Future Limitations of Storying the Teacher A Reader Response by Justin Rukaruck for EDU 6460 Curriculum, Culture, and Language

Future Limitations of Storying the Teacher A Reader Response by Justin Rukaruck for EDU 6460 Curriculum, Culture, and Language

And lives stopped feeling like lives – or at least, people began talking about not having a life. What could that mean? Information overload triggered a crisis in the way people saw their lives. It sped up the way we locate, cross-reference, and focus the questions that define our essence, our roles – our stories. The crux seems to be that our lives stopped being stories. And if we are no longer to have lives that are stories, what will our lives have become?

Douglas Coupland – Player One

As we move toward the future, a future of change and uncertainty, what will our lives become if we no longer have lives that are stories? How do we “story the self” when traditional forms of narration have gone the way of the cassette tape and dot matrix printer? We are at a pivotal moment in history, a point in time that will redefine the global culture. Economic collapse and environmental armageddon loom on the horizon, and the way that we know the world is changing drastically. Adapting the way that we story the self will be vital in the rescue of the life story.

When I read Goodson’s article “Storying the Self: Life Politics and the Study of the Teacher’s Life and Work” (1993), I can’t help but think about the precariousness of the future. He speaks of the “restructuring of institutional life” and “particular perils… for the world of education,” all in the shadow of “current changes in the economy” (p. 3). What does this mean? There is an ominous and dire undertone to some of Goodson’s words. At certain points in the article, I have visions of a post-apocalyptical, Road Warrior-esque landscape where $500-a-barrel oil limits mobility, the lines on maps have been erased, and an apple is worth more than an ounce of gold. When I regain my focus, I begin to understand what he is getting at. The future will bring with it a disconnection from the past; a dissolving of the link to previous generations. Life will not be the relatively static process to which much of Western society has become accustomed. This is the “changing paradigm” of which Ken Robinson speaks. With this, there will be an alteration of the idea of self. Leinburger and Tucker (1991) call this “the end of the era of the authentic self” (p.6), where a new set of limitations will have to be accepted. The future may not look like a Mel Gibson movie, but there will be a new environment in which the self will be explored and the narrative constructed.

“The authentic self.” This phrase keeps running through my mind like a stock ticker at the bottom of a 24 hour news channel, the meaning of the term fluctuating by a few points every now and then. I don’t know if I can honestly pinpoint what this truly means. Perhaps this is why Leinburger and Tucker believe there is a move away from the search for the authentic self; it is simply too ambiguous of a concept to set as an ultimate goal. I cannot help but think that my connection to the self is in direct relation to my connection to the world, whether it is social, physical, spiritual, psychological… isolating myself from it would in fact prevent me from understanding who I am. Maybe the concept of the artificial person better represents our collective identity, since in fact it is a “social character” transformed by “accidents of history, culture, language, and society and all of the other artificial systems of collective life” (Goodson, p. 9).

How does this connect to my narrative? My life story as a teacher is privileged with placements abroad and within different curricula. I was born and trained to be a teacher in Ontario. But I have only taught here for one of my ten teaching years, at a fumbling private school which has since declared bankruptcy. In many of these circumstances, it was expected that my life story play a role in the curriculum, as I was hired to bring a different perspective to the learning of the students. The exception was in Honduras, where the curriculum-as-planned and rote learning ruled supreme. Here Lawn (1990) claims that “the teacher… has moved from a moral responsibility particularly with regard to curricular matters, to a narrow technical competence” (p. 12). In contrast, my voice as an ordinary teacher played a role in the development of the curriculum of many of my schools. White privilege in a post-colonial world prevented my narrative from being stifled, what Goodson calls “one of the paradoxes of postmodernism” (p. 18). Perhaps my journey outside the realm of teaching locally illustrates my belief in the “death of the authentic self” and the building of my artificial person.

It is crucially important to recognize that when the teacher’s voice is silenced, we move away from authentic learning. Ignoring a teaching method that acknowledges different learning styles and engages in social discourse changes the culture and language of teaching; it becomes static and has less room to evolve. According to bell hooks (1994), “The engaged voice must never be fixed and absolute but always changing, always evolving in dialogue with a world beyond itself” (p.11). When restructuring and reformist initiatives come from the outside, it is difficult for teachers to be involved in the change and evolution. Teachers bridge the gap between the planned and lived curriculum. By failing to record and implement the voice of the teacher, or when that voice is drowning in the technical and apolitical, the student’s connection to the lived experience of the classroom is impeded.

I leave Goodson’s article somewhat skeptical about the future of teaching and the role that the voice of the teacher will play. As limiting as the life story can be, as it is a “selected account” of one’s life, it undoubtedly plays a vital role in exposing the educational zeitgeist. Will the life story of teachers be incorporated into the post-modern curriculum, and if it is, what function will it serve if lived experiences of teachers are that of educational workers? If teachers no longer have lives that can be storied, what will our students’ lives then become?

References

Coupland, D. (2010). Player one: What is to become of us? House of Anansi.

Goodson, I. F. (1998). Storying the self: Life politics and the study of the teacher’s life and work. In William F. Pinar (Ed.), Curriculum toward new identities. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress. London: Routledge.

Lawn, M. (1990). From responsibility to competency: A new context for curriculum studies in England and Wales. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 22 (4), pp. 338-392.

Leinburger, P. and Tucker, B. (1991) The new individualists: The generation after the organization man. New York: Harper Collins.