English/language arts teachers' emotional responses to difference: A feminist poststructural analysis.
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Although the population in public schools within the United States continues to reflect a more diverse student body, the majority of preservice and inservice teachers are white, middle class women (McFalls & Cobb-Roberts, 2001). The disparate background between students and teachers could result in "confounding" communication across social lines, racial divisions, cultural differences, and even power structures (Delpit, 1995). To better understand this phenomenon, this qualitative study addressed two research questions: How do beginning English/language arts teachers experience difference? How do their emotions about difference influence their pedagogy? Difference was defined as a disrupting force that clashed with personal ideologies. During their first in the profession, seven female English/language arts teachers wrote personal responses to questions about difference and emotion. They also participated in semi-structured interviews. Using phenomenological methodology, data were analyzed and discussed using feminist poststructural theory and terminology that included subjectivity, language, discourse, and power.Findings suggested that novice English/language arts teachers reacted in various ways when confronted with difference. Some blurred their public and private personas and engaged in emotional experiences with their students. In their classrooms, these participants openly discussed issues of power and hegemony. Others experienced conflicted teaching personas; specifically, their self-identified openness to difference had not necessarily translated into practices that encouraged emotional connections with their students. Although they privately discussed power, they were reluctant to broach the topic with their students. Other participants enacted a one-sided public persona that focused on their role as teacher and often ignored the emotional needs of their students. As a result of these findings, several implications for the field of education were cited. These included the idea that teacher identity was in flux, and, as such, labels like "white, middle class teacher" should be interrogated. Additionally, teacher identity often affected pedagogical practices, especially those relating to literature instruction; therefore, teacher educators should address that connection in preservice training.
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