Do it for the kids : a phenomenological examination of martyrdom philosophy in teaching.


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Too few teachers can advocate for themselves due to society’s rhetoric encouraging them to “do it for the kids.” A “do it for the kids” philosophy or mantra is any message in teaching culture implying that sacrifice on the part of educators is normal and expected. However, “do it for the kids” is experienced by teachers as an inspirational mantra or as a sort of coercive martyrdom in different contexts, which suggests there may be cognitive dissonance at play in the phenomenon. Teacher martyrdom is defined in this study as a pressure to make great personal sacrifices, sometimes through guilt and manipulation, because of the inherent rewards of teaching children. This problem of practice focuses on the lived experiences of teachers who adhere to the inspirational interpretation of the “do it for the kids” philosophy and their reactions when shown the alternate interpretation of “doing it for the kids” as enforced martyrdom. Data collection focused on the “do it for the kids” ideology through rich descriptions from female K–12 teacher participants who experience burnout and participate in educational policy and advocacy. The use of a phenomenological research design allowed the participants to showcase the personal experiences of their educational philosophy in their own words and descriptions. Participants, regardless of whether they defended or amended their teaching philosophies, all agreed that “doing it for the kids” was a factor in their ongoing struggle with burnout. All the participants gave responses to reflect their beliefs and experiences through use of self-affirming statements, which suggest that the ongoing struggle with “doing it for the kids” may be intrinsically tied to deeply personal values held by teachers. This study has implications for all levels of educational leadership as it showcases how an enforced mantra of “doing it for the kids” plays a role in teacher burnout. This research is a significant contribution to the examination of self-affirmation theory because it is not a field of study that has been fully explored.