Complexities of Identity and Belonging: Writing From Artifacts in Teacher Education

Complexities of Identity and Belonging: Writing From Artifacts in Teacher Education

Anna Schick (University of Minnesota, USA) and Jana Lo Bello Miller (University of Minnesota, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0000-2.ch011
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Engaging in artifactual literacy as a collective in a teacher education seminar class gives space for objects and texts to bring forth reimagined and alternative ways to be “teacher.” An elementary teacher education program utilizes a seminar space to invite teachers to write from artifacts to analyze, deconstruct, and reconstruct their teacher identities. The analysis and discussions of the reconstructed narratives that define, contest, or shape identities give needed distance from traditional and often constricting narratives of “teacher” and “teaching.” The investment of this critical identity work in teacher education is depicted in the analysis of two preservice teachers' collective writing in a digital space.
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“What started as a critical reading of a children’s book became a social justice ‘racial equity’ purity test full of hypocrisy.” -Will

It was that time of year again. The newness of the fall semester had faded and the teacher candidates were several weeks into the licensure program and student teaching at their school sites. This was the time each year we, the Elementary Education Licensure Program Lead and the Elementary Education Academic Advisor, would begin to receive late night emails from students about their challenging relationship with their cooperating teacher, experiences of racial microaggressions from their supervisor, concerns about deficit-based reading curricula, and the inevitable question: “Is this really the right profession for me?”. The response to these individual reach outs was often to gather the Elementary Education team and schedule a progress review meeting. We’d meet, make a plan, and then back out into the field they would go.

This introduction aims to tease out the reasons for revising the writing pedagogy of a particular seminar course. As a one year intensive teacher education program, the fall semester balanced site placement and graduate-level methods courses. Entering spring semester, teacher candidates were full time in their public school elementary classroom and returned to campus only one evening a week for a seminar course. Historically, the seminar was utilized as the catch all for any remaining standards, common assignments, or licensure logistics that had not been addressed in earlier courses or communications. This plasticity of interpretation was conducive for differentiated content but also ran the risk of being experienced as a disjointed assortment of “to dos” before teacher candidates completed the licensure program. In recent years, several of the department’s common assessments were assigned to the seminar space. These assignments asked teacher candidates to regurgitate their knowledge of theories and understanding of schools, students, and families. As instructors, the tone of analysis felt formally objective versus the nuanced interpretations as an individual who had spent time working in a school community for a year. Attention was brought to this seminar space as the program explicitly articulated a vision towards supporting teacher candidates to be socially and racially-just teacher leaders.

As former classroom teachers, we acknowledge our roles within this complex community of practice surrounding teacher candidates (Lave & Wenger, 1991). As themes emerged from our fall progress review meetings, we noticed the significant value there was in collaborating from our roles as Academic Advisor and Licensure Program Lead. We were granted permission to co-teach the seminar in the spring in an effort to support the program’s growing understanding of the relationship between the advising, clinical placements, and methods course instruction from the perspective of the teacher candidates. In this endeavor, we acknowledge how Jana, the licensure program lead, brings the historical context of the program and seminar course while Anna, the academic advisor, brings the individual stories shared within advising appointments, both from prospective and current teacher candidates.

The following script is a recreated dialogue from a planning meeting prior to the start of the seminar. It aims to support the purpose of the introduction to establish the contributing factors to the revision of the seminar. We use a script to draw out our complicated feelings of the purpose of seminar and our desires for collective narratives. This dialogue further emphasizes the histories and ideas we brought to our vision of co-teaching and artifactual critical literacy.

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