"If I give one more piece, it's gonna be the end of me": The Trauma of Teaching in an Era of High-Stakes Accountability

  • Katherine Crawford Garrett University of New Mexico
  • Rebecca M. Sánchez University of New Mexico
  • Kersti V. Tyson University of New Mexico
Keywords: School Reform, Trauma, Neoliberalism, Teachers


This paper traces the experiences of 12 elementary school teachers working at a high-poverty school in the urban Southwest, rated an “F” by the state department of education. In the tradition of phenomenological qualitative research, we utilized interviews, focus groups and participant observation over the course of one academic year to examine how teachers come to understand, negotiate and resist policy mandates that position them and their students as failing. Findings indicate that teachers experienced three dimensions of trauma as a result of increasingly oppressive policy mandates including the physical toll of an unreasonable workload, psychic disequilibrium and ongoing marginalization.