1988, 2000) to collect teacher stories (Witherell & Noddings, 1991; Cole, 1990; Shubert & Ayers, 1992; He, 2003; Nieto, 2003, 2005) of what keeps veteran teachers in the elementary school classroom despite all of the challenges in education today, and to learn from those seasoned teachers who choose to stay in the classroom about hope and hopelessness in classrooms today. I then created a collage of the stories that I gathered from the participants.

Three themes emerged from this inquiry as to why teachers choose to remain in the classroom: (1) participants’ love for their students, (2) participants’ love for learning and (3) participants’ understanding of a ‘bigger picture’ in education. Two themes emerged in regards to what we can learn from teachers who choose to stay in the classroom about hope and hopelessness in classrooms: (1) the importance of positivity and (2) the impact of stress related to teaching.

Research Data and Supplementary Material