At the intersection of art and research :the teaching of poetry/the poetry of teaching


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At the intersection of art and research :the teaching of poetry/the poetry of teaching
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vii, 242 leaves ;29 cm.
Anne McCrary Sullivan
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1996. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 235-241). Typescript. Vita.
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Instruction and Curriculum thesis, Ph. D. Dissertations, Academic Instruction and Curriculum.
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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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oclc - 35790430
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Copyright 1996


Anne McCrary Sullivan






Prologue . . 1
Aesthetic Vision . 2
The Autobiographical Context . 4
A Review of the Theoretical Literature 8
Redefining Cognition . 8
Moving Beyond Positivism . 11
What Counts As Research? . 13
A Statement of the Problem . 15
Purpose, Methodology, and Mode of Representation 17


Prologue . . 20
The Context and the Problem . 20
Notes about Method . 22
Construction of the Script . 25
An Ethical Concern/The Issue of Voice and
Ownership . . 29
The Purpose of the Study . .. 30
Poetry and Passion in Teacher Education:
Personalizing and Internalizing Knowledge 32
In the Beginning . 32
The Practicum . . 41
Growing Deeper . 54
The NCTE Convention in Orlando 59
The Handbook . . 62
The End of the Semester . 67
Epilogue . . .. 70
Reflections on the Script . 70
Implications for Future Research 73


Prologue . . 75
Following Up . . 75
The Internship . 76

Methodology . . 77
Ethical Concerns . 78
The Purposes of the Study . 81
Construction of the Evocative Text 81
Saturated with Poetry: First Draft of a Teacher 83
Prologue . . 83
The Internship . 86
Post-Internship . 203


The Teaching of Poetry . 214
Poetry in Crisis/The Broader Context:
A Review of the Literature . 214
The Poetry of Teaching . 225
The Dynamic Form of Teaching . 225
Developing Teachers As Artists 227
The Art of Research . 229
Artist as Researcher/Researcher as Artist 229
Evocative Modes as Interpretation 231
Final Words: The Politics of Method 232




Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Anne McCrary Sullivan

August 1996

Chair: Ben F. Nelms
Major Department: Instruction and Curriculum

The primary purpose of this dissertation is to explore

and exemplify, simultaneously, what can happen at the

intersections of art and research, art and teaching.

Maintaining that teaching is an art full of complexity and

nuance and that, for examining and understanding the

teaching act, we need processes that engage with complexity

and nuance, it underlines the potential of artistic vision

for transforming research about artistic teaching,

particularly in the secondary English classroom, and calls

for modes of representation that have the power to

communicate the richness of lived experience.
Within a theoretical and personal framework, this

dissertation presents two exemplars of studies conducted

with artistic vision and reported through evocative

representation. The first, "Poetry and Passion in Teacher

Education: Personalizing and Internalizing Knowledge,"

examines the experiences of twelve preservice teachers in a

fifth-year master's program in English education. It

follows their growth, examines the issues that became

central to their enterprise, and witnesses their building of

community. This research is reported in the form of a

reader's theater script constructed from participants'

journals and poems. The second study, "Saturated with

Poetry: First Draft of a Teacher," follows one of these

preservice teachers through his internship in a ninth-grade

English classroom, focusing on how his artistic concerns

manifested themselves in his emergent teaching style. The

nonchronological narrative report relies heavily upon poetic

technique and poetic strategy.

Methodologically, the two studies borrow from different

qualitative strategies; they may both, nevertheless, be said

to fall under the broad rubric of personal experience

methods. Personal experience methods, as defined by Jean D.

Clandenin and F. Michael Connelly, focus on the experiential

whole, which is both temporal and storied. They acknowledge

the centrality of the researchers' own experience and the

critical role of the relationship between the researcher and

participants. They rely upon field texts as data.

In educational research, how do we avoid the error of

excessive abstraction? How do we stay connected to the

human purposes of research? This study is concerned with

these questions and with possibilities for modes of

representation that help us retain the human dimension in

knowledge acquired about teaching through research.



This is not a conventional dissertation. It is a

dissertation that reflects its moment. More specifically,

it marks a moment in the evolution of the academy. We live

in a time when mysteries of the human brain, a few at a

time, are being unlocked. We know things now about the

nature of learning that we simply did not know, could not

know, at midcentury. Schools of education have been at the

forefront in applying to human concerns new knowledge about

thinking and learning. In recent years, preservice teachers

have been actively engaged with concepts of multiple

intelligence, with expanded understandings of what it means

to know and to demonstrate knowledge, and with resultant

revisions of what it means to assess knowledge.

Now, within their own institutions, colleges of

education are beginning to enact revised understandings of

what it means to know and expanded possibilities for

reporting research. This dissertation represents some of

those revised understandings and explores pedagogical issues

within the realm of those expanded possibilities.

One of the ways this dissertation differs from its

traditional precedents is in its embrace of multiplicity.

There are a number of things "going on" here. Within a

conceptual framework, which is both theoretical and

personal, there are embedded two studies, which focus on

pedagogy. Each of these is concerned with the delicate

interrelations of art, poetry, teaching, and teacher

education, to such an extent that they converge as stages of

a unified inquiry.

In this dissertation, the threads of multiple issues

are spun into a web of larger concern: artistic ways of

knowing and of representing knowledge. This is a central

concern for me. My own multiple identities--teacher, poet,

researcher--are bound together by aesthetic perception and

by a penchant to create form. The form of my teaching has

always been critical to its mission, and the form of this

dissertation is part of its content.

Aesthetic Vision

Aesthetic vision suggests a high level of consciousness

about what one sees. It suggests an alertness, a "wide-

awakeness" that Maxine Greene has urged educators and

researchers to learn from artists (1987b, 1987c, 1994).

Aesthetic vision engages a sensitivity to suggestion,

to pattern, to that which is beneath the surface as well as

to the surface itself. It requires a fine attention to

detail and form--the perception of relations (tensions and

harmonies), the perception of nuance (colors of meaning),

and the perception of change (shifts and subtle motions).

Aesthetic vision adjusts the flow of time. It may

seize a moment in order to stare at it and see more fully,

more deeply; but aesthetic vision does not assume that what

one sees in the moment is what one will always see. It

perceives the potential for transformation within any

apparent fixity, whether that fixity is a block of wood, a

piece of clay, a jumble of words, or the configuration of a

classroom, the behavior of an individual child.

Aesthetic vision is always from a specific point of

view, filtered by a specific consciousness. It is personal

and situational. It includes emotion, imagination, and

paradox. It embraces complexity.

Teachers who function with aesthetic vision perceive

the dynamic nature of what is unfolding in front of them.

They know how to "read" students, respond quickly, and

reshape the flow of events. They construct personal

frameworks for their own understandings. They do not accept

that what they see is immutable. They have a finely tuned

sense of how to move toward new configurations.

Researchers with aesthetic vision, too, perceive the

dynamics of a situation and know how to "read" it. They

look at details within their contexts, perceive relations

among the parts and between the parts and the whole. They

look for pattern within disorder and for unity beneath

superficial disruption. They construct forms and suggest


The teacher-as-artist is simultaneously a researcher.

The researcher-as-artist becomes, through forms created and

made public, a teacher. This dissertation explores the

potential of artistic vision for transforming both teaching

and research. Its particular emphasis is on the teaching of

English and on research in secondary English classrooms.

The Autobiographical Context

In 1992, when I entered my PhD program, I had just

spent several years nurturing a poet's way of seeing,

shaping, interpreting, understanding. My nontraditional MFA

program had turned out to be everything I had always wanted

from my education--a fine balance of autonomy and guidance;

a definition of rigor that went deeper than rules; an

honoring of both independence and community; a blurring of

semester divisions that allowed for a sense of ongoing

project; significant narrative evaluation. I graduated from

that program in Swannanoa, North Carolina, on a January

afternoon, light snow falling. I got in the car, drove all

night, began my PhD program two weeks late at the University

of Florida, and was in culture shock for a whole semester.

I moved uneasily in the linearity of traditional academic

structures. Having had an apprenticeship in sensing and

naming what I needed to know, I was uncomfortable with the

external authority now telling me what I needed to know.

Further complicating matters, in my work as a poet I had

learned to trust intuitive, nonlinear processes; I had

discovered altered relationships with time; I had embraced

an understanding of knowledge that included emotion and

imagination; I had learned to engage with multiplicity and

complexity. But when I tried to function in concert with

what I had learned, I was often told with varying sorts of

language, "You can't do that." I felt alien and divided, my

whole life a huge dichotomy--the poet and the academic. I

pursued my academic career in an ongoing tension.

I had some professors, however, who offered me choices

and autonomy, who were willing to let me reinvent tasks and

methods, and who gave me glimmers of hope that my creative

dimension might have some role to play in academic work. In

a course described as "Introduction to Qualitative

Research," my parallel worlds began to intersect.

During that semester, I came to know deeply the work of

John Dewey, Maxine Greene, and Elliot Eisner. In the

writings of these three (and others, but especially these) I

found permission to be who I was. I located myself at the

intersections of art and research, history and imagination,

the emotive and the logical, rebellion and order. I gained

language for what I had known intuitively about

relationships that bound teaching and writing at the level

of deep process. And I knew for the first time that I could

be a poet and a researcher in the same body doing the same

work in the world.

I was finally hearing in academia, voices that were

consistent with my internal voices, voices that validated my

ways of seeing and knowing. I found Maxine Greene writing

of wholeness, challenging dichotomous thinking, and

celebrating the role of literature as an integration of

cognition and emotion: "When we consider integration and

wholeness, [we must] break with such notions as those that

split the cognitive from the emotional" (1978a, 188).

I discovered Elliot Eisner defying traditional academic

definitions of rationality: "What we are seeing when we see

artists work--on the stage, in the studio, in the concert

hall, and in a classroom--is not the absence of rationality

and intelligence, but the ultimate manifestation of its

realization" (1979, 273).

I found affirmation in Dewey's assertion that

to think effectively in terms of relation of
qualities is as severe a demand upon thought as to
think in terms of symbols, verbal and
mathematical. [P]roduction of a work of
genuine art probably demands more intelligence
than does most of the so-called thinking that goes
on among those who pride themselves on being
"intellectuals." (1934, 46)

Donald Sch6n echoed Dewey: "Artistry is an exercise of

intelligence, a kind of knowing, though different in crucial

respects from our standard model of professional knowledge"

(1990, 13). And Laurence Stenhouse brought art and inquiry

clearly into the same arena: "All good art is inquiry and

experiment. The artist is the researcher par

excellence" (1988, 47). As I read, the dichotomies with

which I had struggled imploded in my consciousness and in my

"In my body." This is not a very traditionally

academic thing to say. All of these other dichotomies exist

in the shadow of one that has spirited all of Western

civilization: mind and body. The life of the academy as

keeper of knowledge has traditionally been the "life of the

mind." Body has had little or nothing to do with it.

When I first started spending time among serious poets,

I was struck by the ways they talked about poetry, how

different these were from the ways I had always heard

English teachers talk about poetry. English teachers asked,

"What does this poem mean?" and expected a specific answer.

Poets were asking, "What is your experience of this poem?";

they hoped for multiple answers. English teachers seemed

interested in getting knowledge into the brain. Poets were

concerned with getting knowledge into the body. They talked

about it in exactly those terms: "getting knowledge into

the body." They wanted to give their readers not only an

insight, but also a lived experience.

The implications of that concept for teaching were

immediately clear to me. Knowledge personalized and

internalized is knowledge that sticks. The word made flesh

is a powerful word. I see now that "knowledge in the body"

is also an important concept for research.

A Review of the Theoretical Literature

Redefining Cognition

Novelist Jeanette Winterson, in her book of essays, Art

[Objects] (1996), maintains that artists know things ahead

of time. Sometimes, she says, artists know things before

scientists do because they have learned to read and trust

experience, feeling, and intuition. Leonard Schlain, author

of Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and

Light (1991), agrees. In his extended study of the

histories of art and physics, he demonstrates convincingly

that major breakthroughs in the world of physics have

consistently been prefigured in the work of visual and

literary artists. There is now an increasing body of

empirical evidence suggesting that Winterson, Schlain, and

others who take this position are right.

In 1994, Antonio Damasio, head of the department of

neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine,

published his book, Descartes' Error: Ehotion, Cognition,

and the Human Brain. He reports in the vernacular on more

than a decade of his research on the neurological

underpinnings of reason. Introducing this work, Damasio


I had grown up accustomed to thinking that the
mechanisms of reason existed in a separate
province of the mind, where emotion should not be
allowed to intrude, and when I thought of the

brain behind that mind, I envisioned separate
neural systems for reason and emotion. This was a
widely held view of the relation between reason
and emotion, in mental and neural terms. (xi)

Damasio's research has led him, however, to propose, in his

own words,

that the body, as represented in the brain, may
constitute the indispensable frame of reference
for the neural processes that we experience as the
mind; that our very organism rather than some
absolute external reality is used as the ground
reference for the constructions we make of the
world around us ; that our most refined
thoughts and best actions, our greatest joys and
deepest sorrows, use the body as a yardstick.

The mind," Damasio tells us, "is embodied, in the full sense

of the term, not just embrained" (118).

What the empirical sciences are now confirming about

the human brain is forcing us to question old dichotomies

and to perceive new relations. It is no longer possible,

for example, to make the simplistic distinction between

cognition and affect. We now know that at the level of

neurobiology, cognition and feeling are interrelated and

interdependent. Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine's

extensive review and analysis of brain research led them to

propose in Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain

(1991) twelve principles of brain-based learning. The fifth

principle directly addresses the thinking-feeling

connection: Emotions are critical to patterning.

Patterning relates to meaningful organization and

categorization of information. "In a way," state Caine and

Caine, "the brain is both artist and scientist, attempting

to discern and understand patterns as they occur and giving

expression to unique and creative patterns of its own"

(1991, 81). This fifth principle--emotions are critical to

patterning--restates the conclusion of a number of studies

(Halgren, Wilson, Squires, Engel, Walter, and Crandall 1983;

Lakoff 1987; McGuinness and Pribram 1980; Ornstein and Sobel

1987; Rosenfield 1988) that find emotion to be integrated

with the functions of cognition.

Caine and Caine urge us to "reject a definition of

'meaningfulness' that is restricted to some notion of

intellectual understanding devoid of an emotional connection

that is experienced as a 'felt' sense" (1991, 92). On the

basis of their research, they argue that felt meaning occurs

when emotions and cognition function together, generating a

sense of interconnectedness and personally significant


The thinking-feeling connection has always been

acknowledged by artists. The artist's way of knowing and

perceiving is characterized, in part, by this connectedness

and by a strong sense that cognition is located in the whole

body, not just in the brain. Poet Donald Hall writes,

"Poetry by its bodily, mental, and emotional complex

educates the sensibility, thinking and feeling appropriately

melded together" (1994, 11-12). This refusal of the mind-

body dichotomy explains, to some extent, the marginalization

of the artist during a positivist era.

Moving Beyond Positivism

During the course of this century, the field of

education has thrown itself headlong into the pursuit of a

science of education. Building on the positivistic base of

the scientific method, as developed within the natural

sciences, educational researchers and theorists have sought

to define education in objective terms. The goal has been

to make teaching and learning precise and efficient by

uncovering the underlying laws of these phenomena. This

goal has been pursued with strict focus on observable

events, objective methods of data gathering, and

quantification of results.

As we near the century's end, we are questioning the

application of this paradigm to the complexity of the

educational process (Caine and Caine 1991, Denzin and

Lincoln 1994, Eisner 1991, Greene 1995, Rose 1990, Sherman

and Webb 1991). Some thinkers, including James Giarelli,

are now announcing that within the social sciences, "the

positivistic experiment is over" (1990, 22). Qualitative

research is playing an increasingly significant role in the

quest for knowledge in the field of education. And Elliot

Eisner has taken a leading role in making the case that

"there is no area of human inquiry that epitomizes the

qualitative more than what artists do when they work"

(1979, 190). As we enter the twenty-first century,

qualitative researchers, philosophers, and artists will have

an increasingly strong voice about how we make our way in

educational research. We will not, however, ignore what we

have learned from the natural sciences outside the field of

education. Ongoing brain research is yielding extremely

valuable information about human memory systems (Goldman-

Rakic 1992; Nadel, Wilmer, and Kurz 1984; Rosenfield 1988),

information processing (Liston 1995, Sylwester 1995), the

relationship between physiology and psychology (Smilkstein

1993), the relationship between conscious and unconscious

perception (Crick and Koch 1992), and the role of emotion in

reasoning (Caine and Caine 1995, Keefe 1991). These

discoveries have immense implications for teaching and for

educational research (Caine and Caine 1995, Kruse 1994,

Lazear 1992, Sylwester 1995).

Against this background, we hear philosophers and

artists who urge us to look to the humanities for guidance.

Among philosophers, the voice of Maxine Greene is both

gentle and insistent. In the humanities, she tells us, we

find the human complexity that is lacking in the

positivist's view of the world. In the arts, we learn

paradox, ambiguity, and passion; through the arts, we learn

empathy and overcome historical prejudices. The arts, she

tells us, lead us to that which is most human in ourselves

and make it possible for us to live together in the "common

world" of a democratic society (Greene 1978a, 1988, 1995).

For Greene, the arts engage our imaginations and open the

doors of the possible. They permit us to imagine how things

might be other than they are. That sort of imagination is

essential for meaningful change.

In 1890 Emily Dickinson began a now famous poem like

this: "I dwell in possibility" (1960, 327). As we look

around us at the realities of schools today, we all,

whatever our philosophical stance, acknowledge the need for

change. There is a great need to "dwell in possibility," to

imagine how things might become other than they are. We

first must imagine change, before we can make it happen.

What Counts As Research?

In the 1994 edition of The Handbook of Qualitative

Research, Laurel Richardson discusses an emergent


In the wake of feminist and postmodernist
critiques of traditional qualitative writing
practices, qualitative work has been appearing in
new forms; genres are blurred, jumbled. (520)

She refers to these new forms as experimental

representations, and points to their one clear commonality:

"the violation of prescribed conventions; they transgress

the boundaries of social science writing genres" (1994,


I would point to another commonality: each of these

genres represents an intersection of art and research. That

intersection is perhaps most dramatic in the subgroup of

experimental genres that Richardson calls evocative

representations. These use literary devices "to re-create

lived experience and evoke emotional responses" (1994, 521).

This kind of representation, Richardson says, "touches us

where we live, in our bodies" (1994, 521). This kind of

representation is the central concern of this dissertation.

For a number of years now, Elliot Eisner at Stanford

University has been actively exploring--both in print (1979,

1991) and on the programs of professional conferences--the

potential role of evocative representation in social science

research. Eisner maintains,

There is no area of human inquiry that epitomizes
the qualitative more than what artists do when
they work. Thus, it seems to me that if we seek
to know what qualitative inquiry consists of, we
can do little better than analyze the work of
those for whom it is a necessary condition.
(1979, 190)

Eisner's concern with artistic modes of representing

knowledge grows out of his long-standing investigations of

aesthetic knowing and connoisseurship (Eisner 1979, 1985,

1991). What the connoisseur perceives aesthetically, he or

she will need to report in some public form. Research

becomes a matter of first perceiving and then "making public

the ineffable" (1979, 200). For this task, Eisner maintains

that "nothing is more precise than the artistic use of

language" (1979, 200).

In Athens, Georgia, at the International Conference on

Qualitative Research in Education (1996), Eisner suggested

five purposes of research:

1. Enlarge understanding. (Illuminate rather than

2. Engender a sense of empathy. (Provide a sense of
particularity, making it possible to get inside a

3. Provide for productive ambiguity. (Offer more
evocation, less closure. Stimulate multiple plausible

4. Increase the variety of questions we can ask.
(Stimulate the capacity to wonder.)

5. Exploit individual aptitudes of researchers. (Tap a
wide variety of human intelligences)

"Yes," he says, if it fulfills these purposes, "a novel

ought to count as research" (1996). In Living The

Ethnographic Life (1990), Mike Rose makes the case that

poetry, too, ought to count as a way of representing

knowledge. Marcus and Fischer perceived as early as 1986

that we are in an "experimental moment." Th.:.,u.nh it is

neither a novel nor a collection of poems, this dissertation

is part of the experiment.

A Statement of the Problem
For most of this century, efforts to understand

teachers and classrooms have been based in the concepts that

(a) teaching is a science and that (b) educational research

must follow the processes and precepts of the natural

sciences. Now, we are acknowledging that positivist

descriptions of teaching have been, by their very

definition, limited and decontextualized. They have taught

us less than we need to know.

During this same period of time, the arts have been

marginalized, held apart from the work of both "hard" and

"soft" sciences. During a positivist era, there has been no

expectation that artists, or persons of artistic

inclination, might work productively in other disciplines to

produce and encode knowledge. The advent of qualitative

research, which shares many of the values of art, has,

however, opened new possibilities.

Stated in conventional terms, the problem is one of

determining how, in the world of educational research,

understanding might be informed and enriched by artistic

vision and artistic modes of representation. If teaching is

an art full of complexity and nuance, then for examining and

understanding the teaching act, we need processes that

engage with complexity and nuance. For communicating what

we learn from such research, we need modes of representation

that have the power to communicate the richness of lived


Valerie J. Janesick is both a trained dancer and a

qualitative researcher. In "The Dance of Qualitative

Research Design," she examines some of the shared qualities

of dance and research and calls for interdisciplinary

research efforts that focus on lived experience:

The prevailing myths about aggregating numbers
and, more tragically, aggregating individuals into
sets of numbers have moved us away from our
understanding of lived experience. By using other
disciplines, such as art, sociology, history,
dance, architecture, and anthropology to inform
our research processes, we may broaden our
understanding of method and substance. (1994,

"[I]t is time," Janesick tells us, "to return to a discourse

on the personal, on what it means to be alive" (1994, 217).

This is the larger, deeper problem within which the problem

of representation resides. How do we avoid the error of

excessive abstraction? How do we stay connected to the

human purposes of research? This dissertation is concerned

with those questions and with possibilities for modes of

representation that help us retain the human dimension in

knowledge acquired about teaching through research.

Purpose, Methodology, and Mode of Reoresentation

The primary purpose of this dissertation is to explore

and exemplify, simultaneously, what can happen at the

intersections of art and research, art and teaching.

Purpose, methodology, and mode of representation are closely

linked. Instead of separating what I know as a teacher and

researcher from what I know as an artist, I am allowing

these dimensions to function in concert.

Within the resonance of the broad concerns I have

articulated here, this dissertation presents two evocative

representations of research on the teaching of poetry and

the poetry of teaching. The first examines the experiences

of twelve students in a fifth-year master's program in

English education. It follows their growth, examines the

issues that became central to their enterprise, and

witnesses their building of community. The research report

is in the form of a reader's theater script constructed from

participants' journals and poems. The second representation

follows one of those students through his internship,

focusing on how his artistic concerns manifest themselves in

his emergent teaching style. The nonchronological narrative

report borrows heavily from poetic technique and poetic

strategy. Each of these evocative representations is

accompanied by its own brief explanation of context,

purpose, and methodology. Each retains the visual

conventions of its own genre, most notably the use of white

space as part of a rhetorical strategy.

Methodologically, the two studies reported here borrow

from different qualitative strategies; they may both,

nevertheless, be said to fall under the broad rubric of

personal experience methods. In their discussion of

personal experience methods in the Handbook of Qualitative

Research, Jean D. Clandenin and F. Michael Connelly remind

us that

education, experience, and life are inextricably
intertwined. In its most general sense, when one
asks what it means to study education, the answer
is to study experience. (1994, 415)

As defined by Clandenin and Connelly, personal experience

methods focus on the experiential whole, which is both


temporal and storied. They acknowledge the centrality of

the researcher's own experience and the critical role of the

relationship between the researcher and participants.

Moving from field texts to research texts, the researcher

"looks for the patterns, narrative threads, tensions, and

themes either within or across individuals' personal

experience" (1994, 423). For each of the pedagogy-focused

studies embedded in this dissertation, and for the

theoretical study that frames and infuses them, these

descriptors of methodology hold true.



The Context and the Problem

For thirteen years I taught English and creative

writing in a large, multicultural high school in Texas.

During that time, I became increasingly involved with and

committed to poetry, and in 1989 I entered the Warren Wilson

MFA Program for Writers. Over time, my experiences with

poetry and with the concept of "knowledge in the body" led

me to think about parallels between constructing poems and

constructing the teaching act.

When I was preparing for the first time to teach a

secondary English methods class for preservice teachers, I

made it my conscious challenge to bring what I had learned

about the making of poems to the task of preparing people to

teach English. I was particularly concerned with addressing

a widely acknowledged problem in teacher education: all too

often, it does not "stick." Teachers leave the university

knowing a great deal about research and psychology and

effective methods, but if we check on these teachers two or

three years later, we are likely to find them teaching not

in the ways they learned at the university, but in the ways

they themselves were taught.

As I considered this phenomenon, increasingly I

suspected that what preservice teachers needed from teacher

education was not only "a body of knowledge," but also

"knowledge in the body"--knowledge fully incorporated, in

the original sense of the word. When students enter a

fifth-year program, they have approximately seventeen years

of experience in classrooms, internalized knowledge about

what classrooms are like and what teachers do. They have

seventeen years, at least, of deeply incorporated

miseducation about schools and teaching. The problem

becomes: What can we do that is powerful enough to

counteract this? How can we effect transformations?

Transformation is at the heart of the artist's

enterprise. Artistic transformation occurs at several

levels--transformation of materials, transformation of the

quality of time, and, ultimately, transformation of being

and understanding. Every artist hopes to offer the viewer,

listener, reader an experience that is potentially

transformative. Significant encounters with art do change

us, sometimes subtly in ways we hardly recognize, sometimes

powerfully at the level of epiphany. After such

encounters, we walk away just a little different from who we

were before.

I wanted the preservice teachers in my charge to walk

away from our encounter at least a little different from who

they were before, a little changed in relation to their

beliefs about teaching and schools. I wanted to do more

than fill their heads with facts that might dissipate into

air within a few years, seeming discredited by experiences

"in the real world." I wanted them to know best practices,

not as a list of research results, but as meaningful

experiences they had had, experiences genuine and powerful

enough that they would want to enact them for their own


I would follow the creative writer's dictum to show,

not tell. If I wanted students to know about classrooms in

which the teacher's role is de-centered, I would de-center

my role. If I wanted them to understand the processes of a

writing workshop, we would enact those processes. If I

wanted to share with them the potential value of

constructing poems, I would engage them in making poems. If

I wanted them to know about drawing as a response to

literature, we would draw. The immediate goal was

experience itself. The long-range goal was enduring

transformation--an enriched awareness of what teaching and

learning might be, an unshakable sense of possibility.

Notes about Method

In their discussion of personal experience methods,

Clandenin and Connelly use the term "field texts" rather

than the quantitative term "data." They note that "some

documents that eventually become field texts may have been

created prior to the inquiry, or even during the inquiry but

for a different purpose" (Clandenin and Connelly 1994, 419).

Such was the case for the study reported here. I did not

set out with the intention of "doing research" with this

methods class. I simply set out to teach. Several of the

assignments I gave my students ultimately, however, became

field texts. The transformation of these field texts into

an evocative representation became a matter of looking for

the "patterns, narrative threads, tensions, and themes

[both] within [and] across individuals' personal experience"

(Clandenin and Connelly 1994, 419).

During the course of the semester, I asked my methods

students to keep journals. My instructions were somewhat

unorthodox. I told them that I would never read these

journals in their entirety, would never take the journals

out of their hands, but at the end of the semester, I would

ask them to type out twenty-five pages of material that they

chose for me to see. I told them they could write about

anything they wanted in these journals, encouraged them not

to limit themselves to highly focused writing about becoming

teachers. "Just keep a journal of your lives," I said,

"during this period of time when you are becoming teachers.

Then, at the end of the semester, pull out material that

seems relevant. And remember: I will only see what you

choose for me to see." These instructions had some

important results. The students often wrote things they had

absolutely no intention of letting me see. But, at the end

of the semester, when trust was established, they were

willing to let me see what they had not intended for me to

see. The honesty of what they shared was remarkable.

In another semester-long assignment, each student was

asked to construct a handbook in the form of a loose-leaf

binder. The handbook would be a collection of materials,

articles, quotes, cartoons, poems or whatever seemed

personally relevant for the task ahead. "Gather into this

notebook whatever is meaningful to you--things you know you

want to hang onto to carry with you into the classroom."

Each person would organize these materials in whatever way

seemed appropriate and would write an introduction to the

handbook, making meaning of the contents and of the process

of forming the collection.

We also spent considerable time with poets and poetry.

We talked about Keats' concept of negative capability, which

he defined as the ability to dwell in uncertainty, "without

irritable reaching after fact and reason" (qtd. in Walker

1992, 1). Keats saw negative capability as a critical

capacity for poets. We saw that it might also be critical

for teachers; as soon as we become certain of something, we

shut down a whole range of possibilities. Teachers need,

along with Emily Dickinson, to "dwell in possibility."

Throughout the semester, these students becoming

teachers also wrote poems--poems from their personal lives

and poems from their classroom experiences. In one

instance, I asked them to use poems as a form of research

report. Their assignment called for the traditional methods

of case study: choose one student to observe closely over

time. "Select a student who seems alien to you for some

reason," I advised, "someone you feel you don't understand.

Watch, listen, take notes, reflect." Instead of producing

the usual third person report, however, I asked them to

write a poem from the point of view of the person studied.

"Write in first person, and incorporate at least one line of

speech you actually heard from this student."

Ultimately, the journals, the handbook introductions,

and the poems became field texts. From these texts, the

reader's theater script which follows, "Poetry and Passion

in Teacher Education: Personalizing and Internalizing

Knowledge," was constructed. This script includes no

interspersed narration or explication--only the students'

exact words, written at the time, and later pieced together

in somewhat the fashion of a found poem.

Construction of the Script

Although there are now computer programs for managing

qualitative data, I worked in the original tradition. The

process was visual and physical. It began on the living

room floor. I cut copies of the journal entries and

handbook introductions into strips, color coding each strip

to indicate its author, and organized the coded strips into

piles representing themes, concerns, or events: uncertainty,

racism, community building, or the NCTE convention, for

example. Then I began weaving the script from the voices

that literally surrounded me.

There were a number of artistic challenges. I wanted

to be sure that each voice was heard and that each voice was

distinct. I wanted the script to tell a number of

individual stories and simultaneously tell a collective

story. I also had to solve the problem of my own presence

in the text. I would not "speak" in the script, but to

eliminate my presence completely would be inappropriate. I

was very much a part of the experience that is the subject

of the script, and to leave myself out would be to falsify.

In fact, I hoped that part of the message of the script, for

an audience of teacher educators, would be: there are

things we can do to facilitate transformation. If I took

myself out of the picture, I eliminated the possibility of

that message. Clifford Geertz (1988) suggests that the

dilemma of figuring out how to be in the text is one of the

most difficult with which a writer of qualitative research

must grapple. I found that to be true. Ultimately, I

decided to allow into the script a few, as few as possible,

of the students' references to my role in the process--just

enough to remind the audience that I was there and to

suggest that, like the others represented in the script, I

had a role to play in the community we became.

There was also a problem in relation to structuring

time. During the course of the semester, these students had

actually had two different practicum experiences, one

immediately after the other, but the presentation of two

separate segments on the practicum proved awkward and

artistically redundant. I collapsed the two practicums into

a single segment focusing on classroom experiences.

The weaving of poems into the script became problematic

as well. The poems written from research were, by

assignment, in first person from the point of view of the

young persons studied. The script was in first person from

the point of view of preinterns. Ultimately, of the case-

study poems, I was only able to use the ones written by

Shelley Scholl, who had negotiated with me a variation on

the assignment. Instead of one poem incorporating the point

of view of one student, she wanted to do a series of

vignettes about every member of one class. These short

pieces wove nicely into the fabric of the script. Other

poems included in the script were written for other


The script grew slowly by painstaking, nonlinear

accretion as I grappled with problems and tried to balance

themes and voices. About midway in the process, students

began volunteering to assist. One, two, or three at a time

would come to help me sift through the piles of strips and

place them in significant juxtapositions. We would read and

re-read, decide where there needed to be more or less

substantiation of a concept, where the pace needed to be

speeded up or slowed down, where voices needed to echo or

contrast, always working toward something that "felt" like

an accurate representation of the experience we had shared.

Sometimes, a volunteer would be reading through a theme-

related stack and would remember, "You know, I didn't type

it out and turn it in, but I have something in my journal

that really fits with this. I'll bring it to you."

Sometimes, the recollection would be of a text another

student had written but that did not seem to be in our

resources. "I'll ask her about it and see if it would be

okay to use it." In this way, the bank of field texts

continued to expand.

When there was finally a complete first draft, the

entire group gathered for a read-through. During the read-

through, each person made notes on his or her copy of the

script. Afterward, we did some oral processing. There were

differences of opinion. For example, knowing that we would

be performing the script for a professional audience within

a few months, a few were uncomfortable with the inclusion of

profane language in several journal excerpts. Some felt

that it was appropriate because it was an accurate

representation of the speaker's alienation at that point,

and it provided a striking contrast to how he felt and how

he spoke later. Others remained uncomfortable. Ultimately,

I would have to weigh these arguments and decide. In this

case, I found a middle ground, trimming profane utterances

to a bare minimum for accomplishing what I considered to be

a valid purpose from the perspectives of both art and


At the end of the read-through session, they gave me

their annotated scripts to take home and use in the ongoing

revision. Volunteers continued to check in on the process.

Later, upon a read-through of the significantly revised

second draft, the group judged it acceptable, pending a few

small adjustments.

This kind of group checking provided what Eisner refers

to as "structural corroboration," one way of assessing the

validity of an evocative representation: "Structural

corroboration is the term I use to describe the confluence

of multiple sources of evidence or the recurrence of

instances that support a conclusion. In many evaluation

circles it is called triangulation" (1991, 55). To a large

extent, the journal texts themselves provided structural

corroboration; the additional direct involvement of

participants strengthened assurances of validity.

An Ethical Concern/The Issue of Voice and Ownership

Traditionally, and for good reason, researchers

substitute pseudonyms for the names of participants in a

project. Protection of anonymity is usually a primary

ethical concern. This project is different. The

participants in this study have already publicly claimed the

texts they contributed to the final report. They have

performed this script twice for professional audiences.

They are proud to be represented by their own words and to

assist in the communication of their individual and

collective experience. They do not want to be anonymous and

have indicated that they would be seriously offended if I

rendered them anonymous at this point. Their names are

Elena Agar, Charline Burgess, Calvin Dillon, Jennifer Gude,

Kevin Kendall, Robin Lee, Natalie Milian, Joe Recchi,

Shelley Scholl, Marc Sokol, Julie Welch, and Emily Zellner.

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study of preservice teachers is "to

inscribe a present--to convey in words 'what it is like' to

be somewhere specific in the lifeline of the world" (Geertz

1988, 143). In this case, we focus on the lifelines of

twelve teachers at the beginnings of their careers. We

follow them on a journey from uncertainty, isolation, and

naivete to confidence, community, and awareness. The

purpose is to "connect with fundamentally human qualities"

of their experience (Clandenin and Connelly 1994, 425). In

doing so, this study intends to raise questions about the

very nature of teacher education--not to propose definitive

answers or to demonstrate unequivocal cause and effect, but

rather to suggest possibilities and to stimulate imaginative

thinking in relation to teacher education.

This study wonders, along with Maxine Greene, "whether

we are distancing teachers from their actual bodies and

asking them to treat themselves (as well as their students)

as information machines" (1986, 70). It proposes, along

with her, that we need to "move the young to take

consciously critical and cognitive action with regard to

their lived worlds" (Greene 1986, 78) and that doing so

requires passionate engagement.

Poetry and Passion in Teacher Education:
Personalizing and Internalizing Knowledge

In the beginning .

Robin: What in the world am I doing here?

Emily: I'm so nervous. What if I can't do it?

Julie: There's so much I don't know about literature and
the English language--and I'm supposed to teach

Nathalie: I feel really lost.

Jenny: We sat in this room, and they divided a list of
the English PROTEACH people into two halves for
our Methods classes. They literally tore our
names apart and put us into two piles. Then my
half (this half) went to another room with this
woman named Anne Sullivan.

Shelley: It's hard for me to keep answering this Why-I-
decided-to-become-a-teacher question. I don't
have a hard and fast, clear-cut, idealistic
response. It's not like teaching was some kind of
lifelong dream for me.

Nathalie: I really don't know what type of teacher I'm going
to be.

Jenny: There are actually guys in our class. I always
thought guys were all but obsolete in teaching

Kevin: I'm a little worried about being in an education
program. I've heard so much that suggests it
might not be rigorous or ch3n.enging enough. I
don't like to be bored. -E.-:i -1, when there's
so much that's important about education.

Nathalie: I have all these great ideas in my head, but I
don't know what will happen in the classroom.

Elena: I have so much to learn!

Jenny: Most of the people I know who came to college have
changed majors several times, but I still haven't
found anything that seems more appealing to me
than teaching. Except for sixth grade, when I
wanted to be a marine biologist, I have always
wanted to be a teacher.

Calvin: God, I hated high school! Why in the hell am I
doing this? Why would I want to spend the rest of
my life in a place that was nothing but pain for

Shelley: My instincts tell me this is where I belong. How
stupid is that?

Elena: I can use all the tips for teaching I can find.

Charline: Answers, I wish I had all the answers.

Emily: I am such a dork. We didn't have class today, and
I went anyway.

Joe: I have to keep a journal? Angst in black and

Shelley: I'm really glad someone is forcing me to keep this
free-form kind of journal, because it removes a
lot of my constraints about the undertaking. I
never want to write anything down unless I feel
like it's "profound"--even though I know the
profound may very well arise from something

Emily: I've got to remember to write in this journal. I
am just not a journal writer. I was going to do
an oral journal, but decided it would be cheating,
so I've resigned myself to the old traditional

Marc: This class so far doesn't feel competitive. It's
more team-oriented than I expected. There's a
nice feeling of companionship. This is a new
experience, unique to me so far in my college
career. I'm sure I need this for now, until I am
ready to go off on my own in front of a high
school class.

Calvin: I don't really know anybody in this stupid class
except for Kevin. I think I get along with him
because we're both kinda dorky. That's probably
what attracts me to Joe, too. I used to be the
same way, hiding behind five dollar words so I
didn't really have to say anything. I don't know
about Marc. I can't really figure him out. I've
never had much of a connection with frat guys, but
that's probably just the dork in me being jealous
of beautiful people who seem to be together.

Kevin: What bothered me about being a journalist was
always being alone. But I may be alone here, too.
Calvin: I had a good time talking to Nathalie and Emily,
but I feel like I make them nervous. I don't
really know Robin or Charline or Tasha or Shelley
(my God this is a long list) or Elena or Julie at
all. I don't really feel a part of this group.
They seem to be optimistic, which I read somewhere
is a common personality trait of teachers. Maybe
I need to get out before I do any real damage.

Robin: PROTEACH is making me think. For the first time
after all those education classes, I am actually
thinking about what I want to do in my classroom.

Charline: I had to teach a short story introduction last
week. I was terrified, but I did okay.

Emily: I think I'm going to do a creative writing
assignment. I've found a good piece that I can
read as an example, and I'll let everyone else do
their own. As nervous as I get when we have to
stand up and attempt to teach, I really am glad
that we are doing it now and not waiting until our

Joe: We've only convened four times, and I'm already
going to have to teach my second mini-lesson. I
-lirL. before I approach this one, I'm going to
have to take my memories of the last lesson and
give them a formal cremation. I don't use the
word debacle often, but Sheesh! I was too
nervous, too self conscious.

Elena: Teaching takes up so much creativity.

Shelley: I presented my writing stimulus to the methods
class today, and now I'm at home obsessing about
it. Basically, I'm mad at myself for wanting, in
a sense, to show off. I don't want to turn into

the kind of show-off, know-it-all kind of person
that I and everyone else hate to be around. I'm
so damned hyper-aware of my need for approval and

Emily: Shelley's idea with the paint samples for "The
Yellow Wallpaper" was great. Not only was it
creative, but the kids get to take something home.
I've always wondered why once you get to high
school, you stop creating things to take home and
show your parents.

Nathalie: Am I going to be able to do such wonderful and
exciting things like everyone else? I don't know
if I can pump out original ideas from my head
every day.

Emily: I'm nervous about my presentation today in class.

Marc: It's a good experience to learn from peers, from
their good points and their mistakes, because we
have all been there and are hopefully all striving
for the same goal, to become good teachers.

Joe: The blond guy (I think his name is Kevin) was kind
of helpful. His advice was sincere and well-
taken, I thought.

Calvin: I dunno. What the hell am I going to do if I
can't stand in front of a group of people without
sounding like a babbling, mumbling reject from a
bad Woody Allen movie? Everybody looked so
confused! If I can't form a coherent thought or
explain what I mean to a bunch of grad students,
how can I possibly hope to make any kind of a
connection with high schoolers? -- I know! I
could teach correspondence courses.

Joe: I got it! I'm going to bring a doctor's note
exempting me from teaching any more. I've got
asthma and can't stand up and talk to a lot of
people for long periods of time.

Nathalie: Teaching is really hard.

Robin: My class will not be bored by literature.

Marc: I want my students to realize that literature is
not some dead knowledge they must learn, analyze,
and understand. It is, in fact, living, changing,
and surrounding their daily lives.

Charline: I want them to know that there is no one meaning
of what they read, and how they interpret is an
integral part of their personality.

Emily: If there is one area where I really hope not to
fail my students, it is a combination of the
emotional and social. I don't think that I'll
fail them intellectually. I really think that
I'll be able to teach them if I don't fail them by
alienating them. I believe that teachers who fail
their students intellectually are often the ones
who have alienated students and created an
atmosphere in which students don't believe in
themselves or their teacher.

Robin: I don't think I could stand to be the teacher
society conceives of: boring, unintelligent,
unchallenged, unchallenging.

Joe: I want my students to be interested, and I don't
want to teach them something I don't want to teach

Robin: I know I want to inspire and liberate and empower
and unfold, but do I really want to be a teacher?

Anybody: Maybe this isn't for me.

Anybody: Maybe this isn't for me.

All: Maybe this isn't for me.

Calvin: It pisses me off that the only real writing that I
did in high school happened outside of the
classroom. I know I want my classroom to be
different. I just feel like I can't be a Nancie
Atwell or an Anne fucking Sullivan.

Charline: Today is the first time I am doubting my choice of
profession (in a really nagging sort of way).
What does all this mean?

Elena: How can I connect the real world with school?

Charline: I watched "The Good Son" tonight with Macauley
Culkin. Are there really "evil" kids, and what do
I do if I get one in my classes?

Elena: How can I create a comfortable atmosphere for my

Charline: What happens if you get a student in your class
that you really don't like? How do you deal with

Elena: What am I going to do if there is a special ed
student in my classroom? LEP?--fine. Special

Charline: What is all this about ending a sentence with a
preposition or not? Do you use "with which"
before the subject or at the end just use "with?"

Jenny: I plodded through a lot of abstract undergraduate
education classes and literary criticism classes
to get to where I can apply any of it to what I
want to do. Now that I'm here, I am clueless about
HOW I will teach kids.

Charline: How do you decide what kids read?

Emily: What if I screw up?

Elena: Is everyone else having such a hard time?

Charline: How do you imagine properly?

Julie: I gave my writing prompt in class today, and it
didn't go well. I made a fool out of myself. I
completely blanked out. A huge void filled my
brain due to extreme nervousness, and the next
thing I know, I'm sitting down. But I got back up
after a couple of minutes. My classmates were
supportive, but I'm really embarrassed.

Calvin: I want so much to be natural. I want to be the
kind of teacher who listens and talks and reads
and writes with his students and helps them to
live and think deeply.

Charline: I want my students to feel like they can go
anywhere and that they are seeing and experiencing
other parts of the world through reading, writing,
and the things they do in my classroom.

Marc: I feel among good friends here--maybe even family
within this group. Everyone is going through a
similar experience, and we draw off each other for
support and encouragement.

Jenny: We all went to Market Street Pub Thursday night.
We had a great time. I think we're going to make
it a Thursday night tradition. It's nice to be
friends with people in classes finally. I guess
it's true that you have the most fun at school in
kindergarten and in graduate school.

Julie: At Market Street, I talked to people from my class
about my writing prompt screw-up. Elena said,

Elena: It was bound to happen to someone and I thought
that someone was going to be me.

Julie: I don't think they think I'm such an airhead after

Calvin: Wow. I talked to Anne in her office yesterday,
and then I went to Market Street last night. I
need to really start working on stuff for this
class. I mean, I'm keeping up, but that's not
what this woman is about.

Charline: Wow. It seems to be my favorite word lately. I
am reading Seeking Diversity, and I keep getting
lumps in my throat and tears in my eyes when I
read the stories and the student writing.

Calvin: I really like Rief and Atwell. Their stuff works
because they quit listening to what they thought
they were saying and doing and started to really
pay attention. They stepped back and created a
physical and philosophical environment that
fostered real writing.

Emily: I think that in order to learn, students have to
believe in themselves and their teachers. I have
had teachers that had so much confidence in me
that they made me have confidence in myself. It
was those teachers that I learned the most from.

Calvin: Kids need to have time to feel their own way and
listen to themselves and listen to others.

Charline: I loved the Einliih J7:lu, -l. This was written in
plain English, and enjoyable English, and it was
funny, and it made me cry, and it made me talk
back to it.

Julie: I found an article on gender-balanced curriculum.
Margaret Anne Zeller Carlson gives practical
advice on how to make sure women's voices are
heard. I will look back at this often.

Shelley: Most of the articles I'm reading are by women. I
am grateful to hear a bunch of women's voices,
voices I can respect and admire, a lucky accident
of professional choice.

Marc: I found an article dealing with sexual
stereotyping in literature. Barbara Pace opened
my eyes. Now I'm seeing this kind of stereotyping
in literature and in daily life.
Charline: At first, I thought article reading was going to
be a dry experience. Even though I thought I knew
I wanted to teach, I still had that memory of
RESEARCH and dreaded JOURNAL READING in my head.
I kept envisioning boring psychological patterning
articles about how bad kids were. Boy, was I ever
pleasantly surprised.

Marc: Class discussions and these articles are teaching
me that as English teachers, we cannot search for
and emphasize set meanings in literature. We have
to be open to other interpretations students may
have, and respect and validate these opinions.

Joe: These articles are showing me that Tom Romano and
Linda Christensen and countless others have
"broken the rules" in their classrooms, choosing
their students' voices and clear, honest, free
expression over the correct use of commas and

Charline: I really am liking our textbook. Making the
Journey, by Leila Christenbury.
Calvin: I decided to use "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll to
teach the class the role of syntax in determining
part of speech. "Jabbberwocky" is the only poem I
know in entirety by heart. So, I opened
with a joke to get over being nervous. Then I
took two big steps forward (figuratively and
physically) and recited in an uncharacteristically
audible voice, the first stanza of the poem. They
all heard me, and I felt good for the first time
about sharing something in front of a group.
Maybe I just need to be more myself and less who I
think I'm supposed to be.
Jenny: We had to write a poem in only five minutes, and
tomorrow Anne will read them out loud! I'm

Elena: I tried to write a poem about what happened
Thursday night and all the nights like it. I
couldn't. It's painful. I can't do a poem.

Emily: I never write poetry, so I'm really hesitant and
unsure about my work.

Jenny: I was SO nervous to have my work read. It felt so
unfinished when I left class and turned my poem in
yesterday. The whole time my poem was being
discussed, I had to really try not to giggle. I
was embarrassed, even though nobody knew who wrote
it. The thing is, people seemed to really like
some of the things I had written. There may
actually be a writer inside me!

Charline: That was a really neat feeling to have people
react positively to my work.

Joe: It's important to make helpful comments that are
actually helpful, comments that empower and
reinforce, rather than simply indicating what
someone didn't do or shouldn't have done.

Calvin: I'm perfectly aware in my life of the things that
I do wrong; it's knowing that there is the
possibility for an alternative that helps you to
grow and change.

Shelley: I am always thankful that we have the sort of
flexible classroom and curriculum that we do--
especially because so much real communication and
connection happen.

Jenny: First field experience starts tomorrow. Calvin
and I are placed together at a middle school.

Nathalie: I am terrified about tomorrow.

Jenny: Tomorrow is my first day as Ms. Gude.

The Practicum

All: [Softly, warily] Let the games [pause] begin.

Robin: Now I am the authority. How frightening.

Nathalie: I stand before the mirror,
a cheap one from Walmart.
I don't like what I see--
a nervous girl,
dressed up in her mother's clothing.
Too young to look this old.

I am terrified.

Marc: It was weird how the kids looked at us as adults,
having no idea we were actually very nervous

Joe: I still sit too close to the TV, Indian style. I
still go to Toys-R-Us and want stuff. I still buy
cereal with prizes at the bottom.

Jenny: We got to school at 7:45 this morning and Dr.
Wright told us to get here at 8:20! Calvin and I
sat in the car until 8:10, carefully watching the
clock and looking around until we thought it was
late enough to actually be here.

Marc: "Mr. Sokol" is going to be hard to get used to.

Nathalie: I like a big high school with lots of diversity
and lots of things going on. I liked not being
able to walk down the hallways because all the
kids are blocking the walkway.

Elena: My class seems like it's going to be good. I'm

Nathalie: Jeremy was a wonderful discovery. I was once
Jeremy, but not as bad. I was cocky, arrogant,
obnoxious and defensive in high school. It was
wonderful to look at myself through my newly
formed teacher's eyes. I hope I can take down the
masks of my own arrogant students when the time

Robin: I think I just have to get used to the class, and
the school, and standing up in front of them, and
somehow, I need to get their respect. Once I have
all that, whether it takes me a year or just a

month of internship, I know the sick feeling will
go away.

Marc: In the ninth-grade honors class, seats were
limited, so Joe sat with the students.

Joe: I took a seat in the back of the room, trying
desperately to blend in.

Marc: As unprofessional as it was, I could not help but
laugh seeing 22-year-old Joe sitting with a bunch
of 14-year-olds.

Joe: I'm betting that the Oleg Cassini tie was a dead

Elena: I feel stupid. I couldn't figure out how to open
the pencil sharpener. You have to push some
confangled new-age thing at the back. Geez.

Emily: I can already tell that Dr. Carroll has a great
rapport with his kids. They all listen (which I
think is rare for middle school) and stop talking
without him having to stop teaching. A few of the
students even came up and hugged him because he
had been away at a conference and they had missed
him. It was nice to see.

Kevin: I think I'm going to like Mrs. Harrell a lot. She
reminds me very much of Ms. Allison, one of my
favorite high school teachers. She just seems to
be bursting with energy.

Emily: The fact that he was at a conference this week and
is going to another next weekend says good things
about him. It sounds like he's not one of those
teachers who forget about learning new things once
they have a job. I hope I never get to that

Marc: By the end of the first class, I had gone through
my first three days of lesson plans.

Julie: The first day, we simply observed the two class
periods, but on the second day and throughout the
week, we began to walk around the room and help
those who needed us.

Charline: Glenny, came to school today with a sign stapled
to his backpack: WILL WORK FOR HALF OF FOOD
STAMPS. I think he meant half of your food

stamps. I think, in some way, we got to him
yesterday. He responded.

Marc: I've had a disturbing insight--the tremendous
number of students some teachers have. Mrs. Pitts
has 150 middle schoolers. I don't know how she
does it!

Shelley: One boy, who wrote about the Cyclops, spelled the
plural C-y-c-1-o-p-e-s. I had to look it up. It
was right, but the teacher came and imrreidiajt'l1
circled the first incidence of the plural, saying,
"Cyclops has no e." So I said, "That's what I
thought, but I looked it up, and it was the
correct plural form." So she says, "Oh, I don't
believe this student would know that," and she
sticks a question mark over it. So I was bad and
rebelled. After she walked away, I went back and
wrote, "Great use of really strange plural form!"

Charline: I learned a lot about what not to do in the
classroom--yell at them to try to make them stop
talking; always make them stay in their desks;
ridicule them to teach them a lesson; and
constantly correct grammar, spelling, and
conventions without touching on content.

Jenny: Instead of spending half a class doing worksheets,
they could be doing a lot more writing!

Julie: When a student asked me to read her paper, I
didn't go through and mark all the misspellings
and grammar mistakes. I first told her what I
liked about her story and pointed to sentences
that were especially telling. I then asked her
about a couple of words or sentences that I was
confused about. She appreciated it, and I
felt better about helping her with content instead
of marking every grammatical mistake.

Joe: Dear Abbey, I've been heavily in to drugs for over
a year now and have no one to turn to.

Dear Desperate, "Into" is one word, and you should
avoid ending sentences with a preposition. Good

Robin: I have the urge to take over now, to offer to do
this or that, run things in the class, but I have
to remind myself to hold back until I can have

complete control, and until I have all the names

Nathalie: All the kids were standing up, talking, not doing
their work. It was complete chaos. I had to tell
them, "I expect all of you to sit down and stop
talking." I said it calmly and quietly, but they
all heard me. Immediately, they sat down and
started listening! What a sense of power!

Emily: I'm in a sixth-grade reading-writing workshop. At
first I really thought it was unorganized and
crazy, but as the days went by, I began to realize
that there was a specific order to things.

Julie: I'm enjoying helping writers strengthen their
attention to detail. I ask them questions like
"What did her voice sound like?" "What did the
pizza taste like?"

Shelley: Girls don't make noise in these classes. I hate
that. It's like they're nothing but an audience
for the boys.

Elena: I definitely noticed how the boys in the classroom
completely dominate it. I see the silent girl
phenomenon occurring.

Shelley: Adrian pats the round percussion
of her belly with cautious palms,
absorbed in rhythmic dialogue
with the kicking becoming inside.
Smoothing the cover of The Little Prince,
she tells us, "This is the first book
I ever wanted to read twice."

Robin: I want so much for them. I hope I do them

Shelley: I think the hardest part about teaching may be how
much you have to give of yourself to the students.
It's like they suck the life right out of you,
even though they're bursting with more life than
they know what to do with. I'm hungry.

Julie: I sure was exhausted afterwards--and hungry!
Standing on your feet for two hours straight in
front of teenagers really makes you burn some

Marc: I decided to battle the chronic dry-mouth syndrome
with a glass of water, only I forgot and left it

in the teacher's lounge. I asked another teacher
when the dry-mouth experience would stop. He
said, "Probably when you stop teaching." I guess
I'll have to get used to it.

Kevin: "Today, we're following Mr. Kendall's directions,"
she said. But when I put up the samples I had
created to respond to each of the two writing
prompts, I realized that in my cutting and
pasting, I had cut off the last part of the first

Calvin: I don't know what happened today. The writing
prompt just flopped. It really sounded good on
paper in that book--"Write about a time when your
expectations weren't met." I thought they could
be thoughtful and have fun. But the kids were
bored, and I had a hard time keeping them on task.

Nathalie: Christenbury was right: Working with teenagers is
not easy.

Calvin: When we got in the car, I was whining to Jenny
about what a shitty job I did so she would tell me
I did okay, but then she turned it around on me:

Jenny: I think you need to ask yourself why you want to
be a teacher, Calvin.

Calvin: I didn't really have an answer. So I said
something sarcastic. But as I sat in class later,
chewing the cud of the day's events, I kept coming
back to that question. I realized that I have no
idea why I want to teach. That scares me.

Charline: Josh, a quiet white boy in jeans, boots, and
flannel shirts every day, was passed by. He was
so unobtrusive and he did his work and we forgot
about him. I think he is something I need to
think about a lot more--Josh and the other
students like him.

Shelley: Silent in the corner,
Luke Pennington
stares down at his boot toes,
out the window,
sketches vultures,
wishes he were
anybody else.

Robin: If I can appeal to him, everything else will fall
naturally into place. He is listening all along

and just waiting for something that actually
applies to him.

Marc: I looked up and saw Bobby eagerly awaiting my
attention. "Here's my letter, Mr. Sokol. I put a
stamp on it yesterday. Can I send it now?" He
had made all his corrections; it was ready. After
class, I asked Mrs. Pitts about Bobby, told her
how pleased I was about his enthusiasm. She told
me that he was one to watch out for--on probation
at 13 for setting a house on fire. She was
surprised at his cooperation; this was the first
assignment he'd seemed interested in.

Elena: If a teacher wants to be a teacher, she has to see
the good in her students.

Shelley: Anzaveain couldn't spell his name till eighth

"Are you going to college next year?"
"No. I'm just going to stay in Alachua and
be a thug."

Marc: I keep thinking about Bobby. I had met him as my
student, and interacted with him on the basis of
what I observed of him. If I had known about his
past, would things have been different? Would I
have tried as hard as I did to engage him? Would
I have given him the benefit of the doubt?

Shelley: Anzaveain complains because he
can't decipher Chuck's handwriting
on the worksheet he is copying.

"I'm going to major in chemistry, and blow up
the world."
"Will you call and warn me first?"
"Sure. I'll give you thirty days notice."

Anzaveain, headed for a football scholarship.

Kevin: One kid, and I'm trying hard not to stereotype,
but all the worst of a cocky football player, just
sat there the whole time doing nothing. He
told me he was working on myths. I said, "Great,
what myth?" He said, "David and Goliath?" I
said, "Well, how about putting your hands on a
Bible and re-reading the story?" "They don't have
Bibles in schools," he said.

Julie: You have to be quick on your feet in teaching!

Kevin: I know I studied the Bible as literature in ninth
grade Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the
tree of knowledge, apples, serpents I
thought that for sure in Florida--the book-banning
capital of the world--they would at least be
fighting tooth and nail to keep the Bible on the

So I said, Mickey, I'm pretty sure it's a biblical
story, and I'm also pretty sure that they keep
Bibles on the shelves of the library." How else
did I check all those biblical references in
Milton? Maybe college libraries are different
from high school libraries? Why is it that you're
always so confident before they start asking you

Shelley: Karen holds her breath each night,
holds Clay in the swaying single-wide,
fingers her engagement ring
and prays for eighteen.
Calvin: I like tilting at windmills. There is definitely
something compelling about a futile task. If it
fails, you always have the improbability of
success to blame instead of yourself for trying in
the first place.

Robin: I think this practicum is making me crazy.

Calvin: I don't want teaching to be a futile task, but I
wonder when I look in my mind's eye at everything
that I did wrong today when I was trying to be so
right, that I shouldn't just hang it up and go
back to working full time at Micrographics. At
least I would have the comfort of knowing that I
could do well what I was getting paid to do. Of
course, a monkey with a prefrontal lobotomy could
probably do my job there.
Kevin: I can't believe I was late today of all days.
Here I spend all night trying to get the prompt
like I want it and roll around in bed wondering if
I did it right, and then I miss the first ten
minutes when they usually do the journal writing.
I should know better than to mess with Mondays.
Emily: Today is one of those days that I really feel out
of focus.

Elena: Tomorrow will be different.

Jenny: One of my kids was kidding around in class,
playing like he was going to hit me. He did!

Emily: I can't believe this kid just grabbed my ass!

Nathalie: It's so scary! I feel that all I can do is manage
a class. Teaching is a secondary concern. How
will I be able to teach after all this management!

Kevin: They don't like to write and talking is their way
of resisting. But they have so many important
things to say. Why can't they translate those
oral skills to writing? I need more than three
weeks to figure that one out.

Charline: Will I always be nervous in front of my students?

Elena: I still haven't thought about any "deep" issues
about school. I don't think I'm sane enough to.

Marc: For the second day in a row, we had to go back to
school to search for materials Joe left on top of
the car when we drove off. When we got there, a
team of construction workers was combing the
street and parking lot for hundreds of pages,

Elena: Ran out of gas. Again. I think this shows how
stressed I am.

Robin: I think I have finally become disillusioned.

Calvin: It's got to get better than this.

Kevin: I had them write about their personal dragons.
Based on what I saw in class, I thought the
writing would be a disaster, but when I started
reading the papers tonight, there were some really
interesting pieces--some great slang dialogues.

Robin: Al is a student in my placement that I feel a
great tenderness toward.

Kevin: Their personal dragons included laziness,
depression, confusion, and anger.

Charline: How valuable it would be to allow kids time to
express what they're feeling and getting out of

Shelley: Pale and deliberate
in the kind of dress
that advertises limbs,
she bares her fangs.

"Do I look like a child to you?"

[Emily], moving fast
to surpass fast sisters,
crashes forward, speaks
in a voice too old,
with a knowing too certain:

"I lost my creativity
somewhere in adolescence."

Robin: When I asked him if he had been drawing lately, he
quickly straightened up and said earnestly, "NO,
no, no ma'am!" He thought I was trying to catch
him in the act. I will show him that teachers
sometimes want to see you do what you are good at.

Jenny: These kids are teaching me wonderful stuff.

Elena: A lot of my preconceptions about "honors" kids and
"regular" kids have changed. I can't stand those
labels any more. My best experiences were with
the regular class, while my worst were with the

Robin: I am getting ideas of what it will be like to have
these kids waiting for me to make the first move,
and most important, I am beginning to feel like I
will be able to do it.

Marc: Teaching, at this point, seems easier if you try
to be yourself and not some know-it-all, or ideal
teacher. If this profession allows me to really
be myself, and enjoy my work at the same time,
then I will love it.

Charline: I'll get there. And I'm not so sure I have to be
so big and bad and grown up. I just have to be
sensitive to my students' and my own needs and to
be able to develop trust.

Julie: Oh, Amanda! I wanted to hug you when I saw the
tears streaming down your face, but "professional
ethics" kept me from doing so. I tried to comfort
you as best I could--believe me, I've been there.
I know how frustrating it is when the words you
want to write won't come out, and even if they

would, you're not sure if you should make such
family secrets public.

I've been told that I probably shouldn't have put
my hands on your shoulders. How could I not?
It's my nature. I do it to everyone I care about.

Elena: A teacher is such a powerful presence in a
student's life. It is important not to abuse that

Jenny: There were times when I wondered, "What right or
business do I have trying to teach anybody
anything?" Now I know I do have that right, and I
believe I can be effective.

Charline: Their creativity is wonderful and mind blowing.

Joe: I had them write self portraits. I told them I
would read them out loud, and "As soon as you
think you know who it is, raise your hand." Cut
to today, T minus no minutes to payoff. I'm in a
chair at the front, with twenty portraits in my
clutches. I begin reading. The writing is great,
and I'm getting caught up in it. I become
distracted by sounds of restlessness. Looking up,
I witness twelve or thirteen hands shot up in the
air, accompanied by lots of "Oooh ooh--I know's.
I felt like I had arrived at my own surprise

Nathalie: I hope, I wish that someone tells Matt how
outrageously talented he is. He can rap, he can
rhyme, he can draw. Creativity is rolling off

Julie: I ran into Glenny today at the projects when I
went to pick up Sharae. I said "Hi," and he asked
how I knew Sharae. I could tell from their
exchanged glances that they disliked one another.
Rae told me as we drove away that he was always
"up to no good" and would "end up in jail real

Will I be able to have enough of an influence to
keep my students from being another crime
statistic? I can't just sit by as more and more
young people lose hope and trash their futures. I
will be an advocate for our kids as well as a

Charline: I've tried to understand what it's like to be 14
and in this world. I've reflected back on what
I've done in my past and how my education fits
into all of it. I've learned that because I was
in a white-collar school, maybe I don't know how
to connect with non-college-bound students. Does
that make sense? I feel like I want to work in a
school where the majority of students are work-
force bound, but what do I have to offer them?

Shelley: Stephen's left leg
juts a leaden semiarabesque
into the aisle between the desks;
Cheek pressed against the unread text,
he dreams of his future.

Robin: The practicum is terrific. I am comfortable in
front of the class, and I am learning that the
management (getting their attention) is possible.
I really enjoy the banter before and after class
(with the kids) and I enjoy their excitement (it
is contagious). I even enjoy the challenge of
unmotivated students. I think I made the right
choice, teaching.

Kevin: Today was a good day.

Calvin: I led the class in a choral reading, starting with
me, of a letter written by a convict who submitted
it to their school paper. He wrote the letter to
convince young people not to get involved in
violence and guns. We made it through that okay.
No one felt forced to read and they helped each
other with words that they weren't familiar with.

After the reading, I asked them questions to help
them think about the elements of the letter that
were really persuasive. We talked about his use
of personal experience and his conversational

Jenny: Talk less; listen more.

Calvin: On the same page as the letter from the convict,
there was a poll of students concerning violence
in the schools. "Mr. Dillon, can we read this,
too?" Yeah, right, like I would ever tell a
student not to read something in my class.

Nathalie: Answer less; question more.

Calvin: I asked the students if the newspaper had polled
them. When they said no, we went together through
the poll, which had questions like, "do you know
someone who brings a weapon to school? Do you
know someone who has died because of violence?" I
was shocked at how many of them answered yes to
questions like these, and I told them so.

Jenny: Talk less.

Calvin: Then the discussion became much more animated, and
I didn't interject much at all into the
conversation developing around me. Then they
started to share personal stories about violence
in the school and in their lives.

Jenny: Listen.

Calvin: When Amanda told us about her uncle getting shot,
I was paying attention to what she was saying;
then I looked around the room. Up to that point
there had been so many sideline conversations and
notes being passed that I gave up on trying to
control. As Amanda told the story, though, all
the talking stopped, and even the most disruptive
and alienated kids were giving her their complete

Charline: I hope I never stop wanting to do lessons like

Calvin: When she finished, I let everyone experience the
quiet for a minute and then I said something like,
"Listen, guys. Listen how quiet it is. You were
all really listening to her tell her story.
THAT's what you need to do with your letters. Put
as much of yourself and your experiences into your
letters as you can. Then your readers will give
you the kind of attention you just gave Amanda."

Charline: Just sit--and soak in the silence. Take it all
in. Soak it all up.

Calvin: I'd read about teachable moments in Christenbury
and in journal articles, but I never thought I'd
have one myself.

Robin: The practicum is over.

Emily: I didn't think I would like middle school. I
thought the kids would drive me crazy and the


subject matter would really bore me, but I was

Kevin: I really liked the kids, but they wore me out.
And that was with only two classes for only three
weeks. How would I get through a full year with

Robin: I learned more in these three weeks than I have
learned in fifteen hours of education courses.

Growing Deeper

Charline: Everyone's American dream is different. I could
write volumes and volumes on students and their
differences. They are all so neat and unique. I
am jealous of them--no, not jealous, envious.

Nathalie: I grew up as a Cuban in Miami. During high
school, there was a big division between Cubans
and Americans, but since I looked "American" with
my pale skin and blue eyes, I became an American
at school.

Elena: Today some of my students asked me, "What's in
you? What's in you?" I must have had a really
weird look on my face as they waited for my
answer. Finally, one of the girls said (with some
irritation), "You look different. What's in you?"

Ohh! I then rattled off the races that were "in
me." They seemed impressed that such a white girl
could be so unwhite!

Nathalie: My mom laughs at me whenever I want to know about
Cuba. She tells me stories, but Cuba seems so far
away, so ancient and mysterious.

Kevin: "The courage to go inside and see who I am
really"--that does take a lot of courage--it's
dangerous to figure out who you really are--to
admit the faults that you hide from others. And
isn't that what racism attempts to mask in the
first place? Isn't racism used as a tool to make
yourself feel superior to someone else? What a
shallow way to establish self-esteem.

Nathalie: I always picture my family in their beach house,
my grandpa with his moustache and straw hat,
chickens running around the yard. I wish I knew
Cuba, the Cuba Abuelo knew and still loves, the
Cuba that created my mom and Tia.

Kevin: That day in class, when I started talking about
going in myself and started asking my questions
about racism, I heard "uh huh" and "that's good"
and "that's right" softly spoken throughout the
class. I saw a few eyebrows raised in thought. I
paid special attention to the black faces in the
room. I hope that wasn't too noticeable, but I am
concerned with whether I come across as real to
the black students. I am deeply committed to

improving race relations and to improving
communication across racial lines.

Robin: For the Haitian Who Spells Haiti with a Small

Next time you say haitian with a lower case h
like an obscenity, a lash on your back,
Like you have heard it over and over
spit out and spit on
Touch your lips forming the word
And take pride in their fullness and luxury.

I don't love you in spite of your Blackness.
The color of liquid amber, smooth and clear,
means you to me.
I'll admire your skin with mine
and show you the warm glow I love.

I can't overlook your country and love you.
I see your country because I see you--

I hold you tight enough that all you think is
but the newscaster in the background tells
of growing anti-Haitian sentiment,
the new change in policy to match.
I feel you cringe, and wither in my arms.

People who say haitian with bile on their
With hatred in their voices, minds, and
With fists pounding and fear in their
can't see you.

Elena: I remember when I first moved to the U.S.
Elementary school was a nightmare. I'll never
forget those kids pointing and laughing at me and
yelling, "She talks funny! She talks funny!"

Charline: In my writing class, we discussed accents and
dialects and how unfair it is to separate and
judge by them.

Marc: I wanted my students to know that their language
is just as important as Samuel Johnson's. I let
them work in groups to define their own slang,
make their own dictionaries. But my cooperating

teacher had a problem with that. We had to
abandon the project.

Elena: Today I was talking to a friend about how great it
was learning about the Gullah language and that I
can't wait to expose my students to such a rich
heritage. My friend replied, "I don't see what
the big deal is. Who cares about Gullah?" I
almost fell out of my chair.

Marc: We can respect dialects and still teach them what
Jesse Jackson calls "cash language." If we do
both of these, who loses?

Julie: In my classroom, we'll read to each other often,
and we will respect one another's dialects, while
learning why Standard English is important to

Charline: Black English is so rich--these two black women
saw each other on the bus and they apparently
hadn't seen each other in a long time--I could
listen to their lilting, excited tones forever;
they rise and fall, their words tumbling over each
other and an occasional, "Oh, no!" punctuating
their discourse.

Nathalie: In my practicum, when we were talking about
Countee Cullen's poem, "Incident" Shameka said
that it had to be a white person who called Cullen
a "nigger" because only whites say "nigger;"
blacks say "Niggah." Wow! I couldn't believe she
broke that up linguistically.

Marc: A question came to mind during all this. If
blacks were a controversial group in the sixties
concerning civil rights, just as women were a
controversial group during the early part of this
century concerning equal rights, and gays and
lesbians are a controversial group today, what
will be the next oppressed group to emerge?

Emily: Yesterday, we were talking about gay and lesbian
issues in school. I am amazed and disappointed
with how controversial the topic still is.

Elena: I have to read Annie on My Mind! It's a book
about an adolescent lesbian relationship. It
should be interesting. I've never read anything
like that before. Nothing comes close.

Emily: I guess I'm still naive, but I thought the world
was becoming more accepting.

Charline: Disinterested, he turned to the second chapter of
Rubyfruit Jungle and said, "What's the book
"Growing up lesbian in America."
He dropped the book on my desk with a thud.

Emily: Okay, I lied. I am not really that amazed, but I
am disappointed. I was just thinking what if it
was my child who was gay. How would I handle
seeing him or her persecuted and humiliated?

Elena: I'm reading Annie on My Mind. How am I going to
bring these issues into my classroom????

Joe: The "core curriculum" is about as representative
of this country as the majority of its
congressmen. Deplorable. And irresponsible to
allow this problem to perpetuate, as generations
of black and Hispanic and female and lesbian and
gay students filter through it.

Elena: I discovered an article by Marvin Hoffman,
"Teaching Torch Song: Gay Literature in the
Classroom." Marvin Hoffman took a big risk and
lived to tell about it. I plan on using gay
literature in the classroom, and one day I will
have an article published in the English Journal
about my experiences.

Julie: My classroom will be one in which literature by
women and people of all races, nationalities, and
orientations will receive equal treatment. We'll
talk openly about issues raised in texts, and
we'll always be respectful to one another.

Joe: To deprive the classroom of August Wilson's voice
or Sandra Cisneros' or Rita Mae Brown's is a
disservice to all our students.

Charline: Before, I wanted to teach because I thought my
English teachers were cool, but now because I want
all kids to have a chance.

Robin: I want to help students find the mastery that will
allow them to wield the fire, instead of just
getting burned.


Jenny: I love finally being around people with similar
ideas about life, people who appreciate those who
are different from them.

Charline: Everyone's American dream is different.

The NCTE Convention in Orlando

Jenny: I'm at the NCITE Convention in Orlando, sitting on
the floor in the center of the Orange County
Convention Center. The first session that we went
to, I looked behind us and Linda Rief was sitting
there. I knew it was her because everyone has
these big plastic-jacketed name tags on. I
whispered to Shelley that she was behind us, and
Shelley's eyes got really big. We are such
habitual note passers that we wrote her a note,
and she wrote back! Wow!

Charline: We're at the convention. We saw Virginia
Hamilton, Gary Paulsen, Debra Frasier. And I met
Linda Rief, she was great! She said she was glad
to meet us, and I told her I cried all the way
through the elderly chapter.

Kevin: I've loved the workshops where I got to write
something, especially the one with Tom Romano,
Nancy Gorrell, and Linda Rief. Calvin was really
excited to meet Nancy Gorrell after doing his
research project based on her article. I was so
happy for him.

Julie: Tom Romano talked about freewriting, and how
writing on something you love can really drive the
revision process.

Charline: I got to meet Leila Christenbury, and she's real!

Emily: She signed my book!

Shelley: At 3:30 Sunday, I bought a copy of Clearing the
Way, then concluded that I MUST get it signed.
Jenny thought I was nuts, running all over the
civic center on the chance I might find Tom
Romano. She said,

Jenny: You'll have just as much luck if you sit here and
wait for him to walk by.

Shelley: So I took off running and he walked right by them
where they were waiting for me.

Julie: There he is!

Shelley: So then Calvin tried to hold onto him while
everyone else went to find me. Somehow, I did get

my book signed. He wrote, "Thanks for asking."
And I really think he meant it.

Nathalie: Elena and I went to a session on the Gullah
language. It was wonderful. These people sang
for us and told wonderful stories.

Julie: The exhibit hall was huge! There were tons of
people and lots of great books and stuff to look

Nathalie: Posters galore, free books including I Am the

Jenny: We kept comparing loot, racing around to find each
other's bargains.

Nathalie: cheap books, bookmarks, postcards .

Elena: We had PRESERVICE TEACHERS in neon over our heads.
But who cares?

Nathalie: We made out like bandits!

Elena: I loved every minute of it.

Emily: I can't believe I just spoke to Robert Cormier!

Julie: Robert Cormier is a really nice person.

Shelley: The Poetry Alive! folks were singularly wonderful.
I really do want to go on the road with them. I'm
the best memorizer this side of the Mississippi.

Emily: I could spend days in the exhibit hall.

Kevin: I loved getting up in front of that room of people
in the gay\lesbian issues session. I talked about
The Drowning of Stephan Jones. But I admit to
wondering whether or not they thought Calvin and I
were gay. I never talked to him about it. I
guess maybe I didn't want to admit being self-

Charline: Today was wonderful. Kevin, Calvin, and I took
part in the symposium, and I gave a five-minute
synopsis of Rubvfruit Jungle. People liked it, or
at least everyone told me they did.

Julie: I'm so proud of my classmates. I know they must
have been nervous, but you certainly couldn't
tell. I hadn't realized when we talked about it

in class that this was such a cutting edge and
sensitive issue. I think that because our class
is so open, and because we discussed so freely, I
somehow thought other methods classes did the
same. I've learned otherwise.

Charline: I really got a lot from the convention--I learned
about seeing the kids, whoever they are, and
writing with feeling and relevance, connecting
with self and with each other. How passionate I
must remain about all of this teaching stuff.

Elena: I was overwhelmed.

Charline: I felt like a kid in a candy story!

Shelley: We were glowy and star-struck all day.

Charline: The more I learn, the more I realize that I don't
know anything!

Kevin: I was so glad to just hang out with everyone from
the group. It reminded me of band tours in
college--we always seemed to come back closer
friends when we got to share those kinds of great
emotional experiences together.

Charline: I am so glad I went. This is an experience that I
can never trade or replace, and it makes me
realize that our program is very far ahead of the
game, or at least our teacher is--because we have
been exposed to so much more than a lot of
beginning teachers, I think.

Jenny: One of the things I will remember most about this
convention is meeting Leila Christenbury and how
excited she was to meet us.

Kevin: I've enjoyed reading her book so much this year,
and I really felt like I knew her--and now I can
say I really do.

Nathalie: What a wonderful weekend.

The Handbook

Joe: You could hear a pin drop. They aren't
responding. They aren't discussing. My
enthusiasm is impacting them like a wet tennis
ball. I excuse myself momentarily and beeline
back to my desk. [Joe leaves the group and mimes
the search.] Rummaging, rummaging, scouring,
hunting for--Where is it? The students are
talking among themselves now--confidently. I
continue searching as I feel my body growing warm
and tense. In my panic I try to recall examples
of withitness and overlapping. I thumb through my
filing cabinet like a giant rolodex. I think we're
on wait time 5 or something. It's got to be here,
I couldn't perform without a net. I wouldn't
trust myself to--Here it is! [He "finds" his
handbook.] I clutch it tightly against my chest
like Dumbo's feather and return to the center of

[All students retrieve their handbooks, which have been on

Shelley: As of today, I have read eighty-nine articles
about teaching English. That's about one per day
since the semester began, but I still feel like I
have barely started to learn and absorb.

Joe: I make up my own categories? This assignment
seems too saturated with autonomy.

Emily: I wasn't sure exactly what was supposed to go in
this handbook or what I considered significant, so
anything that I really liked got put in the
handbook pile beside my TV.

Joe: With all the questions I had--excuse me--have
about teaching, I envisioned a handbook rivaling
the Talmud in volume.

Elena: I collected mountains of material this semester,
and sitting down to sift through it was not a one-
hour job. I had to do some soul searching and
decide what was important to me.

Marc: When I began to put the handbook together, I
noticed things could be divided into particular
categories. These also happened to be things I'm
very interested in and concerned about. It would
be foolish to assume this was purely coincidental.

Joe: How can I make a handbook if I don't know what
I'll need it for? (My paranoid logic rears its
ugly head and ends in a preposition, no less.)

Charline: I have assembled something I am calling my
handbook, but doesn't a handbook define the rules,
tell you how to operate something and where to put
all the spare parts? You know, they come with the
appliances and toys in the boxes marked "Some
assembly required." What an awesome task to try
to put everything I learned and need to know into
a book for me to look back on. I could spend a
whole semester on this.--Oh! I just did!

Calvin: I saved everything--things I did in the classroom,
articles I read and loved, poems, and bits and
pieces of my life as it has become these past few
weeks. It's amazing to me how quickly the doors
to my future have opened.

Joe: I obsessed and worried privately about this
handbook until the day I heard that watch-cry--
negative capability, which for me, would ride
shotgun with carpe diem. I had been nervous that
the handbook would not reach "irritable fact."
Then I realized that it didn't have to.

Emily: Instead of searching for the perfect article, I
looked for ones that had a few things in them that
I really felt passionate about.

Julie: This handbook contains articles and materials by
teachers whose ideas, convictions, values, and
leadership I admire. These are teachers who
aren't afraid to venture out and try something new
to engage their students, teachers who are
constantly reflecting on their teaching

Calvin: Nancy Gorrell is in here. I made a philosophical
and literal connection with her about poetry. I
don't want to lose touch with her or her thoughts
about teaching.

Julie: My handbook also contains poems that I have
discovered during the last three months. Most of
them are for and about young people. I learned so
much about poetry this semester. I learned that I
can write poetry--and so can my students.

Emily: The poetry-and-other-writings section is really
for my own enjoyment. Some of the poems were

handed out in class, some I photocopied from
friends and classmates, and the rest I found in
various places. The Jim Hall poems are my
favorites. I can't wait to read them to a class
of my own one day.

Shelley: The thirty-eight articles that made it into this
handbook are those I feel consciously better for
having read, those which gave me insight, hope,
enlightenment, smiles, great ideas.

Elena: This handbook gave me an opportunity to organize
my life.

Marc: I've learned a lot this semester about how to
respond to writing, and in turn how to inspire
people to write more. So I have made a whole
section: "Inspire Your Students to Write."

Calvin: My house is full of piles and boxes and folders of
the things that have given me -,,iEini and
experience this semester, so I didn't really have
to hunt for things to put in the handbook. The
hard part was taking things out.

Marc: I have another section called, "A funny thing
happened when we began writing." It includes some
of the writing prompts we used in class. Most of
us began the semester much in the same mindset as
high school students, writing what we thought
teachers wanted. These prompts helped break me
out of that pattern.

Shelley: Much of my impetus for doing such exhaustive
reading was a fear that came early on when I felt
very little passion for anything I was reading,
and I got scared that I was never going to find
anything to put in here. Because I really needed
it to mean something. I have done enough
meaningless schoolwork in my life.

Nathalie: At first, I photocopied any English Journal
article about specific pieces of writing. I had
an assumption that I was going to teach the same
books, the same short stories, the same poems as
my high school English teachers. Teaching for me
was the instruction of one canonized book every
three weeks.

Emily: At one point, my entire living room was covered
with little piles of paper.

Nathalie: So, I photocopied articles about Great
Expectations, Hamlet, Of Mice and Men, and
Romantic literature. Finally, I have kept only a
few of these articles in my handbook.

Emily: I have a whole group of articles that deal with
Standard English. When is it necessary? When is
the student's "home language" appropriate? These
articles support the idea that there is room in
the classroom and in the "real world" for both.
I've collected these articles because I am aware
that I am guilty of being a language cop. I know
that I am not completely cured, and I want to have
plenty of medicine on hand when I have a relapse.

Nathalie: Anne asked us to bring in annotated articles about
film, whole language, or anything else that
interested us. Through these readings, I began to
change my image of teaching.

Marc: One thing this handbook will do for me is help me
remember a truly unique learning experience--a
class that became an encouraging and supportive
learning environment. We were allowed into the
workings of the class, and the schedule was
constantly open for changes in direction.

Julie: My handbook represents a semester that has been
the best learning experience of my life. I know
now the kind of teacher I want to be. And if I
should find myself losing my way, I'll have my
handbook to look to for guidance and inspiration.

Nathalie: One can construct my personality from the things I
have chosen. Someone who doesn't know me could
wonder who I am, this person who likes Prufrock,
Allende, and Wordsworth who finds articles
on multiculturalism and also on fantasy.

Kevin: This EJ cover captures my semester: riding my bike
to class, late--with all the excuses for my
problems with punctuality stacked upon my
shoulders: "I was trying to be an artist;" "I was
trying to be an actor;" "I was trying to be a
musician;" "I was trying to be a dancer;" "I was
trying to be an acrobat;" "I was trying to be a
writer;" "I was trying to be a juggler." Roll all
those things together, and I think what I'm trying
to be is a teacher.

Elena: Some of my discoveries are incomplete, but I
haven't given up searching. Some of my questions


and wonderings will have to be found in my own

Charline: I feel like this handbook is still growing inside
my head and my soul, my fingers are itching to
keep it and keep working.

Calvin: This handbook is me becoming a human being, and me
becoming a teacher, and me becoming a person who
now has friends and memories that he will treasure
for the rest of his life. I am exhausted.

The End of the Semester

Charline: Lots to think about, lots to ponder, lots to

Kevin: It feels really good to know that I'm close to
becoming a teacher.

Shelley: I breathe better these last few months, having
remembered how liberating it is for me to read and
write poetry--cable TV be damned.

Marc: I have done more writing for myself this semester
than I have done in the last four years.

Jenny: I realize I am just beginning to add writing to my
personal life.

Emily: I have confidence in myself.

Robin: I am sure I am in the right profession.

Charline: "Spot possibilities." That's our job.

Calvin: More and more, I believe this is the key--
listening. Hearing what kids want and need to

Marc: We mustn't be afraid to learn from our students.

Charline: As long as I can remember, I have felt that I had
to have a specific reason for learning. I was
always the one to ask so many questions about why
we had to do things a certain way, or "What will
this teach me?" But I was never given the freedom
to truly explore the possibilities of learning--
until this semester, when I was given guidelines
for beginning the process of learning about
teaching, and then told to "GO!" It has been
incredibly liberating.

Julie: I've neglected personal writing for several years,
and I am thrilled to have been in a learning
environment that encouraged us to explore creative
and personal writing. I have learned a lot about
my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, but I've
also learned that I have an inner voice that wants
and needs to express itself.

Joe: I still have a lot of apprehension about teaching
writing. There are still lots of unanswered

questions, as there should be, but what I've come
to decide is that students take great personal
risks when they write, so those risks should be
respected. Every student's paper has worth, and
it's a teacher's responsibility to find that
worth, not bury it under red ink. The key aspect
of evaluation is the root word--"value."

Charline: When I wrote my piece about teaching students to
read, I didn't need to use a lot of professional
buzzwords, and the writing seemed to come to me
easily. Anne said that must be because I have
internalized how I want to teach my students to
read. I think she's right. I can't wait to get

Nathalie: I really want to start teaching. I don't want to
wait any longer.

Emily: I'm sure now that this is for me.

Robin: Despite the frustration, the moments of triumph
(of breaking through and seeing light) were worth
it all.

Shelley: I feel like I'm heading open-eyed into a
difficult, patience-testing, and amazingly complex
future that may frustrate and exasperate me
immensely; and it's the absolute right place for
me to be.

Kevin: I want to remember why I am choosing to teach
instead of being a journalist. What I didn't get
very often in journalism was dialogue. When I
tell a powerful story, I want to hear what other
people think about it, hear what it makes them
feel. There's no better place for these types of
passionate conversations to occur than in a

Elena: I want to remember the voices of my peers as we
worried and dreamed about our futures. I want to
remember Anne's comforting words that eased our
fears and furthered our goals.

Jenny: I want to remind myself that in my classroom, I
need to try things that feel right to me. They
may take off, they may not, but I need to have the
courage to try things.

Negative capability.


Charline: "I choose to risk my significance." I love that
line. It just expresses my life right now.

Kevin: I am going to be a damn good teacher.

Robin: I am exhilarated and proud.

Julie: I have been on a quest this semester to find the
teacher in me. There's still a lot to learn and
discover, but I am well on my way; I'm ready to
begin the journey.

Nathalie: I have grown so much during this semester. My
attitudes have changed, my thinking has changed,
and my life has changed. I want to become a
teacher. Before, I thought I would like to be a
teacher. Now I want a classroom and I want

Calvin: I feel a sense of possibility that I have never
really felt before.

Shelley: I am an idealistic fool, and I will work to stay
that way.

Robin: The weird teacher down the hall. It was Anne, and
now it is me--guided by my own principles that she
helped me to articulate--another of her students,
out to change the world.

Charline: Do you ever feel like you are creating--history?

The End


Reflections on the Script

It is too soon to know if the twelve students

represented in this script will retain their passion, their

commitment, and their confidence. It is not within the

scope of this study to claim that three years from

graduation they will be teaching in accordance with what

they learned at the university. The purpose of this study

is not to arrive at certainty on these issues, but rather to

raise questions, stimulate imagination, and generate

possibilities. The purpose of this study is, in part, what

the novelist James Baldwin offered as the purpose of art:

"to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the

answers" (qtd. in Winterson, 13).

John Goodlad's study of teacher education programs

leads him to call them "disturbingly alike and almost

uniformly inadequate" (qtd. in Shor 1987, 7). He laments

that "this nation cannot continue to afford the brief,

casual, conforming preparation now experienced by those who

will staff its classrooms." He calls for experimentation

and risk: "We will only begin to get evidence of the

potential power of pedagogy when we dare to risk and support

markedly deviant classroom procedures" (qtd. in Shor 1987,

7). Goodlad's challenge seems consistent with the call to

get beneath the taken-for-granted "answers" that

characterize most teacher education programs and to "lay

bare the questions" that will allow us to re-imagine and


For me, the overarching question that arises from this

script and from this experience is, "What generated this

passion? What stimulated the strong sense of personal

involvement and commitment that these students expressed?"

If I were to join a discussion of this question, I would

suggest that a sense of wholeness, a kind of unity in the

experience was important. The personal/academic dichotomy

collapsed. When students kept a journal, it was a journal

"of your life," rather than simply "of your classroom and

academic experiences." In the classroom, in addition to

intellectual and pedagogical concerns, discussions centered

on the personal dimensions of becoming a teacher--emotional

responses; how to deal with stress; strategies for

interpersonal communications; practical problem solving.

All assignments for the class asked that students engage as

individual human beings with whatever subject matter was

before them; "productive idiosyncracy" (Eisner 1991, 79) was

respected and celebrated; a high degree of autonomy was

required. Students themselves, as the class began to bond,

decided to meet at a pub once a week; there, in informal

conversation, they brought their whole lives into a

community originally based only on their choice of

profession and the accident of section placement. The

merging of their personal and professional/academic lives

generated a unified experience. Unity is one of the

primary characteristics that Dewey ascribes to aesthetic

experience. Unity, he says, is what makes the difference

between ordinary experience and an experience.

The most elaborate philosophic or scientific
inquiry and the most ambitious industrial or
political enterprise has, when its different
ingredients constitute an integral experience,
esthetic quality. For then its varied parts are
linked to one another, and do not merely succeed
one another. (1934, 55)

It is my speculation that esthetic experience, the

experience of wholeness, assists the process of

internalizing knowledge. Dewey makes the same point:

[T]he things which we have most completely made a
part of ourselves, that we have assimilated to
compose our personality and not merely retained as
incidents, cease to have a separate conscious
existence. (1934, 71)

Caine and Caine's review of brain research leads them

to call for a sort of wholeness that results from

"orchestrated immersion" (1991, 107).

The thrust of orchestrated immersion,
specifically, is to take information off the page
and the blackboard and bring it to life in the
minds of students. Immersion focuses on how
students are exposed to content. When wholeness
and interconnectedness cannot be avoided, students
are obliged to employ their locale memory system
in the exploration of content. (1991, 107)

Part of the wholeness that characterizes an esthetic

experience derives from the implosion of the thinking-

feeling/emotional-intellectual dichotomy. The very

admission of "poetry and passion" into the academic arena

represents a denial of that dichotomy. One of the "markedly

deviant classroom procedures" (Goodlad, qtd. in Shor 1987,

7) of the methods class represented in the script was the

inclusion of poetry as a way of knowing and representing


Implications for Future Research

Virginia Koehler pointed out in 1985, and it remains

true, that very few studies have investigated the specific

strategies of teacher educators. Koehler's discussion of

implications for future research includes the observation

that "descriptions of what is actually going on in teacher

education classes are rare" (27). This script offers one

such "description." We need, however, to broaden

possibilities for the term "description," which, in

educational research, has traditionally referred to a

completely literal, linear reporting of observable events.

If we respond to Eisner's challenge to "make public the

ineffable" (1979, 200), will need a more diverse range of

strategies for describing. Evocative representations,

borrowing strategies from the arts, have a greater power

than traditional reports to include "description" of events

which are internal and not directly observable.

I would invite more descriptions of the teacher

education experience, in a variety of forms, written both by

"insiders," as is the case here, and by "outsiders," as has

traditionally been the case in educational research. Our

knowledge will grow by accretion, richer and more complex,

stimulating dialogue and generating new visions of

possibility. According to Eisner, in qualitative research

the growth of knowledge is "more horizontal than vertical."

[T]he idea that knowledge accumulates suggests
that knowledge is an inert material that one can
collect, store, and stockpile. To regard
knowledge as inert is to reify it. Knowledge is
not an inert material discovered through research,
it is a functioning aspect of human cognition, a
resource that lives in the biographies, thoughts,
and actions of individuals. (1991, 210)

In addition to representations of the teacher education

experience, we need longitudinal studies that inform us

about what happens after the moment of "description."

Without longitudinal work, we will never be able to move

beyond speculation about what makes teacher education




Following Up

In the semester following the methods class of "Poetry

and Passion in Teacher Education," I was assigned

supervision of the internships of several students from the

methods class. I decided I would like to follow the growth

of the student who seemed to have made the furthest journey.

What would happen to Calvin? What shape would his growth

take? Or would that growth wither in the realities of a


But there was something more specific I wanted to

watch, too. Calvin's artistic inclinations became clear to

me very early, when I first assigned the writing of a poem.

His initial draft was characterized by evocative detail.

When revisions of first drafts were due, he turned in three

poems, each a significantly different version of the initial

one. Each of his revisions had its own shape, its own

linguistic variations, and its own slightly different

intent. It was clear that Calvin understood "re-seeing" in

an artist's way and understood form as a critical part of

content. Throughout the semester, my sense of Calvin-as-

artist was confirmed as I saw him taking creative risks,

shaping language and experience, honoring both rationality

and intuition, and reinventing himself.

Now, I wanted to see how Calvin's artistic sensibility

would play itself out in the classroom--or if it would.

The Internship

During his internship, Calvin worked with ninth

graders. In addition to "regular" classes of English, he

would work with a two-period English block that was part of

a special program for students preparing to enter the health

professions. Many of the students in this program were

disaffected and considered "at risk." Many had been

counseled into the program and were there without

enthusiasm. They were particularly without enthusiasm for

their English block, which met twice a week, on Tuesdays and


When Calvin agreed to be a participant in this study, I

asked him to choose which class I would observe on a regular

basis. He chose the seventh period "regular" class. At

that point, he had only observed and assisted. He had not

actually assumed teaching responsibilities, but he had seen

enough to know that the seventh period class would be a

challenge for him in terms of management. I saw his

willingness to invite me into a class where he anticipated

difficulties as, itself, a demonstration of creative risk-

taking. Later, he would also invite me to visit the fourth-

and fifth-period block.


Unlike the study of the methods class, this study was

planned as a study in advance. I began with a very broad

question: What will I see in Calvin's work that will inform

me about the growth of teacher knowledge? This was the

question that I shared with him when we talked about the

project. There was another question, a little more focused,

that I did not share: Will I see anything in Calvin's work

that reflects his artistic inclinations and understandings?

I left this question unspoken, not wanting to pressure or

predispose him to "be an artist" in his work.

I observed the seventh period class almost every day

during the nine-week internship. Using a laptop computer, I

made detailed field observations. I quickly became aware

than my training as a writer was assisting the process. I

had been trained to see and record particularity, to be

aware of multiple events occurring simultaneously, to

include a range of sensory detail in description, and to

make quick intuitive judgments about relevance. I had never

done this sort of data gathering for research before, but I

felt like I'd been doing it all my life. As a back-up, I

used audiotape to record class sessions and later used the

tapes to fill gaps in the notes. The result was a highly

detailed narrative record.

Calvin and I had agreed that we would do three

interviews--two during the process and one at the conclusion

of the internship. The first interview was conducted by

phone and tape recorded. But then, something that wasn't in

the original plan began to happen. Calvin liked to talk

about his experiences. He began calling me every day to

talk about what happened in class. With his consent, I

recorded our conversations. If he called at a time when I

wasn't home, he would sometimes leave an extended message on

the answering machine. I transcribed the tapes of our

conversations and the messages from the answering machine.

They became significant field texts.

Ethical Concerns

My initial concern grew out of the fact that I was

Calvin's internship supervisor, responsible for evaluating

his performance. What kind of pressure would he feel when I

made the request to involve him in a research project?

Would he feel he couldn't say no? I grappled with this

question for several weeks. Finally, I decided to trust the

open nature of the relationship I had established with

members of the methods class and the extent to which I had

always encouraged them to question me, to disagree, and to

thoughtfully decline my advice. I thought I could trust

Calvin to tell me if he really didn't want to do this.

Beyond the initial concern, I wondered: if Calvin did

consent to participate, would my ongoing presence in his

internship classroom (as opposed to the occasional

supervisory visit) add additional stress to his already

inherently stressful position?

When I did propose the project, I talked openly with

Calvin about my concerns. He acknowledged that they were

valid concerns, that it did make him a little nervous to

think about my being there on a regular basis. He wanted to

think about it. He would let me know in a few days.

Later, when observations were well underway and we were

talking on the phone almost every night, I felt the pressure

of another ethical consideration. As a researcher, I wanted

to be primarily a nonintervening listener. As a supervisor,

I wanted to offer feedback, make analyses and suggestions.

Was it appropriate--was it ethical--to withhold feedback

that I thought might be useful to him? I thought not. And

yet, it was true that if I were only his supervisor, we

would not be talking on the phone every night. To withhold

feedback on these occasions would not be to withhold

something he would have had if I had been his supervisor

only and not a researcher; it was something he wouldn't have

had anyway. Still, it didn't seem right.

Ultimately, this became my stance: I would be

primarily a listener. Listening was, I realized, central to

the way I worked as a supervisor, too. "Yes," I would say.

"Really?" "Why do you think that happened?" "Tell me more

about that." Usually, if Calvin was trying to sort out a

problem, all he needed to do was keep talking; he would sort

it out for himself. Occasionally, however, when he would

find himself mired or going in circles, he would arrive at a

point at which he would be direct: "I need some help with

this." Or, "I'm stuck. I really don't know what to do."

When that happened, I stopped being a researcher and became

his supervisor.

When the research was concluded and I had constructed

the report which follows, still another ethical issue

surfaced. I printed out a copy of "Saturated with Poetry:

First Draft of a Teacher," held it in my hands, and had an

anxiety attack. There on the title page was my name. Under

the title page were over eighty pages of Calvin's words,

Calvin's experience. What was my name doing on this report?

It didn't belong to me. But how could it not belong to me?

I had spent months of my life observing, listening,

recording, transcribing, domaining, drafting, shaping,

reshaping. "Whose is this?" I asked myself.

Ultimately, I arrived at the logical conclusion that it

was ours. If it hadn't been for Calvin and his willingness

to be engaged, the report would not have existed. If it

hadn't been for me and my engagement, it would not have

existed. It was ours. This is not the traditional research

position. Traditionally, researchers have taken their data,

changed the names, and called it theirs. I have departed

from that tradition. In this report, Calvin's name has not

been changed. In January of 1996, at the International

Conference on Qualitative Research, we appeared on the

program as co-presenters of "Saturated with Poetry: First

Draft of a Teacher."

The Purposes of the Study

As is usually the case in a qualitative study, the

originally defined purpose of the study modified as work

progressed. The original broad concerns soon narrowed to a

double focus and to dual purposes: (a) to understand the

dynamics and effects of Calvin's idiosyncratic approaches to

teaching poetry and (b) to see how his way of being in the

classroom might reflect the concept of teacher as artist.

The purpose of this evocative representation is to

bring the reader vicariously into the dynamics of Calvin's

classroom, to generate understanding through vicarious


Construction of the Evocative Text

"The major problem we face in qualitative inquiry,"

writes Harry Wolcott, "is not to get data, but to get rid of

it!" (1990, 18). As I worked on this text, I remembered

Wolcott's statement and also Michaelangelo's famous

assertion that he would take a block of marble and chip away

everything that was not David. I had reams of data. From

that shapeless mass, I had to construct something.

As in the construction of the reader's theater script,

I had a sense of making a found poem on a large scale. I

wasn't actually writing new material. I was juxtaposing

existing text in ways designed to suggest tensions, thematic

concerns, and dynamic relations. The resulting narrative

denies chronology as a governing structure and employs a

quasi-stanzaic form. It uses ellipses and white space as

methods of incorporating silence and of generating a sense

of duration. It often makes leaps rather than transitions.

In short, it is a narrative that borrows heavily from poetic



Almost every day in his class, there was poetry. They

never really "studied" poetry in the sense that English

teachers usually mean when they talk about studying poetry.

There was no extensive talk about the poets or their time

periods or historical contexts; there were no line-by-line

analyses of poems; there were no catalogs of literary terms

systematically applied--alliteration, assonance, scansion,

symbolism--though a basic vocabulary (simile, metaphor,

rhythm, rhyme) sometimes, casually, occurred. There were no

tests of knowledge about poetry. But almost every day,

there was poetry.

The life of the classroom was saturated with poetry.

More specifically, the life of the classroom was saturated

with poems--poems read aloud by the teacher, poems read

aloud by the students, poems found in books and magazines,

poems written by the class together, poems written by

students individually, poems written by the teacher.

Poems became the focus of play and the instruments of

"real work." From the teacher's point of view, poems became

a way to engage the disengaged, to connect students with

canonical literature, to secure attention; a way to teach

grammar and vocabulary, a way to approach writing, a way to

develop reading skills. From the students' point of view,

poems became a way of connecting with themselves and each

other, a way of connecting their school lives and their

personal lives, and a way of expressing intensity. For both

teacher and students, saturation led to transformation. How

did this happen? Why did it happen? What does this

happening mean?

Calvin did not set out to create a poetry-dense

environment, did not even have a concept of that; he hardly

had a concept of himself teaching. That was his

transformation. He entered the internship classroom unsure

of who he would be as a teacher, unsure that he could be a

teacher. He left the internship knowing who he was, what he

wanted to do, and that he was powerful.

Let's go back to the beginning.

At the first of the fall semester, Calvin was quiet,

kept to the fringes of his methods class. His first

attempts at micro teaching were awkward. He wrote about it

in his journal:

I dunno. What the hell am I going to do if I can't
fucking stand in front of a group of people without
sounding like a babbling, mumbling reject from a bad
Woody Allen movie? Everybody looks so confused! If I
can't form a coherent thought or explain what I mean to
a bunch of grad students, how can I possibly hope to
make any kind of a connection with high schoolers?

Calvin was still stumbling around a bit during his practicum

teaching experience. (Jenny was his practicum partner.)

I don't know what happened today. I try to be
sensitive and give them one on one help, but the
writing prompt just flopped. It really sounded good on
paper in that book--"Write about a time when your
expectations weren't met"--I thought it sounded open
enough that they could be thoughtful and have fun. I
gave them a web to use but told them they didn't have
to use it. But the kids were bored and I had a hard
time keeping them on task.

When we got in the car I was whining to Jenny about
what a shitty job I did so she would tell me I did
okay, but then she turned it around on me: "I think
you need to ask yourself why you want to be a teacher,

I didn't really have an answer so I said something
sarcastic like how I hate canned topics like that in
questions because they sound like boring writing
prompts. But as I sat in class later chewing the cud
of the day's events, I kept coming back to that
question. So much of my life up to this point has been
carried out under the philosophy of "I don't know" and
"Well, it seemed like the right thing to do at the
time, but and I realized that I really have no
idea why I want to teach. That scares me.

By the time Calvin entered his internship classroom, he

did have some sense of why he wanted to teach and of how he

wanted to teach. He had achieved an enabling level of

confidence and was eager for a larger teaching experience.

"Still," he said, "there's so much I don't know."

But he knew a lot. He knew more than he knew.

The Internship

In the Classroom

Mr. Dillon goes to the front of the room. He has a printed

page in his hand. Without introduction, he begins to read

the Spiderman poem, Jim Hall's "Maybe Dat's Your Pwoblem,

Too". He reads in an animated way, moving back and forth in

front of the room, pausing at certain moments in the poem to

gesture. Students are watching, following him with their

eyes. They snicker; then one person laughs.

Mr. Dillon: Go ahead and laugh; this is a funny poem.

Given permission, students laugh. He continues reading,

shakes his head, makes sucker cups with his fingers, "and

then I go fwying like cwazy, acwoss de town, fwom woof top

to woof top." Students laugh often.

About half way through the poem, he lowers the paper,

continues to recite by heart, loses his place momentarily,

goes back to reading from the page. Students are following

him with their eyes, laughing frequently, some of them

looking a little puzzled.

He finishes reading: "Maybe dats your pwoblem, too. Who

knows? Maybe dats de whole pwoblem wif evwybody. Nobody

can boin dey suits. Dey all fwame wesistant." Laughter.

Mr. Dillon: I'm sorry, I just felt silly and I wanted to

read that to you guys. It's up here if any of you want it.

He places copies of the poem on the front desk, heads for

the back of the room. Marcus goes immediately and gets a

copy of the poem. Leroy mutters "fwame wesistant" and

laughs to himself.

Ms. Scott who was sitting in a back desk, is standing now,

collecting papers. Students begin talking among themselves.

Intermittently, the phrase "fwame wesistant" rises in

different voices from different parts of the room.

One student asks another: Where's that poem?

Another student answers: Up there.

Mr. Dillon is conferring with Marcus, Tamora, and Harley,

who are looking at a copy of the poem, asking questions

about the pronunciation of words. He asks them, "Did you

look at the poem? That's how he wrote it down. That's why

I read it that way." Harley asks Mr. Dillon to "say 'fwame

wesistant' again." He says it again.

As Mr. Dillon is setting up the overhead projector, students

are shuffling papers, finding what they need for the

upcoming activity; they talk. A voice: "all fwame

wesistant. All our suits are fwame wesistant. Maybe dats

his pwoblem."

On the Telephone

In fourth period, I wrote the agenda on the board, and the

first thing I did, I waited for a moment when it was almost

quiet, and I started reading "Maybe Dat's Your Pwoblem,

Too," and I read it just like I read it to [my son] Joe,

with all the inflection and everything, and just walked

around the room, around all the tables, and looked up every

once in a while 'cause I do have most of it memorized. And

they got completely quiet. As quiet as probably they've

ever been except when they're listening to each other. And

then I had them get in their groups.

When they came back from their break, I asked if they wanted

me to read another poem. [Student voice]: "Yeah." And then

[a touch of amazement in his voice] they all got quiet. I

didn't have to wait. It wasn't like passing out the drills:

"Okay guys, put your stuff away. Put your stuff away. I

want it quiet, and I'm not gonna do it until you're quiet.

C'mon. Everybody. Len, this means you, too. At least put

your notebook away."

[Still sounding amazed]: You want me to read another poem?

[Student voice]: Yeah.

So I read "Preposterous." And Mike watched me the whole


In the Classroom

[Seventh Period]

Mr. Dillon: Guys, take a seat. I want to read you

something. [He goes to the board, writes: "The Bleeder."]

Guys, sit down. [He gestures with both hands, indicates

"sit down." Students sit, but they continue to stir,

shuffle, whisper.]

He begins to read: "By now, I bet he's dead. ."

Students settle quickly when he begins to read. As he

reads, he walks across the front of the room and then

between rows. "The slightest bruise and all his blood would

simply bleed away."

Sophie waves her water bottle; it sloshes.

Students laugh at "sharp stick."

When he reaches "a sense of being bad together," there is

absolute silence in the room.

On the Telephone

And then I came back up, and they were starting to get loud,

so I pulled out Back to Class. And I didn't really have to

do that much. I just sat down on the desk and held up the

book, and about half the class looked at me. And then I

just started explaining what the book was, and they got

quiet. And then they listened to two of the poems.

They like to listen to me read. And the times that I have

read things to them, it has been things that they have found


It was kinda the same thing I did with fourth period. You

know, I was trying to get them to be quiet after the break.

I was doing all my, you know, let's lean up against the desk

and bat my eyes, try to make eye contact with people that

are talking. That didn't work. So I put my hands up and

said quietly, "Okay, quiet guys. Let's settle down so we

can finish reading this." That didn't work. So finally, I

just picked up right where I left off, started pacing and

reading again. And then they got quiet, telling each other

to shut up.


On the Telephone

I had never seen myself as that good a reader. But reading

the poems out loud in class and seeing the effect that it

had on the kids made me decide I wanted to keep doing that.

I found that it's one of the most effective ways to get kids

quiet. Stand up there with something in my hand and just

start reading. Cause then they do it. I don't have to say,

"Be quiet." There are shut-ups and shhhh all over the room.


Why did you decide to read "The Bleeder?"

Mr. Dillon: I wasn't comfortable enough that the kids were

understanding what exactly the Beast was in Lord of the

Flies. When they were generating questions in their groups,

they were still very specific: "What is the Beast?" And

their answer would be "a snake-like thing." I didn't want

them to get the impression that that's what the Beast was.

Because it's not, for me. And it wasn't for the boys in the

book. There's the quote at the end where Ralph is saying

"The Beast is us; the beast is in all of us." So I wanted

to explore that theme without me having to tell them that

that's what the Beast is.

It was an opportunity to use a poem I liked, to talk

about something I felt they would want to talk about. And

it seemed to naturally fit in with what I was doing.

Do you remember how you realized that? How did you make the

Mr. Dillon: Between "The Bleeder" and The Lord of the

Flies? Well, Ms. Scott and I talked before we started Lord

of the Flies about what we thought the main themes of the

book would be and how it would apply to these kids, where

they might make connections, what the book would have to say

to them. And we basically decided on organization and evil.

And I felt that through the prereading activities and

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