University of KwaZulu-Natal staffer Dr Nomkhosi Nzimande graduated with a PhD in education for research that explored the work done by teachers. Her study delved into teacher professionalism, intensification of teachers’ work and teacher stress.
Her intention was to explore, not only teachers’ but also parents’ everyday talk (rhetoric). ‘It looked at namely their conceptions, beliefs and taken-for-granted understandings about teachers’ work.’
Juxtaposing teachers’ rhetoric with parents’ rhetoric in Nzimande’s study revealed their points of similarities, differences and tensions. Her analysis enhanced the understanding of teachers’ work, moving it beyond parents’ and teachers’ beliefs. The analysis shifted from an interpretive lens (dialogic nature of a discourse) to a poststructural lens (contingency nature of a discourse). Her study posits that the rhetoric is a class-based perspective.
‘The rhetoric of parents (who come from low socio-economic class) showed that, despite their disillusionment about the negative attributes of teachers (such as laziness and unprofessional behaviour) parents are sympathetic towards teachers. Parents from the low socio-economic background are sympathetic because they understand the plight of teachers who have to work with ill-disciplined learners, and sometimes under unbearable conditions of work.
While middle class teachers feel they are not supported by the Department of Education, parents and school management. As a result teachers feel powerless to challenge some of the departmental policies they are expected to enact,’ explained Nzimande.
She suggested that a multi-layered support would be beneficial for teachers, adding that it may enhance their work experience. ‘Collaboration between teachers, parents, learners and the Department of Education, may improve learner achievement, hence contributing positively to teachers’ work,’ said Nzimande.
Nzimande’s study is a valuable theoretical contribution to the field of discourse studies which often underplay the analysis of rhetoric (a particular form of discourse) which the study focuses on. Nzimande thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their encouragement and support during her research.