Purpose of Study
This doctoral dissertation in the field of Curriculum Studies offers a Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) project as an imaginative enactment of potential methods for intentionally holding space and time for an ethic of care— for self, others, and the natural world— as radical acts of transgressive resistance among teachers in Texas public schools, and as fractals of larger-scale transformative justice in education. In this study, I theorize and co-create emergent strategies (brown, 2017) for art-based, fictionalized autobiographical narratives as sites of self-actualized anti/de-colonial intervention, and a re-storying of colonial myths which presently serve to silence and oppress both participants and myself, enacted as a performance of currere (Pinar & Grumet 1976) through a mutually-causative method of felt inquiry I call “synaesthography”.
‘Femme’ forms of spiritual resistance and pedagogical liberation have been enacted by Black and Indigenous activists and scholars throughout history, and often also by women under immense social and political constraints meant to enforce their silence and possess their labor. I draw upon these insights in this work by utilizing insistently fictionalized forms of un(super)natural narrative inquiry via symbolism, myth, and art as a tactical method for justice and collective care. Teacher participants are offered space for the healing power of authentic and cooperative truth-telling, while minimizing the personal and professional risks of raising their voices. This work is thus a form of “talking back” (hooks, 1989) to the state-sanctioned violence against a public education that meets the needs of children and their communities, against teaching as a respectable (or even survivable) career, and against teachers as individuals with human dignity.
Buddhist philosopher, peace builder, and educator Daisaku Ikeda (2017), teaches that hope is not mere optimism, but is instead rooted in action that generates change. Without the possibility for change, there can be no hope, but through an understanding of what Ikeda calls “kyosei” or (creative coexistence), an expression of the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of “pratītyasamutpāda” (interdependent co-arising), we reveal the ways in which the conditions for hope and joy are always located within the present situation, as these conditions are fundamental to despair itself. Ikeda (2017) writes that “when we change our inner determination, everything begins to move in a new direction. The moment we make a powerful resolve, every nerve and fiber in our being will immediately orient itself toward the fulfillment of this goal or desire” (p. 4). This work represents an expression of hope for education that exists as a philosophically compelling relational reality that is deeply consistent with modern scientific findings of Quantum Physics and the natural world (Carroll, 2016/2021; Wendt, 2015), and in which transformative collective action is not only possible but available in every moment.
Group facilitation for this project took the form of collective mural painting as a Professional Development (PD) opportunity for public school teachers in designated Title 1 (low socio-economic status) schools in Texas. Through reflection, symbolic expression, and group dialogue, participants were asked to encounter and contend with the ongoing oppression and deprofessionalization of teachers amid COVID-19 trauma, politically-motivated hostility, and mutually-exclusive expectations, to establish a shared collective purpose as they nurtured their most sacred individual talents. Participants collectively fictionalized and represented their shared narratives as two murals: one representing the present realities of teaching, and one representing a move toward collective hope (Ikeda, 2017) to reclaim teaching as “the work of women” (Grumet, 1988). Analysis for this work examines the ways in which felt knowledge might be seen as “emergent” (brown, 2017) within social science methodologies more broadly, and Curriculum Studies specifically, and how scholars in these fields might come to terms with their entanglements in order to look more deeply at the potentiality of transforming ways-of-being, a project which Grumet (2010) and others (Greene, 1995; Hanh, 2017; hooks, 1994; Ikeda, 2017; Miller, 2005; Pinar, 1988; Springgay & Freedman, 2010) have claimed as the purpose of education itself. The COVID-19 pandemic has left all of humanity, and particularly teachers, in a state of vulnerability and trauma which now demands the full attention of researchers, activists, and educational leaders. Ikeda (2017) writes:
“Sometimes, it may be hard to see where—or how—to begin. But we cannot be paralyzed by despair. We must each take action toward the goals we have set and in which we believe. Rather than passively accepting things as they are, we must embark on the challenge of creating a new reality. It is in this effort that true, undying hope is to be found” (p.7).
This study aims to illuminate the felt knowledge of public school teachers in addressing the primary question: What (if anything) do the teacher participants believe represents collective hope for their professional roles in alignment with their most authentic selves and their individual sense(s) of purpose and belonging in public education?
In attending to this line of inquiry, several sub-questions played an important role:
What is the present state of these teachers’ roles in relation to their work and to each other?
What (if anything) do these teachers believe could change about their roles to better foster their sense(s) of authenticity, purpose, and belonging in their work and with each other?
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