Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

Stories of Becoming an Art Educator: Opening a Closed Door

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

Stories of Becoming an Art Educator: Opening a Closed Door

Article excerpt

Becoming an Art Educator

The question of what is involved in the process of becoming a good art teacher guides many of those who teach and research preparation programs for art teachers. Some of the curricular deliberations are concerned with the necessary knowledge and skills art teachers should demonstrate in art making, visual culture, art history, art criticism, art teaching methods, pedagogical skills, child development in art, art education theories, and research methods (Anderson & Milbrandt, 2002; Burton, 2004; Day, 1997; Eisner, 1994; Erickson, 2004; Freedman, 2003). Other curricular decisions stem from developing teachers' identities and voices (Giroux, 1988; Greene, 1995; May, 1997). The process of developing teachers' identities engages with discourses and the knowledge we utilize to make sense of who we are, who we are not, and who we want to become (Britzman, 1992).

The term "teacher's identity" as it is used by post-structuralist theorists suggests that the "self" is constructed rather than grounded (Spivak, 1987). It implies a holistic outgrowth, often elusive, of a set of embedded processes and practices that concern the whole person. It is shaped in and across social and cultural contexts by various interdependencies among person, context, history, and teaching (Britzman, 1991; Cochran-Smith, 2005; Olsen, 2008).

As part of my research dissertation I collected tales of Israeli art teachers and studied the ways they negotiated their teaching identities within and against their schools' normative discourses. I learned that being and becoming an art teacher involved an ongoing process of negotiation between personal and professional experiences, knowledge and beliefs, and the school's discourse. Their beliefs and identities couldn't be separated from the socio-cultural environments and the discourses in which and through which they were constantly (re)constructed (Cohen Evron, 2004). Our identities as teachers are neither fixed nor are they an inventory of knowledge or technical procedures of teaching experience. We continually reconstruct our views of ourselves in relation to others, workplace characteristics, professional purposes, and cultures of teaching. Furthermore, we bring to our teaching profession our personal and institutional biographies (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999; Sivertsen, 1994). Our biographies in part account "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" (Britzman, 1991, p. 3). Therefore, personalities, interests, weaknesses and personal life experience are important components of our becoming and being teachers. They influence what we do as teachers, how we interpret what happens in our classes, and how we continue to shape our teaching (Anderson & Holts-Reynolds, 1995; Connelly & Clandinin, 1999).

This study is concerned with my own teaching identity and is based on self-narrative research. As such, it includes stories which do not necessarily accumulate into a whole biography; rather, it is a collection of short descriptions and accounts. They are significant because they are one way of defining the self (Josselson & Lieblich, 2001). Like any stories of past events, they are explicitly reconstructed by me as the person who experienced them. They make sense of life experience by connecting the personal occurrences with meta-narratives of community and history (Clandinin &Connelly, 2000; Neisser, 1994). They describe some of my own stories of being and becoming an art educator in Israel. I reassembled stories of my personal experiences in this place and their interplay with my decisions as an art educator. Examining processes whereby self-narratives are produced, poststructuralist discourse extends the possibility for empirical researchers to focus on the condition of social practices and cultural patterns (Sondergraard, 2002). …

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