Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Our Academic Sandbox: Scholarly Identities Shaped through Play, Tantrums, Building Castles, and Rebuffing Backyard Bullies

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Our Academic Sandbox: Scholarly Identities Shaped through Play, Tantrums, Building Castles, and Rebuffing Backyard Bullies

Article excerpt

Four teacher educators, at various stages of their academic careers and at two different institutions share stories of lived experiences regarding their triumphs and challenges in the development of their scholarly identities. The authors, all members of the Faculty Academy, describe their storied experiences framed within a Sandbox metaphor which serves as a heuristic template for exploring scholarly identity development and meaning making of formative experiences in academia. As a metaphor, a sandbox has been historically known as a safe place of development for children, one where free play, risk taking, and creative expression support cognitive development, but also where social and affective skills through interactions with others are tested and honed. In the sandbox, sands can be patted, molded, shifted, and raked in order to create new structures, add to existing ones, or even tear down old ones; each grain of sand has potential for a multitude of possibilities that may or may not be realized. Through the sharing and execution of ideas orchestrated by the hands of the creators and their collaborators, the resulting sand creations reflect the personalities and identities of the builders in the personal signatures they bring to the work. The sandbox is also a place where stories told as imaginations are ignited, new ideas are enacted, and sometimes hopes are dashed. The image of a sandbox resonates with the authors as a place to explore, build, develop, and re-group when everything falls apart; as it aligns with our teacher educator stories of triumphs and challenges in academia. We describe our experiences of acclimation to and the ongoing enculturation within academic environments through stories as narrative inquiry.

Background

Faculty Academy, a troupe comprised of inter-institutional and cross-institutional teacher educators (14-20 at any one time), has met bi-monthly in face-to-face meetings at our respective campuses for over thirteen years as a professional learning community. Our hope was to create a trusting, open space for introspection, a teachers' knowledge community so to speak (See Craig, 1995, 2001), where teacher educators, scholars and researchers of multiple methodological interests can enter into sustained conversations with one another concerning teaching and research inquiries in which they actively engage and reflect (Schön, 1983, 1987). There has been an ebb and flow of membership over the years, but one author of this paper is the founding member, two others have participated since the inception and the other is a longstanding member of well over a decade. The ethos, longevity, and history of this professional learning community has proven it to be a safe space for personal meaning-making exchanges regarding our experiences in academia. During our meetings, stories were shared that would not or could not be expressed within members' respective institutions as they often consisted of descriptions of specific, albeit subjectively couched, interactions of perceived "otherness" or as one being disregarded as an "outsider" in their institutional academic environments that often marginalized (or silenced) their sense of self as a scholar or academic. The identity liminality and experience of disenfranchisement in these formal environments in which we practiced spurred the need to privilege our positions in the informal, more collegial setting of the Faculty Academy, through the sharing of personal, frequently emotionally-tinged "secret stories" (Clandinin & Connelly, 1995). So, in fact, we created our own accepting "insider" group of scholars who shared experiences of marginalization. De Jaeghar and Di Paolo (2007) describe this process as "participatory sense-making" where social interactions support individual agency (De Jaegher & Froese, 2009). In both milieus (our respective institutions and Faculty Academy), we have experienced identity formation events, most notably regarding scholarly identity, as relational, discursive, and socio-culturally formed and impacted by intersubjective interactions and exchanges (See Bucholtz & Hall, 2005). …

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