Ä. Leijen, A. Nelke

University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
The study of teachers’ work, learning, and development has changed considerably over the last twenty years as shown by Akkerman and Meijer (2011). In addition to focusing on teachers’ acquisition of professional knowledge and skills and the development of appropriate attitudes, other characteristics that relate more to the personal characteristics of teachers have become increasingly important. In line with this trend, scholarly interest in teachers’ professional identity has increased as well. Several recent studies on teacher identity development (see e.g. Akkerman & Meijer, 2011; Author, 2013) have argued for dialogical perspectives when seeking to understand how the personal and professional selves are being negotiated in the course of a teacher’s career. Teachers’ sense of their professional identity is believed to manifest itself in job satisfaction, occupational commitment, self-efficacy, and changes in levels of motivation (see e.g. Day, 2002; Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010).

The aim of this study was:
1) to investigate the interplay between teachers´ professional and personal identities;
2) to explore teachers’ job satisfaction; and
3) to find out whether and how the interplay between professional and personal identity is related to teachers’ job satisfaction.

An empirical study involving 12 teachers from an Estonian Waldorf school was undertaken. The data was gathered with in-depth interviews and analysed using the thematic analysis method.

The results of the study show that teachers often see their professional and personal identities as being interwoven with each other. The harmony between the two identities was often described as mutually enriching as well as an opportunity to live a meaningful life. Studying the discrepancies of professional and personal identities showed that those discrepancies may either be actively conflicting or passive. In case of a conflicting discrepancy, one identity dominated over the other, personal identity mostly being the dominated one. The greatest number of conflicts were related to problem with uniting professional life with personal and family life.

Studying the job satisfaction of teachers showed that it was most often expressed in a feeling of satisfaction with the daily work, e.g. playing a part in children´s development. The teachers were mainly happy with the school environment as well as the underlying principles of Waldorf pedagogy, and the opportunities they provide for carrying out the teaching job: autonomy, collegial cooperation, opportunities for growth and learning. A large part of teachers expressed their dissatisfaction about the excessive amount of work and no correlating salary. In relation to Estonian educational policy, low status of the teacher´s job, inflexibility of education, and discrimination from the state against private schools, were also mentioned as sources of dissatisfaction.

Comparing the professional and personal identities to job satisfaction revealed an interesting result. Teachers who described greater dissatisfaction with their work also noted more discrepancies between their professional identity and personal identity. This relation was not detected between job satisfaction and presentation of harmony between the professional and personal identity.