The ‘R’ word: Rural


Simone White (2015) of Monash University has argued in “Extending the knowledge base for (Rural) Teacher Educators” that we need to move away from the ‘unhelpful  rural-urban binaries’ that we so often get caught up in. Instead we need to make the rural not a secondary add in, but an integral ‘activist, generative and transformative response for teacher education.’

This has given me cause to reflect on that key word that I trip over in my research title, every time. It has become a little like the ‘dirty’ word in conversation around research, writing and PhD in an EDU space.

“Oh, rural,” they gasp.

“Mmm. Rural.”

“Yes, rural. Ahem.”

The R word has become for me what I encountered with the F word back int he 90s. It meant different things to different people.  It was easier to react to the negative, common perceptions of the word than to understand how to apply and live it. The F word, feminism was being reformed and refashioned by Gen Xs everywhere. Whilst it is  still central to my thinking and reasoning, the R word is demanding  more of my attention.

So let me be clear.

I grew up in a rural place.

I actively left the rural place.

I found my way back to a rural space, for pragmatic reasons.

The rural space has defined, challenged and changed me. It has isolated parts of who I am and placed restraints on who I might be, but it has enhanced and enabled me to find myself.

The ‘R’ word has made me see more clearly.





We were drawn to a body of knowledge because it shed light on our identity as well as on the world. We did not merely find a subject to teach-the subject also found us.

Palmer, 1988, p. 25

Creativity, Uncategorized

Research, Reading and Relaxation


The life of the PhD student does not grind to a halt when the rest of the world takes a vacation. In the midst of Christmas and New Year celebrations, time at the beach and basking in the Australian Summer sun there is still that thread of ideas that keeps surfacing, begging for attention.

For me the struggle to spend time with the family and relax versus  reading and writing is a real one. At best I am reading a chapter here or there, making notes in Evernote, engaging in some brief Twitter dialogue and writing – well writing in my head. The new year will be about me collecting data – moving out from behind my desk/book/journal and meeting people. I am just a little bit excited ( actually a lot) about re-entering the real world and mixing with Rural women leaders in education.

A grand story is about to unfold and I am very excited about that. For now I am learning how to relax, kinda, sorta….maybe. Enjoy your sunshine. x


Teachers have Heart

 “Teachers have hearts and bodies, as well as heads and hands, though the deep and unruly nature of their hearts is governed by their heads, by the sense of moral responsibility for students and the integrity of their subject matter which are at the core of their professional identity…Teachers are emotionally committed to many different aspects of their jobs. This is not an indulgence; it is a professional necessity. Without feeling, without the freedom to ‘face themselves’, to be whole persons in the classroom, they implode, explode—or walk away.”
(Nias, 1989, p. 305)

gender, leadership, Uncategorized

Where Are All of the Female Leaders?

This honest Blog post by Pernille Ripp articulates many of the issues and concerns I have been grappling with as I undertake research into the role of leadership on the professional identity of rural women in education. Somehow the notion of women and leader and educator causes a general panic. Questions of doing it all, having it all, work life balance are all thrown at she who tries to be a leader in education and retain a life of one’s own – be it partner, kids, other interests and passions. There are additional constraints for women in a Rural context. We need to put this issue on the table. Will you join the discussion?

Pernille Ripp

where are

One of the most asked questions I get wherever I go is; how do you do it all?  And by all they mean be a mother, wife, teacher, author, and speaker and still seem somewhat normal.  Not dazed, not frazzled, not crazy.  I wish I had an amazing answer or  a magical formula that would somehow give me more hours in the day and peace of mind to the person asking.  But I always answer honestly; I don’t.  There’s a balance and sometimes that balance shifts one way or another, but I never lose track of what is most important.  Yet, the many times I have been asked that question, I cannot help but wonder; how many times has that same question been asked to my male counterparts?  To those male educators that seem to have a million things going on as well.  Do they get asked how they do it all…

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Reading too little, reading too much


I confess that reading around the key topics and themes in my thesis can be both rewarding and disabling. The literature around professional teacher identity and professional learning has revealed a wealth of ideas and issues pertaining to the profession and the delicate, often strained existence between the personal and professional self that is constantly being contested and changed.

I have read the core literature. And I should stop. I am looking out for new additions to my reading list, new ways researchers have framed ideas and explored the professional identity notion. But I have found dipping into a few key works and taking the time to read some books published as opposed to the odd journal article has brought some reward.

Parker (2007) The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life is a tenth anniversary edition of a classic text. The landscape of the inner and outer life of the teacher, marked significantly by Parker’s own reflections has made this text an important one. I think I found some relief reading a colleague’s journey into the rich and complex domain of a teacher’s life. Parker gives merit to this notion of needing to ‘know thyself.’ A combination of intellectual, emotional and spiritual pathways is explored as the best way to know and understand the teacher. This idea confirms my need for connection and collaboration; for reflection, feedback and evaluation; for a vocation beyond myself.

Similarly,  Day and Gu (2010) The New Lives of Teachers build a compelling thesis around the professional identity of teachers and the influences of the personal, emotional, organizational and intellectual. The context in which we teach is incredibly powerful and how we negotiate the ‘personal’ has a direct impact on teacher commitment and sustainability.

So I am reading to confirm ideas I have already formed around teacher identity. And I am reading to challenge and direct my writing as I start to pull together a clear proposal for my  project. As a researcher and educator I am committed to life long learning, I want to teach encourage and motivate. The question is how do I support my peers in doing this? How can what I ‘produce’ through my research be relevant as a professional learning tool for women who are leaders in education?

Reading too little or too much unearths many of these questions.