Thriving with Social Purpose: A Phenomenological Investigation of Resilience and the Role of Life Meaning in a Teacher’s Decision to Remain in the Teaching Profession




Groundwater, Susan Verdelli

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Extant research has focused on why teachers leave the profession, but little has been done to address the reasons teachers remain or how we can help them to develop and maintain resilience. At the same time, attrition and retirement have left more mid-career teachers filling classrooms and the research on career stages has demonstrated that teachers at mid-career may be most susceptible to the negative feelings often associated with plateauing. Exploring the factors that help teachers to persevere in the face of adversity may lead to an understanding of the ways we can help them to navigate challenges as well as the necessity of building resilience alongside expectations for accountability and student achievement. This study sought to understand the role that resilience plays in three mid-career teacher’s decision to remain in the teaching profession through the conceptual lens of Ford’s (1992) Motivational Systems Theory and Ford and Smith’s (n.d.) recent theoretical elaborations that include Thriving with Social Purpose (TSP) and TSP’s Theory of Life Meaning. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with the study participants and analyzed using a phenomenological method of data analysis. The findings reveal that resilience appears to be facilitated by an active approach goal orientation, personal optimism, mindful tenacity, emotional wisdom, and strong social purpose goals that lead to life meaning. The findings of this study have implications for teacher education programs that may consider developing programs to support resilience and district policy makers to offer mentoring programs and training directed toward the well-being of staff.



Education, Life Meaning, Mid-career teacher, Motivational Systems Theory, Teacher motivation, Teacher resilience, Thriving with Social Purpose