Term of Award

Summer 2009

Degree Name

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

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Dan Rea

Committee Member 1

June Alberto

Committee Member 2

Grigory Dmitriyev

Committee Member 3

Fayth Parks

Abstract

Resiliency has been defined as the ability to overcome the odds (Benard, 2004b). Research on resilience has shown that children who beat the odds, who made a resilient comeback, formed a relationship with at least one caring adult, often a teacher. Teachers who make this kind of major difference in a student’s life have been called "turnaround teachers" (Benard, 2003, p. 69). What a teacher believes about resiliency–her own and her students’–is key to tapping into her students’ resilience (B. Benard, personal communication, June 21, 2006). The purpose of this study was to determine the resilience beliefs of teachers identified as turnaround teachers in the Ware County School System, a small rural school system in southeastern Georgia; how those beliefs manifest in the classroom; and what sustains the turnaround teacher’s belief system. Turnaround teachers were identified by students as those teachers who had positively influenced them in some way or who had made a difference in their lives. In this collective interpretive case study, the turnaround teachers’ beliefs were examined through the lens of 3 protective factors outlined in resilience research: (a) loving support, (b) high expectations, and (c) opportunities for participation. Through interviews and observations, the researcher explored individual and common beliefs and practices of the turnaround teachers concerning their own resilience and their students’ resilience. The researcher found that these turnaround teachers believed they had average intelligence, but they believed they were highly competent teachers. They believed that 2 caring relationships are the most important part of their lives, and they named family members, former teachers, or friends who made a positive impact on their life. All of the turnaround teachers had shown great self-determination and overcame great odds in the past. They believed they could do almost anything with perseverance, and if they could overcome great adversity, their students could also.

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