thesisposted on 28.06.2013, 00:00 authored by Avi D. Lessing
What is the lived experience of teachers and students in school? Why is public discourse so disconnected from that lived experience? I explore these questions through fictionalized characterization derived from lived experience in high school with special focus on care or intimacy that exists in relationships among teachers and students. Those relationships cannot be understood by quantified research alone; it requires a range of qualitative approaches drawn from narrative inquiry, the speculative essay, phenomenological hermeneutics, and fictionalized autobiography among others. I argue that such research orientations must be parlayed, adapted, integrated, and extrapolated to describe, interpret, and characterize moment-to-moment encounters that make up the school day. After depicting the intellectual conversation that has derived from literature, I draw a theoretical framework that constitutes my evolving personal vision from literature and experience in theater, psychology, philosophy, and curriculum studies. The above serves as a basis for the bulk of the dissertation, a novel, Spitting Image, about one day in the life of a teacher. The dramatic structure re-imagines and depicts moments a fictionalized day by a fictionalized version of myself. Rather than depicting one particular day, the novel imaginatively reconstructs composites of experience, while a teacher strives to connect with and expand the intellect and feelings of high school students in a milieu infused with incessant calls for standardization, test results, and accountability quantifications. The main protagonist searches for authenticity and meaning in a system that increasingly is immune to such values. The essay that follows the novel clarifies pedagogy and curriculum imbued with intimacy, an implicit idea in the novel. It is not an attempt to summarize the novel’s main points, because the literary orientation employed here holds that readers will derive their own interpretations. In this sense, the dissertation, especially the novel and essay, are offered as heuristic devices for teachers, educational leaders, policy makers, and the general public to vicariously experience and realize more fully nuanced effects and affects of a teacher. Thus, one teacher’s perspective is offered to encourage reflection on myriad meanings and exigencies of teaching life.