This paper is aimed at eliciting teacher views on teaching, their sources of motivation and the conceptual frames out of which they conduct their work. While the research contexts differed in rural South Africa and in The Gambia, common questions arose about ownership, participation and the divide between `experts' and `practitioners'. A `missing discourse' emerged on the process of making meaning from the curriculum and teaching it. Teachers failed to contest the ground of their teaching, or question it in relation to their own experience, knowledge and expertise. Teachers effectively abdicated responsibility for exercising agency over what they taught, to whom, how and for what reason.