Term of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 1

Daniel E. Chapman

Committee Member 2

James C. Jupp

Committee Member 3

William H. Schubert

Abstract

This is an inquiry into the lived experiences of Southern, white, female teachers who teach their overwhelmingly Southern, white student populations in a rural/suburban North Georgia elementary school. I explore the obstacles and challenges they face as they experience the negative and crippling effects of the policies and practices forced upon them in their teaching and learning environments. Drawing upon the theoretical works of Dyer (1997), McIntosh (2012), Anderson & Collins (2007), Morrison (1992), Jupp (2013), Sleeter (1993, 2003), Smith (1944,1949), and hooks (1992) on race and critical white studies; the works of Apple (2001,2008), McLaren (1998), Foucault (1977), Freire (1970), Ayers (2004, 2006), Giroux (2009, 2010), and Macedo (2006) on critical social justice in education; and Whitlock (2007, 2013), Weiss (2005), Fine (1992, 2005), Villaverde (2008), Tochluk (2010), Miller (1980, 1992), Cobb (2005), Hoelseher (2003), and Walker (1997) on white female identities, Southern identities and cultures, I narrate the lived reality of the challenges and hindrances in teachers’ and students’ experiences that perpetuate injustices and inequalities in a public elementary school.

The methodology I utilize in this study is based primarily on school portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). In addition, I embrace the works of Schubert and Ayers (1992) on teacher lore, Clandinin and Connelly (2000) on narrative inquiry and storytelling, He and Phillion (2008) on personal~passionate~participatory inquiry, along with elements of autobiography and biography (Miller, 2005; Grumet, 1988) and (Barone, 2007; Lather, 1991, Benson & Anderson, 1989, Spring, 2013, Saye, 2002; Smith, 1944). The narratives presented use fictionalized composite characters acting out common, real, autobiographical, and biographical experiences that have been woven into fictional stories representing everyday concerns and challenges observed and expressed by teachers and students. The resulting vignettes purposefully aim to represent the dominant contradictions and constraints that teachers and students at an elementary school, a rarely viewed venue, express from their perspective.

This inquiry illustrates the common threads of injustices, struggles, roadblocks, hindrances, and challenges that block teachers and students from reaching their full potential. Several major meanings have been made out of my inquiry. Since the current climate of the ever-increasing pressure to raise achievement and the demand of standardization in schools depreciates teachers and students and incites their fears, public schools desperately need spaces in which the root causes of these fears are exposed, the negative effects on students and teachers is examined, and a more trusting and encouraging alternative is created. The hegemony influenced by Southern cultures and values perpetuates a patriarchal structure that affects how the female populations in elementary schools act, how others perceive them, and how they are treated professionally and personally. Those female students and teachers, particularly those who are praised for being good, submissive, and quiet, and who do not dare to question the power structure, are in turn unknowingly pushed to participate in the oppressive injustices that continue in schools today.

Counterstories of elementary teachers and students challenge the dominant narratives of power and hegemony, particularly the stereotypical views of teachers and students experiencing frustrations and injustices perpetuated by current oppressive policies and practices in our schools and societies. It is of paramount importance to create spaces for educators, administrators, policy makers, and the public to listen to the counternarratives from teachers and students, challenge stereotypical images imposed upon them, hear their voices and concerns, feel their struggles and frustrations, and recognize the root causes of narrow, unfair and frustrating policies and practices on the education of our children in schools and societies. Teachers and students, along with parents, the community, administrators, other educators, policy makers, and all others involved in the education of our society, must make a conscientious choice to hear the voices of the oppressed and question the purposes and aims of education for our children in today’s schools. They should work together to expose and negate the forces that are currently destroying opportunities for unlimited possibility and freedom for creative potential that all children deserve to experience and fight back the evil force of standardization and comodification of schooling and create inspiring learning environments where our children have equitable opportunities to reach their highest potential (Siddle Walker, 1996).

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