This is a podcast of a research talk I gave at the College of Education, The University of Georgia last week. It offers a small slice of a three-year study I’ve been conducting in teacher education and creating “culturally-relevant” spaces for teacher education students. Three findings from the study seem really relevant to teacher ed and have the potential for making contributions to the field:
1 – “Bodies” in teacher education classrooms are often already ‘good’ at the practices and implicit rules in educational spaces/academic institutions, but not often well positioned to be successful in “spaces” that reward different practices and have different implicit rules. In other words, they understand and orient themselves to the “nomos” (Pierre Bourdieu) of academic spaces, and have difficulty understanding people/students who don’t already have this institutional disposition. If we are to help future teachers better understand the most marginalized groups of students and families – those who often don’t acquire or want to acquire the academic institution disposition/practices, then we have to get those future teachers outside the physical spaces of academic institutions and into spaces (or “fields” – Bourdieu) where completely different practices are necessary, rewarded, and challenging to “new” folks in the field. Riding the city bus, doing community ethnography through participant observation in local recreation and leisure, social service agencies, natural and human resources, etc. are all ways to help expand new teachers’ perspectives of “learning” and orient them toward drawing on community resources and family practices to build meaningful curriculum. Bodies, in other words, cannot be docile in teacher education classrooms where they are “taught” to engage the community and marginalized students’ lives - they have to experience new spaces in physical, social, psychological, embodied ways.
2 – Many young women across three years of the study (over 100 participants) expressed issues around their bodies (body image, pressures to look a certain way, pressures to eat/exercise in certain ways). While much “teacher education” is now focused on digging into the complex issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, language, etc. to make school a more relevant space for all students, few spaces deal with how all of these “issues” are related to bodies and how bodies are felt, perceived, and performed. Starting with the young women’s concerns around bodies and engaging them with a critically-focused body curriculum (critically analyzing advertisements, watching videos such as “Killing Us Softly,” reading articles about youth dieting, comparing these issues to the “obesity epidemic” hysteria, and analyzing their own bodily experiences on and off college campuses) can lead to engaged discussions and inquiries into the raced body, classed body, gendered body, sexed body, etc. In other words – if bodies are central to the perceptivity project in education (how we perceive others and in turn respond to them), then starting with teacher education bodies could be generative.
**This is the finding that is the focus of the podcast.
3. Tending to one’s own body in analytical ways and working to position oneself more powerfully in language and bodily interactions can help one assemble more confidence in acting as an advocate on behalf of oneself and others. In other words – if we want to help cultivate confident, critical, advocates/activists for future teachers who will stand up for children and families who are persistently marginalized and left behind, we need to work with them in assembling the analytic practices and confidence to do so. Starting with bodies can help us do that.
Papers coming out soon! Several in press and under review, so I’ll post when they’re ready.