The study of the life histories of teachers who have worked professionally in rural contexts becomes a valid and relevant historical–cultural tool to visualize the rural teaching profession as a potentially generative practice [1
], integrating knowledge, relational dynamics and pedagogical practices that contribute to the systematization and generation of new possibilities for understanding the development of rural teaching identity.
The construction of the professional teaching identity is a complex, relational, political and social process [2
]. However, this identity is related to one of the most socially undervalued professions in Chile [3
]. Despite the above, the teaching identity brings together and converges a series of personal, social, historical–cultural and professional factors that interact with each other through a continuous, non-deterministic and dialogic process [4
]. The construction of this identity faces fluctuations and changes that directly affect teachers in relation to the perception they have of themselves and the valuation society makes of their work. Within these same fluctuations, identity conflicts are generated, since on many occasions, the very system in which teachers are inserted provokes identity crises [3
However, the development and construction of the identity of rural teachers is not limited only to the teacher–student relationship, but their educational work is profoundly heterogeneous [4
], assuming a series of other tasks, roles and functions committed to the social, political and historical–cultural development of the educational communities located in rural areas, responding to the different needs and demands perceived by the population of these territories.
In this sense, research generated around rural teaching practice is scarce and incipient, so that little information is available on the changes and transformations experienced by Chilean rural education [5
], limited to the existence of studies related to the learning results obtained in standardized tests [8
], infrastructure deficiencies [11
], the conditions of vulnerability that characterize rural students [12
], the functioning of rural microcenters [13
], teacher performance evaluation [16
] or the impact of the systematic closure of rural schools [18
], among other topics.
On the other hand, the study of teacher generativity is incipient, with some general contributions in the Spanish [20
], Mexican [23
] and Peruvian [24
] contexts. In the Chilean context, there are studies aimed at exploring the construct in older people [25
]. Therefore, this article invites us to explore the following research questions: What reflections, knowledge and criteria for pedagogical action emerge from the life trajectories of teachers regarding the functioning of the rural school institution? Do teachers articulate potentially generative practices that enrich the teaching and learning process in rural contexts? What are the relational dynamics that rural teachers have built throughout their life trajectories? Based on the above, the purpose of the study is to explore the relational dynamics that rural teachers have constructed throughout their life trajectories and how these have influenced the potentially generative development of teacher identity.
Firstly, participants expressed a set of potentially generative behaviours expressed in the development of a rigorous and flexible pedagogical practice committed to the development of future generations (see Table 1
and Figure 1
The above can be seen in their daily professional work, characterised by a high degree of autonomy, perseverance and responsibility in their educational work, allowing them to build positive interpersonal relationships characterised by assertiveness, empathy and the flexibility with which they assume their educational role in rural Chile:
“… I find myself a person who reaches out easily to people, that I am always respectful of others… also reaching out to children, I have always liked listening to them, listening to them, always respecting their opinion, having a way of reaching out to them…”
(Rural Educator, MV—IX Region of La Araucanía).>
“… you have to put yourself in the child’s place in order to be able to teach, because otherwise the child is not going to learn… in the rural area, as this subject is so small, it is so personalised, you know the children even when they arrive angry and they don’t teach you that at university… you learn that on a day-to-day basis with the students, so I feel that practice teaches you a lot, a lot… to be empathetic, if someone is going through a difficult moment, there are so many ways to accompany and support the students…”
(Rural Educator, CY—XIV Region of Los Ríos).
“… I believe that a rural educator has to have the capacity to adapt to all learning rhythms, to all the particular situations of each child, to the context, to their socio-emotional conditions… to their intellectual capacities…”
(Rural educator, CO—IX Region of La Araucanía).
Secondly, we highlight the emergence of the macro-category “Relational Dynamics of Chilean Rural Teachers”, made up of the set of family and professional relationships that rural teachers build throughout their life trajectories, enabling them to develop and maintain functional, respectful and coherent interpersonal ties with their educational work, inside and outside the rural school. This was observed heterogeneously among the participants, with a predominance of actions, tasks and potentially generative interests related to the care and protection of those around them, experiencing a sense of stability in their family and professional life (see Table 2
and Figure 2
In addition to the above, one of the relevant aspects that emerged from this work points to the characterization of the family relationships built by the rural teachers interviewed. In this area, the participants described the existence of a secure and positive bond with their current family nucleus, perceiving high levels of satisfaction in their most intimate relationships, mainly related to raising their children or grandchildren, life as a couple and living closely with their families of origin (siblings, cousins and/or nieces and nephews) (See Table 3
and Figure 3
Similarly, we observed a permanent interest on the part of the participants in positively cultivating interpersonal relationships with their families, given that a large part of their personal and professional success is related to the support and company that their families have given them in the face of the various challenges, obstacles and professional demands of teaching in rural contexts:
“… we stayed, and my husband was very important, because he helped me in everything, if I told him, you know what? I need this at school, because I need this structure… he was going to do it there… the children were happy, when we did a degree…”
(Rural educator, CY—XIV Region Los Ríos).
“… look, my daughter who grew up with me in my work, she has been very understanding, because she shares her affection with my students, of course, she is not like other children who become envious, who start asking for more time, no, she is quite the opposite, every time she has been able to help me, she helps me… I have been blessed that I was able to raise my daughter working with me and I do not know if there is another person who can say the same…”
(Rural Educator, SJ—RM).
“… Happily married with a situation of tranquility, already seeing achievements, in relation to the family part as well, why not say it, as a professional… I try to communicate more with my children… through sport we have always been very close… I have tried to be a good father… we try to be always sharing…”
(Rural Educator, PI—XIV Los Ríos).
In another area, the category “Professional Relationships of Chilean Rural Teachers” emerges, in which we observe the socio-historical construction of links, practices and relational dynamics that favour the respectful, proactive and cordial performance of teachers with the different actors present in the territory (managers, parents and guardians, teachers and neighbourhood leaders), revealing their commitment to the integral development of rural communities (See Table 4
an Figure 4
). In this regard, one of the participants points out
“… we have a trilogy, between education, parents, and the municipality, in order to move the school forward… everyone collaborates in equal parts so that the children have a better service… the school is very open towards the community… all activities are done together with the community…”
(Rural Educator, CO—IX Region of La Araucanía).
From what is represented in Figure 4
, we highlight the existence of a relationship of collaboration, mutual support, trust and continuous improvement between the participants and their peers (teachers, representatives of rural microcenters, education assistants, etc.). In addition, they show a marked interest in establishing a teacher–student relationship characterised by positive affection, reciprocity and trust. On the other hand, they assume their professional role with a high degree of socio-community involvement, which leads them to become actively involved in different actions and tasks related to the development of rural communities, community participation and pedagogical leadership:
“… I am a person who likes to interact socially with colleagues, with peers, or also sometimes when they are people from different professional fields… in the microcentre meetings, there is a whole programme, there is a whole programme of continuous improvement for rural colleagues… for me human relations are very important, first that there is a group with good communication, with good human, interpersonal relations, to be able to work, because we cannot work if there are differences of ideas or differences of criteria…”
(Rural Educator, MC—IX Region of La Araucanía).
“… I don’t have problems with anyone, being a mother, being a mother and at the same time being a teacher… I think this is a strength for me, so there is a lot of confidence, especially with the girls, I do have the ability to persuade the children… to accompany them and contain them… it has been very useful for me…”.
(Rural Educator, P2—RM).
“… I have always wanted to get to know the community before anything else, that is, to get to know the people, visit their homes, talk to them, talk to the parents, what they want, what they expect from their children… what their needs are, what they expect from us as teachers… the work must be collaborative…”
(Rural Educator, MV—IX Region of La Araucanía).
The life stories of the rural teachers participating in this research show a potentially generative (personal and professional) development, reflected in the commitment and responsibility with which they assume their educational role in rural contexts. Their pedagogical performance is characterised by a high degree of autonomy, perseverance and responsibility in their educational work, allowing them to build positive interpersonal relationships characterised by the assertiveness, empathy and flexibility with which they assume their educational role in rural Chile.
In this regard, it is possible to point out that the study of the generative potential observed in Chilean rural teachers is an emerging topic in the local context, and there is still an exploratory approach to the topic in the Chilean context [82
]. However, the emerging categories show that rural teachers expressed a generative expression that is coherent and consistent with their work role [20
], fostering the deployment of autonomy, responsibility and active involvement in their teaching role [83
], taking advantage of the opportunities for pedagogical development provided by the rural context, as well as the historical–cultural valuation of the customs and knowledge present in the territory [71
Similarly, it should be noted that the behaviours manifested by the participants show a heterogeneous socio-historical development as a result of their personal, family, cultural and professional characteristics, being consistent with other research where it has been observed that the generative force reported in middle age is presented in different forms and intensities [36
] with the purpose of contributing to the development of future generations [35
]. In turn, other studies have reported that those adults who score higher on a standard measure of generativity tend to perceive themselves as more involved in transmitting values to future generations [87
], relating this to the existence of early life experiences, in which individuals have been engaged in transmitting prosocial values relevant to young people [88
In this sense, it would be interesting to delve into what types of potentially generative activities, tasks and/or experiences are those that would have a greater predictive weight for the development of generativity in those individuals who engage in caring tasks, beyond procreativity (family care through parenthood and grandparenthood), social participation (through civic or political engagement, in addition to other forms of non-family care) and creativity [71
In this regard, Ref. [89
], suggests that generativity could be an ‘umbrella construct’ to refer to a broad repertoire of behaviours oriented towards human well-being, highlighting the importance of the study and qualitative understanding of the teaching role as a potentially generative profession in which the individual takes responsibility for their students, in order to achieve a better future for themselves and the generations to come [90
]. However, empirical evidence suggests that generativity, as a midlife-specific task, may no longer be sufficient to explain a behavioural pattern of generative concerns, commitments and actions, with an understanding of generativity at different stages of the life course gaining importance [91
Based on the topics discussed above, the central core of the generative character observed in rural teachers would be oriented towards caring for others through an empathetic, genuine and humble pedagogical exercise, in which they feel responsible for those they have as students, being consistent with what has been systematized by [93
], where they identify that interest and concern for others is a characteristic trait in highly generative subjects. Likewise, it is important to make explicit that the development of the generative potential manifested by the participants would have a wide variety of forms of expression, being coherent with what is reported by [94
], in relation to the way in which generativity is manifested at the level of personality theory and its diverse implications throughout the development of the life cycle [95
In the case of the teachers interviewed, the generative potential is expressed in the nature of the links they build within their family/work life, the professional activities and tasks they carry out inside and outside the school, the active participation in socio-community organizations, which, in turn, enhance the development of rural communities, the respectful and collaborative treatment with social actors, the genuine collaboration with their peers, etc. [96
]), in a sample of 253 adults (African-American and White), aged 34–65 years, found that individual differences in generativity were positively associated with social support from family and friends, as well as participation in political or religious activities.
Coincidentally, it has been identified that participants’ perceived positive affect towards their students was significantly related to the display of generative behaviours [96
], reaffirming the fact that education (and particularly the rural teaching profession) is intimately connected to the development of generativity in adulthood [35
The above is consistent with [98
], who emphasized the importance of an individual’s internal desire for both agentic and communal forms of generativity. In other words, agentic desire would mobilize the construction of a legacy that will outlive the self, manifesting itself in the commitment and pride with which teachers exercise their educational work in rural areas, shaping a set of practices, experiences and knowledge that they pass on to future generations.
On the other hand, communion appears as the desire to nurture others and encompasses a general tendency to relate to others in a caring way [79
], becoming a characteristic component of the teaching culture [1
]. Consequently, highly generative people can contribute to the development of others [100
], as well as to the communities to which they belong [102
], becoming relevant dimensions to consider in initial teacher training processes and in the continuous improvement of those who currently exercise their educational work in rural contexts.
On the other hand, we observed in the participants the existence of functional interpersonal links in the socio-pedagogical sphere, which allows them to configure collaborative practices, teamwork and orientation towards continuous improvement with their peers. In turn, at the management level, they stand out for their leadership skills and commitment to the development of the educational communities to which they belong, becoming actively involved in the generation of activities and tasks that benefit the different local bodies (neighbourhood councils, sports clubs, cultural organizations, parents’ and guardians’ centres, etc.). In this regard, refs. [4
] state that teachers must be reflective and generative subjects to develop effectively in multicultural educational environments, reaffirming the importance of collaboration between peers and teamwork as one of the possible mechanisms for strengthening the potentially generative personal and professional development of those who teach in rural contexts.
Similarly, it is possible to infer that generativity is closely related to the levels of personal satisfaction experienced by the subjects in the development of a particular task or activity committed to the development of others, because the more motivated a person is to participate in experiences of collaboration and exchange of ideas with other people, the greater the degree of self-efficacy in their daily functioning [22
For its part, Ref. [104
] identified that those generative teachers show higher scores in personal fulfilment compared to other stagnant teachers. Refs. [1
] reveals the socio-pedagogical implications of generativity in adult development and the various potentialities it would provide for teacher training (personal and professional). Consequently, the study of generativity in the school environment offers important contributions to leadership, social responsibility and the strengthening of teaching practice [105
]. Precisely for this reason, authors, such as in [2
], advocate the study and systematization of new alternatives for teacher training and development, taking critical reflection, peer collaboration, positive affect and generativity as a reference, given that these dimensions would significantly enrich teacher training to successfully develop in multicultural and diverse educational contexts [4
], responding to the enormous diversity and historical–cultural characteristics existing in rural Chile.
In conclusion, this study qualitatively recognises and systematises relational dynamics (family and professional), as well as investigating the intrapersonal skills that they manifest in their daily work, revealing some of the behavioural patterns that would favour a potentially generative development in teachers, in line with the challenges they face in rural contexts. This confers a significant and humbling theoretical and practical value for the improvement of teaching and learning processes built in rural settings [1
], highlighting the importance of positive affect and trust in the relationship between teachers and students, pride, life and job satisfaction [2
], which they experience in their work, that they experience in their daily work, the practices of collaboration and teamwork among peers, as well as the degree of socio-community involvement that they build with the different social actors located in the territory, dimensions that together contribute to the promotion of generativity in the training and continuous improvement of Chilean rural teachers. We also consider that initial teacher training programmes have the challenge of favouring the integral development of the identity (personal, social and professional) of those who teach [108
], incorporating actions, practices and educational strategies in a “generative key”, oriented towards human well-being and the integral development of future generations, ensuring a legacy that lasts over time and transcends the limits defined by school space and time.
Limitations and Projections of the Study
Finally, we point out some limitations of our study. The study of generativity in rural teachers is an emerging and incipient topic in the local context, in addition to the methodological characteristics that guided the work (qualitative paradigm, with a descriptive and exploratory design), in addition to the fact that a non-probabilistic sample was used, so the results cannot be generalized to other groups. This reaffirms the importance of deepening the study of generativity in all those professions that demand a genuine commitment to the care of others, particularly in the field of pedagogy, advancing in the systematization of those practices, roles and tasks that contribute to the development of the individual and their communities. Similarly, the study of generativity in different groups, populations and contexts becomes important to reveal its implications for development throughout the different stages of the life cycle.