(Re) constituting the teaching self: narrative explorations of difficulty in teaching




Fowler, Leah Cheryl

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This dissertation identifies questions of difficulty in teaching and represents one story of an enduring poststructural reconstitution of the relational fields of self, theory, and practice. The first three sections are self-authored narratives (Coming to Teaching: Notes to the Reader; Coming to Difficulty: Returning of Life to Its Original Difficulty; Coming to Wisdom in Teaching through Narrative). Some narratives are memories of originary, often preconceptual, difficulty in which I retrace and reunderstand my own epistemologies. Some narratives are deliberate products of literary fictive craft, meant to create openings for more study, multiple tellings, and diverse interpretations, as with any piece of good literature. Other narratives, exploring complexities of the underside of teaching, are “counter-narratives” (Giroux, Lankshear, McLaren, & Peters, 1996) which the teaching community of readers may find difficult to accept or know and prefer to leave untold. Each narrative necessarily has its roots in some form of autobiography, although several blossom into fiction for reasons of ethics, poetics, and creative possibility. These narratives serve as force-field containers (in the Greek sense of temenos or crucible) which textually hold still the shards and images of difficulty long enough to apprehend, examine, comprehend, and further imagine the site of self, with the salutary effect of re-understanding and reconstituting that self in teaching. The final section (Teacher, Teach Thyself: Lessons from Difficulty) is a descriptive contemplation of the process and effect of researching the curriculum of the (teaching) self. Researching inductively through multiple writings, readings, and interpretations of narratives about (self) difficulty, seven significant relational, holographic orbitals of work emerge: naive storying, psychological construction, psychotherapeutic ethics, narrative craft, hermeneutic philosophy, curriculum pedagogy, and poetics of a teaching self. Entire education systems are in deep difficulty, but I believe I have the right and ability only to govern and alter myself, to ethinarratively reconstitute my own relational praxis, to be able to work with others at the center of difficulty with a durable, intelligent, wise, humble, generative, compassionate field of self capable of laughter, hope, goodness, truth, meaning and beauty in Being at the close of this darkening twentieth century. Such hermeneutic narrative research makes it possible to be ethically responsible for personal shadow, practices of unhealthy transference, and impulses to control or colonize other, in order to teach in meaningful, present, educative engagements with students learning and constructing their own life narratives.



Teaching, Research, Learning, Teachers, Training of