Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Layering Sel(f)ves: Finding Acceptance, Community and Praxis through Collage

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Layering Sel(f)ves: Finding Acceptance, Community and Praxis through Collage

Article excerpt

The student teaching experience, for many, can prove to be both a time of great learning, as well as isolation and disconnection. As teacher educators, we often spend a lot of time focusing on the intellectual side of the student teaching experience, while rarely even acknowledging the emotional aspects of this experience. For example, we ask what went well in the lesson and why, what did not go well and why, but rarely do we ask "how do you feel about your experience teaching the lesson;"; rarely do we ask students how they feel about the student teaching process as a whole. The student teachers we have worked with, over the years, often voice concerns about feeling isolated and disconnected as they leave the comfort of the college classroom for the uncertainty of the public school classroom. However all too often these expressions are drowned out by the academic side of things, requirements that need to be met, outcomes that need to be demonstrated. As teacher educators, we have come to believe that it is important, in fact necessary to embrace the whole experience with regard to our student teaching seminars and the kind of mentorship we offer. Learning to teach is not simply about method, rather it is about self and other, engaged in a complex pedagogical relationship where theory and practice intertwine with the emotional. It is important to recognize that the emotional and intellectual are not binaries; rather, they are complementary realities that shape one's ways of seeing self and other.

So, "How can educational institutions sustain and deepen the selfhood from which good teaching comes" (Palmer, 1998, p. 4)? More specifically, how can we, as teacher educators introduce student teachers to this "selfhood"? This became our research question. We further contemplated, how can we do so while acknowledging our own experiences as artists/teachers/researchers and those of our student teachers? This would require an arts-based methodology that would allow both ourselves and our student teachers the opportunity to visually and verbally explore self in relation to teaching student teachers/being student teachers, and in relation to each other as individuals within the context of community. As artists and arts-informed researchers, we have both worked with collage before in our own inquiry, artwork, and pedagogy. Knowing the process would lend itself to deconstruction and analysis as well as re-construction and synthesis we sought to use collage (both visual and poetic) to further explore what might happen when teacher educators explicitly acknowledge the concepts of isolation and connection that so often remain unspoken within the context of the student teaching experience. We wanted to know what pedagogical practices might engage students in the work of vulnerable reflection, those which might better create space for dialogue and reflexivity amongst ourselves and the student teachers we worked with. Finally we wanted to better understand the possibilities of arts-informed epistemology as a pedagogy of discomfort (Boler, 1999, 2004), a libratory pedagogy that might create more opportunities for students to collectively, within the space of the unfamiliar, reflect upon multiple aspects of their student teaching experience, moving through active engagement with art as text--beyond the often silenced emotional experience.

Drawing on a/r/tography (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Springgay, Irwin, Leggo, & Gouzouasis, 2008) as method, we began our inquiry within the context of our student teaching seminars seeking create a space where both ourselves and our students might enter into the work of "knowing (theoria), doing (praxis), and making (poeisis)" (Irwin, 2004, p. 27) through the process of art-making in a communal context where as Irwin and Springgay (2008) remark, "encounters between subjects, thoughts, and actions propose new assemblages and situations" (p. xxxi). As they engaged in this process, we wondered if students would move from an outward, individualistic, classroom performance toward relational reflexivity and theorizing (Britzman, 2003), carefully planning their representations, reflecting upon and discussing with their peers, the meaning behind the images and words they chose to deconstruct and reconstruct through the process of collage. …

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