Teacher Education and Cultural Imagination: Autobiography, Conversation, and Narrative

Teacher Education and Cultural Imagination: Autobiography, Conversation, and Narrative

Teacher Education and Cultural Imagination: Autobiography, Conversation, and Narrative

Teacher Education and Cultural Imagination: Autobiography, Conversation, and Narrative

Synopsis

Making culture a more central concept in the texts and contexts of teacher education is the focus of this book. It is a rich account of the author's investigation of teacher book club discussions of ethnic literature, specifically ethnic autobiography--as a genre from which teachers might learn about culture, literacy, and education in their own and others' lives, and as a form of conversation and literature-based work that might be sustainable and foster teachers' comprehension and critical thinking. Dr. Florio-Ruane's role in the book clubs merged participation and inquiry. For this reason, she blends personal narrative with analysis and description of ways she and the book club participants explored culture in the stories they told one another and in their responses to published autobiographies. She posits that autobiography and conversation may be useful for teachers not only in constructing their own learning about culture, but also, by doing so, in participating in the transformation of learning within the teaching profession.

Excerpt

The 29 preservice teachers sit in a large circle, listening attentively as my colleague Margie Maaka begins the activity she calls cultural sharing. Margie has instructed the preservice teachers to bring three objects that represent their cultural backgrounds. Taking her turn first, she presents a kaleidoscope made of kauri, a wood from her New Zealand homeland. Margie compares the kaleidoscope, with its blend of Polynesian and western elements, to her own Maori and Pakeha (British/Dutch) ethnicity. The preservice teachers display a range of objects that include an 'uli'uli (a gourd rattle used in the hula), family photos, a soccer ball, grunge clothing, postcards of Impressionist paintings, a candle, and an American flag. Three students have brought Hawaiian-English dictionaries as symbols of their interest in the Hawaiian language. When my turn comes, I show the group a t-shirt from a recent reunion of my father's family and speak about my great-grandfather, a Chinese immigrant who ran a rice mill and plantation on the island of Kaua'i.

This scene took place on the campus of an elementary school on the Leeward Coast of O'ahu, a low-income area in which about two-thirds of the students are of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Margie and I conduct the Ka Lama teacher education initiative to prepare teachers to teach in Leeward Coast elementary schools. We have tried to recruit residents of the . . .

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