First-Person Accounts Of Teaching Essay

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First-person accounts of teaching can be defined as any written recollections of personal teaching experiences left by current or former teachers. The form in which these accounts are made available to the public and the purposes they serve depend primarily on the intent of the authors, the situations in which the accounts were written, and the diligenceFirst-person accounts of teaching can be defined as any written recollections of personal teaching experiences left by current or former teachers. The form in which these accounts are made available to the public and the purposes they serve depend primarily on the intent of the authors, the situations in which the accounts were written, and the diligence of those who study the lives of teachers. In considering the role or value of first-person accounts it is helpful to first identify the format or type of writing in which the accounts can be found, as this entry does. That, in turn, will help us discern the authors’ intentions in sharing the accounts. Knowing the authors’ purposes can then help the reader get the most out of the writing.
Private Correspondence
Many first-person accounts available today were probably not intended to be read by the general public. Instead, they were written in the form of personal journals, diaries, or letters. These types of recollections date as far back as the colonial period in the United States—and further back to ancient Greece and beyond if considering the world arena.
Given the personal and sometimes anonymous nature of the accounts, it can be difficult to determine the original intentions of the authors. They commonly focus on the day-to-day work of the teacher, along with classroom anecdotes detailing encounters with unruly students, a less-than-pleasant work environment, and personal living conditions. Few teachers tried to offer profound insight into the profession or children. The most obvious value of these first-person accounts is the glimpse they provide into the daily life and thinking of the time and place in which they were written and into the personal and emotional lives of the persons who chose teaching.
Formal Autobiography
Many teachers have documented their experiences by writing a narrative deliberately crafted for a public audience. Autobiographical accounts often reflect not only the authors’ points of view but broader cultural perspectives as well. Accounts like Edward Eggelston’s The Hoosier Schoolmaster from 1871 or William Alcott’s Confessions of a Schoolmaster from 1856 focus on the brave but frustrating efforts of individual frontier schoolteachers to keep reluctant students in school.
A similar theme can be found in autobiographical accounts from the 1980s and early 1990s but with a variation that reflects the criticism of public schools voiced by numerous national reports of the time. My Posse Don’t Do Homework by LouAnne Johnson and Marva Collins’s Marva Collins’ Way sent the message that brave individual teachers were fighting against the low expectations of apathetic schools. Those accounts, and others of the era, portrayed the teacher as a folk hero who recognizes that students simply need teachers who have high expectations for both the students and themselves.
Autobiographical accounts of teaching were plentiful in the 1960s and 1970s. They, too, represented the struggle of individual teachers against significant odds, but unlike the later accounts, authors such as Herbert Kohl, Vivian Paley, Jonathon Kozol, Robert Kendell, and Sunny Decker were self-deprecating in their portrayals, emphasizing their positions as White outsiders in all-Black schools. Mirroring the social upheaval of the era, the authors emphasized what they had to learn about and from their students, the crippling nature of poverty and discrimination, and the emotional toll exacted on everyone involved.
In every era there were exceptions to these categories that ran counter to the prevailing cultural perceptions and portrayed hope in difficult situations and the promise of empowering students with compassion and student-centered teaching. J. K. Stableton’s Diary of a Western School-master in 1900 portrayed a great love and respect for the nature and potential of adolescent boys struggling for an education. In 1936, Katherine Camp Mayhew and Anna Camp Mayhew described the experience-based model of education at John Dewey’s laboratory school in Chicago. Eliot Wigginton’s 1985
Sometimes a Shining Moment recounted his efforts to motivate his poor, rural students by having them explore their own cultural heritage. And in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, authors like Ira Shor, Paulo Freire, and Peter McLaren wrote of their experiences in using education as a means of empowerment and liberation.
Personal Inquiry Or Self-Study
A type or use of first-person accounts that is relatively new to the genre is the writing and study of first-person accounts for the distinct and direct purpose of personal insight and professional development. These accounts are often much shorter than autobiography and more intentionally and narrowly focused than daily diary entries, although they can take the form of a teacher’s life history as it shaped his or her teaching and dissertation-length studies of a teacher’s practice.
Teacher educators and others who work with teacher professional development are increasingly turning to the type of first-person accounts referred to variously as teacher narratives, autobiography, life history research, teacher lore, and by other such terms. It is believed that writing about and studying their own experiences can help teachers develop a more systematic and critically reflective nature and begin to explore the various family, cultural, professional, and psychological influences that have shaped their teaching and professional identity. Similarly, by reading the stories in other teachers’ first-person accounts, future teachers can learn what it means to grow as a profession and to become a teacher. This approach has gained in acceptance as the teacher’s work, workplace, and experience have become a legitimate source of knowledge about teaching and learning.
Bibliography:
1. Brizman, D. P. (2003). Practice makes practice: A critical study of learning to teach. Albany: State University of New York Press.
2. Cohen, R. M., & Scheer, S. (Eds.). (1997). The work of teachers in America: A social history through stories. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
3. Covello, L. (1958). The heart is the teacher. New York: McGraw-Hill.
4. Preskill, S. L. (2001). Stories of teaching: A foundation for educational renewal. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
5. Schubert, W. H., & Ayers, W. C. (1992). Teacher lore: Learning from our own experience. New York: Longman. of those who study the lives of teachers. In considering the role or value of first-person accounts it is helpful to first identify the format or type of writing in which the accounts can be found, as this entry does. That, in turn, will help us discern the authors’ intentions in sharing the accounts. Knowing the authors’ purposes can then help the reader get the most out of the writing.

Private Correspondence

Many first-person accounts available today were probably not intended to be read by the general public. Instead, they were written in the form of personal journals, diaries, or letters. These types of recollections date as far back as the colonial period in the United States—and further back to ancient Greece and beyond if considering the world arena.

Given the personal and sometimes anonymous nature of the accounts, it can be difficult to determine the original intentions of the authors. They commonly focus on the day-to-day work of the teacher, along with classroom anecdotes detailing encounters with unruly students, a less-than-pleasant work environment, and personal living conditions. Few teachers tried to offer profound insight into the profession or children. The most obvious value of these first-person accounts is the glimpse they provide into the daily life and thinking of the time and place in which they were written and into the personal and emotional lives of the persons who chose teaching.

Formal Autobiography

Many teachers have documented their experiences by writing a narrative deliberately crafted for a public audience. Autobiographical accounts often reflect not only the authors’ points of view but broader cultural perspectives as well. Accounts like Edward Eggelston’s The Hoosier Schoolmaster from 1871 or William Alcott’s Confessions of a Schoolmaster from 1856 focus on the brave but frustrating efforts of individual frontier schoolteachers to keep reluctant students in school.

A similar theme can be found in autobiographical accounts from the 1980s and early 1990s but with a variation that reflects the criticism of public schools voiced by numerous national reports of the time. My Posse Don’t Do Homework by LouAnne Johnson and Marva Collins’s Marva Collins’ Way sent the message that brave individual teachers were fighting against the low expectations of apathetic schools. Those accounts, and others of the era, portrayed the teacher as a folk hero who recognizes that students simply need teachers who have high expectations for both the students and themselves.

Autobiographical accounts of teaching were plentiful in the 1960s and 1970s. They, too, represented the struggle of individual teachers against significant odds, but unlike the later accounts, authors such as Herbert Kohl, Vivian Paley, Jonathon Kozol, Robert Kendell, and Sunny Decker were self-deprecating in their portrayals, emphasizing their positions as White outsiders in all-Black schools. Mirroring the social upheaval of the era, the authors emphasized what they had to learn about and from their students, the crippling nature of poverty and discrimination, and the emotional toll exacted on everyone involved.

In every era there were exceptions to these categories that ran counter to the prevailing cultural perceptions and portrayed hope in difficult situations and the promise of empowering students with compassion and student-centered teaching. J. K. Stableton’s Diary of a Western School-master in 1900 portrayed a great love and respect for the nature and potential of adolescent boys struggling for an education. In 1936, Katherine Camp Mayhew and Anna Camp Mayhew described the experience-based model of education at John Dewey’s laboratory school in Chicago. Eliot Wigginton’s 1985

Sometimes a Shining Moment recounted his efforts to motivate his poor, rural students by having them explore their own cultural heritage. And in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, authors like Ira Shor, Paulo Freire, and Peter McLaren wrote of their experiences in using education as a means of empowerment and liberation.

Personal Inquiry Or Self-Study

A type or use of first-person accounts that is relatively new to the genre is the writing and study of first-person accounts for the distinct and direct purpose of personal insight and professional development. These accounts are often much shorter than autobiography and more intentionally and narrowly focused than daily diary entries, although they can take the form of a teacher’s life history as it shaped his or her teaching and dissertation-length studies of a teacher’s practice.

Teacher educators and others who work with teacher professional development are increasingly turning to the type of first-person accounts referred to variously as teacher narratives, autobiography, life history research, teacher lore, and by other such terms. It is believed that writing about and studying their own experiences can help teachers develop a more systematic and critically reflective nature and begin to explore the various family, cultural, professional, and psychological influences that have shaped their teaching and professional identity. Similarly, by reading the stories in other teachers’ first-person accounts, future teachers can learn what it means to grow as a profession and to become a teacher. This approach has gained in acceptance as the teacher’s work, workplace, and experience have become a legitimate source of knowledge about teaching and learning.

Bibliography:

  1. Brizman, D. P. (2003). Practice makes practice: A critical study of learning to teach. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  2. Cohen, R. M., & Scheer, S. (Eds.). (1997). The work of teachers in America: A social history through stories. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  3. Covello, L. (1958). The heart is the teacher. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Preskill, S. L. (2001). Stories of teaching: A foundation for educational renewal. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
  5. Schubert, W. H., & Ayers, W. C. (1992). Teacher lore: Learning from our own experience. New York: Longman.

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