This article explores constructions of teacher identities at a time of significant changes to public service professionalism. The article draws on different discourses of professionalism, contrasting 'organisational' and 'occupational' professionalism, with discourses of 'personal' and 'critical' professionalism, to explore changing meanings and enactments of teacher professionalism in the 2000s. Narratives of three novice teachers, followed over eight years, are used to consider the impact of dominant discourses of 'organisational' professionalism in English further education, resulting in inbound, outbound and peripheral trajectories. In response, the article considers how practitioners might engage critically with current changes, arguing that it is necessary to work with what matters to teachers, such as their relations with students, teaching and learning and subject specialism. Such work might create, at least temporarily and locally, spaces in which more favourable conditions towards socially just and enabling educational practices can be worked towards.