Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Teacher Educators Using Encounter Stories

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Teacher Educators Using Encounter Stories

Article excerpt

Encounter Stories

Janna: I'm glad that we've decided to work on a project together because we're both interested in how identities play a role in our work as teacher educators preparing future teachers for 21st century classrooms.

Danne: Yeah, I would never have imagined that from our initial meeting 13 years ago the influence we'd have on each other's professional lives especially our perception of the world and considerations of how to use our identities to shape our work.

Janna: It's like you read my mind! I was thinking that we could study how our identities shape not only ourselves, but also each other!

Danne: Yes! I am certainly more aware of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) issues than I was before I met you!

Janna: But I think it's also more than that. I've been thinking a lot lately about how I can use my identities to gain insight into the identities of others.

Danne: You have to be careful, though. Certain folk don't appreciate it when other people claim to "understand" and illuminate their lives.

Janna: That's true. But the way I think about it, understanding the identities of other people is like an asymptote--do you remember that from math?

Danne: Is that when the curve comes down and approaches the X-axis, getting closer and closer, but never actually touching it. Is that right?

Janna: Exactly! So even though I can never know what it's like to be Black, or a Black woman, in America, that does not mean I cannot try to deepen my understanding. I just need to recognize that that understanding can never be complete.

Danne: Yeah, just remember not to paint Black folk as all having the same experiences or beliefs.

Janna: Good point! Just like with being gay--being gay in Boston is a completely different experience than being gay in the rural South, as I found through personal experience and through a comparison of two studies on gay and lesbian teachers (Jackson, 2013).

Danne: And it gets even more complicated than that. Since people are made up of multiple, often complex identities that inform each other, it's difficult to separate out a single marginalized identity without recognizing the impact of other identities, including dominant ones such as White, Christian, middle to upper class, able-bodied, heterosexual, male.

Janna: True, but I still contend the ways in which people construct identities and interpret their lives through marginalized and dominant lenses can inform our understandings of the lives of other people.

Danne: Yeah, I completely agree with that. Let's just be careful to avoid oversimplifying something as complicated as identity, especially ours.

Janna: Agreed. You know, our relationship, and I guess any friendship, is also like an asymptote. You can never truly know someone, but we certainly have gotten to know each other much more deeply in the 13 years we've known each other.

Our First Encounter

Danne: Remember when we first met, you saw me as the lone Black person in a sea of White folk at orientation for our graduate program.

Janna: That is true. I felt really out of place being a lesbian among people who presented as extremely straight, so I followed some advice someone gave me one time--if you feel out of place, find someone you think might feel more out of place than you and befriend them. I figured that you might feel out of place more than I since I can pass as straight, but you certainly cannot pass as White ...

Danne: nor would I want to ...

Janna: Hmm, this story seems to follow what we were saying earlier--using our own experiences to try to understand the experiences of another--not just through similarities, but also through differences.

Danne: Speaking of differences, something as superficial as clothing can say a lot about oppression.

Janna: How so?

Danne: Well, in grad school, you were always commenting on how "neat and professional" I always looked. …

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