Living with Tensions: Stories of Chinese Early Childhood Teachers’ Teaching and Learning Experiences in the Contemporary Urban Chinese Context
This narrative inquiry explores 6 Chinese early childhood teachers’ teaching and learning experiences in Shanghai and Beijing, where Chinese and Western educational ideas and practices co-exist. Interviews with teachers, kindergarten directors, and parents, and participatory observations and collected documents are analysed and interpreted to reveal the teachers’ experiences of being both teacher and learner in the contemporary urban Chinese context. The teachers’ experiences and voices are at the centre of this study and are represented in poetic format. The themes emerging from the teachers’ poems are discussed alongside relevant literature in order to gain in-depth understanding of each teacher’s teaching and learning experience in specific kindergarten contexts. Emerging themes embody the reality of teaching and learning, professional learning in the embedded community of practice, and the teachers’ professional and personal selves. Tensions and challenges the teachers faced in teaching and learning are identified. The enabling and constraining factors that may deskill, re-skill, or empower the teachers are discussed. The teachers’ stories suggest that they experience tensions between the multiple and contradicting educational ideas; the embedded kindergarten community’s interpretation of teaching and learning at multiple levels; the teachers’ personal practical knowledge; and their life as a multifaceted human being. The research suggests the need for kindergarten directors, scholars and policymakers to pay attention to the dynamic relationships between a kindergarten’s structure, curriculum, pedagogy, images of the child, teachers’ personal practical knowledge, professional learning, and teachers’ inner selves and agency.