Download PDF Silent Moments in Education: An Autoethnography of Learning, Teaching, and Learning to Teach

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Feeling a lack of agency, many find themselves searching within an infatuation that leads to feelings of hopelessness as they struggle within their profession. The more familiar we are with our inner terrain the more sure footed our teaching—and living—becomes. It is important to help pre-service teachers become aware of the disconnections within their practice and to encourage them to look both internally and externally at the factors that have brought them to the profession and shape their expectations of themselves as Teacher.

I invite the pre-service teachers I work with to engage with the brambly landscape of being Teacher as a means to help them consider the steps that they might take along their journey as teachers, steps that with awareness might lead to a greater sense of agency and praxis rather than a sense of helplessness. There is often a struggle as many students resist ideas that exist outside their own spaces of desire, reluctant to examine that which might call everything they believe they know about teaching into question.

As pre-service teachers step into the space of preparation seeking to know the rules so that their movements as Teacher might be met with success and recognition, few stop to reflect upon the relationship of these rules to themselves, the world, or another. Yet, Teacher is a word, a profession packed with much emotion, politics and power—rooted in a past full of contradictions entwined with ideology, myth and the desire for something better.

Ultimately, as BRITZMAN points out, it is the power of these contradictions that preserves the status quo and often leaves teachers feeling powerless, as if they must endure. However, SAMESHIMA remarks, "[t]he teaching profession is dramatically strengthened when teachers understand who they are, know how their experiences have shaped their ideologies, and find and acknowledge their place of contribution in the broader context of the educational setting" pp.

Engaging pre-service teachers in the experience of be com ing Teacher through an arts-informed dialogue that moves beyond surface methods and rules may open up new spaces for reflexivity and action across a terrain that seems pre-determined. Through this experiential and active dialogue. It becomes a comprehensive and enclosed scene within which are ordered the multiplicity of doings and undergoings in which man engages.

This order is not as neat as many pre-service teachers might desire; rather, it is messy, built upon the stories of many living within society. The art making and inquiry that takes place in my classrooms mirrors this messiness and calls for an intimacy between producers that leads to vulnerability, but also deeper awareness of self, other, and experience.

In my Elementary Education courses I ask students to consider: what does it mean to be a teacher? When pre-service teachers are asked to read into the meaning of this word, this practice of Teacher, the denseness of contradictions becomes evident—responses are often vague or rigid as each student seems so often to be seeking the right answer to describe his or her place within the profession, to make the grade and be accepted by those around her.

To strengthen the quality of dialogue I believe it is important to push students beyond those hegemonic spaces of intellectual knowing and rightness into spaces of discomfort, discovery, and inquiry that weave emotion and intellect into the unpredictable. Thus, I encourage students to explore their knowing through a variety of artistic genres, including those that they struggle to fully understand.

This struggle moves them beyond performance or the desire to be right, into a space of performativity and reflection, where they must be fully present to what is taking place, where they must take risks. IRWIN reflects "[visual] imagery surrounds and confronts us regularly through media, popular culture, ritual, tradition, and cultural activities" p. By engaging students in the work of creating visual representations of themselves as teachers, they are able to return to previous images while also re constructing these images and performances as something that reflects their evolving sense of self and practice.

Autoethnography as a Phenomenological Tool: Connecting the Personal to the Cultural

My goal is to create a classroom where experience, inquiry, and community intertwine emerging as a lifelong process that my pre-service teachers might take with them as they enter their own classrooms. Tell Me I want to learn how to be a good teacher I want you to tell me how to make activities fun I want to know how to get a job Please tell me what I should do More than a few eager pre-service teachers have entered my classroom exhibiting a strong desire to "get the rules," follow them, and achieve the image of the successful Teacher that has been for so long engrained upon their consciousness.

A certain sense of danger emerges for both the teacher educator as well as the pre-service teacher when they become confronted with a desire that is rooted within a space of conformity. Its centripetal force pulls toward reproducing the status quo in behavior as it mediates our subjective capacity to be in the world" p. Mothers, fathers, neighbors, brothers and sisters, even past teachers have all helped etch a particular image of what the work of be com ing Teacher might look like.

Pre-service teachers often cling to these images, believing success to be achieved when they fit the mold that has been determined for them. Teaching with enthusiasm and energy is important because it is contagious. Students react to a teacher's vibe. Therefore the vibe should be a good one.

Silent Moments in Education

Each of our images of what constitutes knowing, and hence knowledge is part of what structure's one's subjectivity: what is valued as truth and what is discarded as fiction. Considering BRITZMAN's statement, it becomes easy to recognize the conflict of the teacher educator; students arrive with their particular ways of knowing and it is this knowing that shapes their responses to our own teaching and questioning.

What, then, does the teacher educator do when she finds herself confronted with images of the sunny teacher shining the light of her enthusiasm and love upon eager children? Figure 2: Sunny teacher Student artwork, Spring I look at how my students attempt to name themselves as teachers in writing assignments or visual representation of how they perceive themselves as Teacher, or even in their own work of "playing teacher.

I encounter an unspoken desire on the part of many pre-service teachers to see the job of being teacher as easy—grasping for the formulaic image of rules, books, procedures—but they do not see or are afraid to admit that there might be a struggle, to consider what BRITZMAN has discussed as the "more private aspects of pedagogy. It is likely that I will hear responses such as "my family is important to me," "my friends support me and have helped me become a good person. Figure 3: School girls and the brain Student artwork, Spring Would it be possible for them to remain comfortable within this mythic state being as they move into their own classrooms?

There is a degree of comfort as one imagines herself as caretaker, information giver, and challenger. Yet, what disservice would I do my students if I did not ask them to look again at the images that they have created to name themselves, searching for the multiple voices at work so that they might recognize that there may be rough terrain in the life they are choosing to embark upon.

This later image of teachers—as negotiators, mediators and authors who are becoming—is the places where identity becomes infused with possibilities.


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It is the myths that often draw many students to the profession of Teacher as they imagine themselves, myths that exist across discourse communities. ROBERTSON remarks on the ways in which those be com ing Teacher use these myths, noting that "[b]eginning teachers actively deploy the material of everyday life—including images of teaching from film and other forms of popular culture—to help shape their thinking and learning" p. Yet, as they draw on these images, few recognize how embedded within a hegemonic view of Teacher they are; instead they see that which is presented as the ideal, she who must learn how to emulate and be come.

Figure 4: Puzzle Student artwork, Autumn Figure 5: Living tree Student artwork, Spring I take in information. I want. They are caught up by the image of fictions long u nrecognized that have slowly, without reflection and action, evolved into mythological truths of being one within the world.

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Fictions are for finding things out and they change as the needs of sense- making change. Myths are the agents of stability, fictions are the agents of change. Within the traditional structure of schools, it would seem that many students find themselves, often unaware, searching for something that has been so solidified in ideology that it might seem hard to gain awareness; however, there are spaces of possibility even within the myths.

Messy Minds: The Autoethnography of Learning | Hybrid Pedagogy

In her work with student teachers, BRITZMAN problematizes the tensions of the becoming pedagogy of Teacher as she explores the ways those practicing Teacher negotiate through the complex terrains of discourse as they work to make sense of the "multiple meanings, constraints and possibilities of the teacher's identity in the process of constructing one's own" p. As BRITZMAN notes, after years of being "schooled" there is a certain overfamiliarity with the practice of Teacher; many of those be com ing Teacher, believe they know the profession well, having been students for many years they often take for granted actions and expectations.

Implicitly, schooling fashions the meanings, realities, and experiences of students; thus those learning to teach draw from their subjective experiences constructed from actually being there. They bring to teacher education their educational biography and some well worn and commonsensical images of the teacher's work.

In part, this accounts for the persistency of particular worldviews, orientations, dispositions, and cultural myths that dominate our thinking and in unintended ways, select the practices that are available in educational life. Figure 6: Constellation Student artwork, Spring Upon entering the landscape of be com ing Teacher, many find themselves bound in contradiction as they negotiate through the multiple and often contradictory discourses of teaching and learning.

There are many directions one might take when moving through the multiple discourses of be com ing Teacher. Too often pre-service teachers find themselves actively absent, unaware of the impact of their own subjectivity upon their profession. This absence of awareness leaves many of those be com ing Teacher feeling trapped as they move beyond that which they thought was the absolute, known practice of teaching.

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BRITZMAN calls those be com ing to enter into a space of double consciousness , becoming actively aware of their position across and through the multiple discourses of be com ing. It is this active awareness that offers one the opportunity to enter into the dialogic space of be com ing. We are having fun. I am laughing so hard I start to cry. I am inspired by my students, and I am inspiring my students. The smell of the room is sweet. I am pleased that every dream I have ever had is coming true. The children are laughing and falling around.

They never had so much fun in school. They don't want to leave, never grow up. They think their teacher is the best. But they know a time will come when they have to leave me. They are only in Kindergarten, but they know no one can change their mind about school.

They love it and don't want to leave it. I have given them a new place to go, something great to enjoy. Yes, this is my heaven.

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Many teachers find themselves at a crossroads when they enter the classroom, no longer can they rely on the pleasures of "playing" teacher; instead, they have to answer to those around them who demand that they name themselves according the various normative structures of the social system within which they are working. While there are pedagogical possibilities as one begins to engage in dialogue with these structures, there can also be much confusion and alienation within the field of education.

The reaction to these contradictory messages of expectation is often one of ambivalence. KELLY considers this sort of ambivalence to be "double edged: It is the lens through which one views and is viewed.

Ambivalence not only manages one's impulse to hate; it also manages trust, the extent to which one will love and believe oneself to be loved " p. The walls are decorated with encouraging posters, my artwork, and plans for the future. My students desks are arranged in groups around the room, their names taped to the tops, pencil boxes on the inside and notebooks in them. They file in, all 23 of my first, second grade class. The boys are wearing blues and greens, the little girls have pink barrettes, yellow ribbons, pigtails and braids.

There is chaos as they find their seats, some complaining about who they are seated next to, others too nervous to complain.