“The World is So Much Bigger”: Preservice Teachers' Experiences of Religion in Israel and the Influences on Identity and Teaching

“The World is So Much Bigger”: Preservice Teachers' Experiences of Religion in Israel and the Influences on Identity and Teaching

Tina Marie Keller (Messiah College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1057-4.ch016
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Abstract

Opportunities to experience diverse religious traditions while traveling abroad can create invitations to explore the role of religion in identity. This becomes important as teacher educators prepare preservice teachers for classrooms of increasing religious diversity. This study examined the impact of a two-week experience in Israel for three preservice teachers before, immediately after, and one year after the trip. The data suggests that purposeful inclusions of religious experiences, sites, and more importantly personal encounters with individuals of a variety of faiths can create occasions to reflect upon the role of religion in identity. The preservice teachers in this study, while each possessing unique perspectives, spoke to the impact of this experience upon their teaching in the classroom. The chapter concludes with suggested recommendations on how to incorporate religion while planning a trip with preservice teachers.
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Background

Teacher identities are shifting, multidimensional, and influenced by story (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Gee (2000) conceptualized identities as situated and linked to performances in society. Schussler (2006) described factors of teacher identity as creating dispositions that provide a filter for understanding teacher knowledge and behavior. Through teacher dispositions ideas of good teaching are established and refined. These theories of good teaching and teacher dispositions are often based upon years observing teachers in action (Knowles & Holt-Reynolds, 1991). As a result, preservice teachers enter college teacher preparation programs with personal dispositions as well as institutional biographies influenced by their own schooling (Britzman, 1986). It is through the lens of teacher disposition, combined with their own positionality in regards to race, class, gender, and religion that can influence the type of teacher preservice teachers aspire to become.

Teacher preparation programs often explicitly seek to challenge teacher candidates to explore the personhood of a teacher. Teacher education curriculum frequently encourages critical consciousness by unpacking the connections between positionality, identity, and teaching (Gay & Kirkland, 2003). While race, gender, and class are often explored in teacher education literature, religious identity is infrequently addressed (Hartwick, 2012; Subedi, 2006; White, 2009). White (2009) explicitly connected the role of religion in the identity formation of preservice teachers noting, “Therefore as religion shapes how individuals and others construct personal identity, it follows that religion shapes how teachers construct their own identities” (p.863).This is important to address as, by and large, college students in the United States preparing to become teachers have been found to be the most Christian religiously oriented on campus and become more religious over their life time (Kimball, Mitchell, Thornton & Young-Demarco, 2009). The connections between teachers and religion are strong as classroom teachers were also found to be more religious than the general population (Slater, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Religious Authenticity: The perception that the genuineness of a religion can be measured.

Teacher Identity: The lived experiences, personal and professional beliefs, and dispositions that impact the personhood of a teacher.

Religiose: Religious beliefs viewed as exaggerated and excessive.

Marginalization: Discrimination and exclusion of groups based upon socially constructed hierarchies.

Global Citizenship: Viewing the interconnectedness of humans across the borders of nations, possessing a value for diversity, and a desire for social justice and equity.

Druze Religion: A religious minority living in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria with roots in Arab culture and ties to all three monotheistic religions.

Minoritized Religions: Religions that are pushed to the edge of society by the dominant religion or culture.

Religious Identity: The connections that a person makes to a religious tradition, belief system, or world view that impact their perceptions of who they are as an individual.

Emancipatory Spaces: Opportunities that provide the room to examine, reflect upon, and challenge oppressive systems in society and thought.

Religiosity: The perceived level of devotion to beliefs, practices or traditions of a religion.

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