Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

"I Wash My Face with Dirty Water"

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

"I Wash My Face with Dirty Water"

Article excerpt

We are in an era of teacher education during which reflective practice (Greene, 1986; Handal & Lauvas, 1987; Zeichner & Liston, 1996) and the value of reflexivity between experience and pedagogy are common research themes (Ellsworth, 1995; hooks, 1994; Luke, 1992; McLaren, 1994, 1995; VanManen, 1990). Race, class, gender, and ethnicity are explored in texts and courses in teacher education. Case studies are used to help teacher candidates examine their experiences and make use of them while they grow as teachers. Teaching journals are assigned to facilitate deep and critical reflection on one's experiences in the field. At times, it seems that every possible identity is explored, every experience is examined, and every personal story is told. However, I have observed that one human experience of which we could make use continues to be a teacher education taboo. It is disability and the acknowledgement of the presence of disabled teacher candidates in our programs.

In this article, I hope to break the silence by offering the stories of three individuals and their journeys to knowing themselves as young adults and teachers. These stories were collected during a year-long project in which I explored the ways my 3 participants understood disability and the ways in which their understandings informed their pedagogical knowledge. During our year together, I attempted to determine whether and in what ways these teachers had submitted their experiences with disability to reflection. In this article, I lay out the narratives of disability and pedagogy that were constructed that year, and I explore the ways in which disability narratives can be used in teacher education to contribute toward the goal of developing critically reflective practitioners. To accomplish this, I first explain the sources of my interest in the relationship between self and pedagogy. Then, I discuss my methodology at length to provide clarity about the ways I collected and interpreted participants' narratives. The centerpiece of this article is the narratives themselves and the ways in which they complicated teacher education's conventional notions about disability. Finally, I offer some practical ways in which the teacher education curriculum can be revised to make use of the disability experiences of teacher candidates and/or to include disability narratives among teacher education texts.

A note about my use of disability language is warranted here. There is an ongoing debate among international scholars about how to talk and write about disability. For many years, person-first language has prevailed, and for good reasons. Person-first language requires one to privilege the individual as a person with full humanity. In person-first language, educators use phrases such as student with a disability and students with learning disabilities. The person-first movement grew out of disability activists' press for social recognition of biased language that dehumanizes people about whom references to disability were made (Blaska, 1993; Bogdan & Biklen, 1977; Zola, 1993). Disability-first language has recently reemerged among many disability studies scholars, but it is used in two ways. Some scholars and disability activists are using disability-first language (e.g., disabled person or disabled woman) to show disability pride (Gabel, 1997; Linton, 1998). This trend is similar to the gay pride trend of recent years. Other disability scholars are using disability-first language to represent the power of the social consequences of particular ways of being. In this usage, privileging disability symbolizes the oppressive or discriminatory social conditions facing disabled people (Abberley, 1987; Linton, 1998; Peters, 1996; Shakespeare, 1997). My own decision has been to use disability-first language in my scholarship and with fellow disability studies scholars while using people-first language in professional and interpersonal discourses where disability-first would be misunderstood or offensive. …

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