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'They call teachers by their first names!': An ethnodrama of pre-service teachers visiting innovative schools

Alys Mendus, Michael Kamen, Adaire Kamert, Sarah Buchanan, Abigail Earle, Abigail Luna and Kelli McLaughlin


This chapter shares the script written for the Performing the World conference held in New York City in September 2018. This co-created ethnodrama follows the journey of a week of performing school tourism, defined as ‘the performance that occurs when you physically visit schools/places of learning ... the embodied experience and co-present intra-actions with those that spend time in that place’ (Mendus 2017, p. 1). We are four pre-service teachers at Southwestern University in Texas, a New York playwright, and two seasoned school tourists (our professor and a PhD student from the UK), and in this chapter we share our experiences visiting innovative schools (Kamen & Shepherd, 2013) in New York City.

As we all worked on themes, ideas and scenes, a play emerged. The scenes became an ethnodrama (Saldana, 2005, 2016), as ethnodrama is written from ‘journal entries, personal memories ... and other data [which] are dramatized into a theoretical script’ (Chilton & Leavy 2014, p. 411). Saldana argues that ‘ethnodrama’ is a way to ‘present and represent a study of people and their culture-ethnography’ (Saldana, 2005, p. 2) which we were seeking to do based on our exploration of innovative schools. Following Saldana’s (2003) advice to develop higher-quality research-based work for the stage, we worked collectively with a playwright, adding another perspective from someone experienced in scriptwriting but also part of our group visiting schools. We realise that putting our reflections into words and choreographing actions to perform, negotiating scenes, and explaining perspectives creates a deeper meaning for our entire group and offers an important momentum for our evolving teaching identities.

We frame this collaborative ethnodrama through the lens of Massumi’s understanding of affect that: ‘When you affect something, you are at the same time opening yourself up to be affected in turn, and in a slightly different way than you might have been the moment before’ (Massumi, 2015, p. 4). This articulation of affect supports our view that through visiting these schools and then sharing the stories through working together, writing, and performing an ethnodrama, those involved are changing. We are ‘becoming teachers’ in a different capacity. In this ethnodrama we are continually performing and becoming teacher[s] (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), informed by a series of school visits and discussions, our own continued classroom experiences, reading, studying, reflective processes, collaborative writing, workshopping, and performing our ethnodrama.

Following Massumi (2015) we embody an ‘experience in-the-making’ as academics, pre-service teachers, and a playwright when we visit each school. The embodied nature of these experiences empowers reflection and growth. Massu- mi’s articulation of affect resonates with our process, in that ‘the reason to say “affect” rather than “emotion” is that “affect” carries a bodily connotation’ (Massumi, 2017, p. 109). We have this embodied ‘encounter’ (Massumi, 2017) with the people in these spaces: the teachers, students, parents, administrators. We encounter the non-human environment-objects that characterise that school identity. Following Adler (1989), the performance is not just taking part in the visiting of the school but also includes the travel, in this case the travel to/from a school, as a ‘performed art,’ which involves anticipation and day-dreaming about the journey, the destination, and also who/what might be encountered on the way. This chapter argues that these collective encounters, seen also as performances, create an adventure into the unknown, with new experiences and understandings of education. Following Massumi, these ‘adventures of relation’ (Massumi, 2015), for those of us studying to become teachers, had an internal, emotional affect on who we are and who we hope to become, our ‘becoming teacher[s].’ We share this emotional journey in the stories of the pre-service teachers within this ethnodrama script.

Viewing these school visits as encounters helps frame the experience. As Massumi argued:

Every encounter is an affective complex: a patterning of capacities to affect and to be affected. This is not a dualism, but a relational matrix, because both capacities are found on both sides of the encounter.

(Massumi, 2017, p. 49)

As school tourists, or as a group visiting innovative schools, everyone (from our group to those part of the school) are part of this affective encounter, a relational matrix all having different and equally important experiences. Understanding these encounters and experiences as a performance, particularly reflective of Goflinan’s notion of‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ (Goffman, 1959), extends this idea of relational matrix further. The front stage is typified by less open, more guarded conversations with senior management and in correspondence, in comparison to those back stage, much freer conversations over a cup of lea in the staff room, or with a student being shown around without observation by teachers.

This view is further supported by Gingrich-Philbrook, who suggests that the performance can be connected to ‘crossing the thresholds of performance spaces’ (Gingrich-Philbrook, 2014, p. 83) and here our performance spaces constantly change from schools visits, to discussions afterwards, to writing the ethnodrama, to its performance and the audience’s experience.

Taking inspiration from the concept of performance, we realise that our group is also performing as we co-create our dynamics as a tour group. An awareness of these differing types of performances help when writing the ethnodrama in opening up both front- and back-stage conversations between students, between students and their professor, and between Alys and Michael, acknowledging any possible power dynamics within our group and attempting to invite the audience into different aspects of the process and experience.

Harris and Holman Jones explain when ‘Writing for performance, the performer, the character, and the audience member exists in (and is affected by) this temporal and physical distance ...’ (Harris & Holman Jones, 2016, p. 12). In this ethnodrama we see affect as ‘relational encounter’ (Massumi, 2015) in the performances within the school visits as well as that in the final ‘performance.’ As the students in our group begin to collaborate on a script and craft our performances, our reflections on the schools we had visited deepens.

The students in our group continue to question assumptions, beliefs, and pedagogical priorities, beginning a deep examination of how to reconcile these beliefs with the expectations and benchmarks likely to be encountered as Texas public school teachers. As we began acting out our future classrooms (as well as our own experiences as elementary school students and our experiences visiting the schools), our own educational philosophies expand rapidly, as do our takeaways from these experiences. One of us had negative feelings at the beginning of the innovative schools course about the idea of doing away with grades in elementary school. As we continued to craft our performances, however, and examined what our future classrooms would be, our views became more progressive.

This play script adds to the relatively small field of collaborative ethnodrama (Ackroyd & O’Toole, 2010), collaborative playwriting (Grazer & Grazer, 2012), and group-devised ethnodrama (Lam et al., 2018) as it was written collaboratively by those involved in the research, sharing multiple opinions and experiences into a collective piece. The ethnodrama that follows is a collective composite artistic product of our co-experience.

The Ethnodrama

Part One: Background and initial scenes

How can we question our developing teacher identity if we ignore our pasts? What privileges and assumptions do we carry with us, and what effect does this have on our understanding of pedagogy and education? We may cringe when we explore our past thoughts and feelings, but bringing them alive in performance gives permission for others to think and feel into their own changes (or not) in their teacher identity.

Scene 1: The pre-service teachers as children are playing school with their dolls

STAGE NOTES: Each student has written their own script—as one finishes their scripted part, the next one is projecting her lines while everyone else is whispering to their ‘class’. Abigail should have her class set-up. Others may line up animals/ dolls while Abigail starts speaking.

PROJECTION: 2005, Abby, Abigail, Kelli, and Sarah—Somewhere in Texas. Four students pretending to play school.

ABIGAIL: Good morning boys and girls! I am so happy to see all of your smiling faces. Today we are going to learn something very fun. It’s called ... (drum roll), our ABCs! These letters are very important to remember because we use them every single day. And you are going to be graded on how well you do! Let’s begin by putting on our listening ears.

SARAH: Now listen up children! Today we are going to learn all about math and how to add! Now quietly sit down in your assigned seats and take out your homework. Raise your hand if you have any questions, and remember it’s Ms. Buchanan-not Ms. Sarah. Ok, time to go to specials-line up in a straight line quietly! Follow the line on the floors to get us to class.

ABBY: Okay boys and girls lets come sit down for circle time. Ariel, stop poking Chad. Now Juan and Jose, remember we only speak English during circle time. Okay, now let’s gel back on track. Today we’re going to read a book about Goldilocks and all the choices she has.

KELLI: Morning everyone! Please make sure you’re sitting in the correct seat... Oh, Anna, I think you may be in Steven’s desk... (Rearranges the doll positions) Okay, today we’re going to be focusing on rounding. Repeat after me ... Four or less, let it rest, (mumbles, playing for the dolls) Four or less, let it rest. Good! Five or more, raise the score, (mumbles, playing for the dolls) Five or more, raise the door. No, Anna. It’s raise the score, not raise the door ... Try it again Anna, just like everyone else ... Five or more, raise the score. Very good, let’s continue.

Scene 2: Alys and Michael meet in Plymouth, UK in March 2017

STAGE NOTES: Adaire plays Alys, as Alys is not present for the performance in NYC.

PROJECTION: Plymouth, UK showing conference title, Alys’s abstract and Video of Alys finishing her presentation.

ALYS: After visiting over 180 schools in 23 countries, searching for the 'Ideal School’ for my PhD thesis I share this poem:

I think the future is not teaching Learning yes, but not teaching

Mentoring, and freedom for intrinsic self-autonomous learning

Away from narrow testing structures and lives deemed failures at such a

young age

Activist-Alys-we peers through the looking glass Searching for beauty, and calm learning environments With adults that share life skills promoting autonomy, free thinking and passion for life

And caring for each other Innovative, flexible, practical thinkers Bringing creativity back to the heart of learning And time in nature to just be To play at all ages

Something that is inclusive and courageous to meet all beings needs Unpicking privileges of age, gender, sexuality, ability, ethnicity Not just stepping away but revolutionising old-thinking, it even questions current alternatives

For it is a rhizome of education, a radical non binary approach

That draws on the current strengths, the gems, but dreams for the future

For the visions of the not-yet-thought

Made possible by giving young people the freedom to Лу.

And to de-school teachers and de-school the system

And chuck out not just the word school

But the institution itself

For there is no ideal school

As school is not the answer.

(Mendus, 2017)

MICHAEL: Hello! It’s so exciting to meet you. I’m a Professor of Education from Southwestern University in Texas. I also love visiting schools and I’d love to hear more about your school tourism research. I’ve done a bit of school tourism myself.

ALYS (ADAIRE): Wow! We should definitely talk more! Your research sounds similar to mine-I’m a PhD student on a scholarship in Freedom to Learn from the University of Hull, England. I’m using school tourism to search for the ideal school around the world.

MICHAEL: You might be interested in a course I’ve been running with pre-service teachers. It’s called Innovative Schools, and we study schools that are very different from the typical public or private school, visiting as many as we can. ALYS (ADAIRE): That’s so important! I feel that people-teachers, parents, pre-service teachers, academics, and kids-need to physically experience all these different types of possibilities for education. You can get a sense online, but it is only by actually visiting the school that it becomes an embodied experience and hopefully influences how you can teach in the future or the type of education you want.

MICHAEL: I’m running my next Innovative Class in New York in May 2017. Would you like to join us?

ALYS (ADAIRE): Yes please! That would be brilliant. Up to now I do most of my school tourism alone-which can be pretty isolating- and I would love to see the impact of visiting innovative schools on a group of pre-service teachers. I hope that showing them the possibilities of innovative pedagogies will help them make changes within their public school classrooms.

MICHAEL: I think together you and I could come up with a really great week-long itinerary of schools to visit.

Scene 3: Present day introduction of four students and Adaire. Conversation with Abigail about the NYC class

STAGE NOTES: Four chairs in a circle near the side. This conversation will

continue between scenes to narrate the performance.

PROJECTION: Southwestern University Georgetown, Texas, Fall 2017.

KELLI: Hey Abby, how was the rest of your summer?

ABBY: Oh, it was great. Spent a lot of quality time with my mom and dog, you know, the usual...

SARAH: Did you do anything cool this summer, Kelli? Well, besides our New York trip!

KELLI: Not really, Sarah... Everything seemed pretty lackluster in comparison to all the crazy schools we visited. I just can’t stop thinking about that one school with the democratic meeting. I can’t imagine gathering the whole school every day for so much discussion and planning-let alone having the kids make all the decisions!

ABIGAIL: Hey, what are v’all talking about? It sounds crazy!

SARAH: Hey Abigail! Well, this summer we all took the Innovative Schools course with Dr. Kamen. We spent a whole week in New York City touring so many different schools. Alys, a doctoral student from the UK, came along too. She had a lot of great insight from her own experiences visiting schools for her PhD. Kamen’s daughter, Adaire, even joined us from time to time! She was pretty cool, loo, with her background in theatre.

ABIGAIL: Wow, that sounds amazing. I think I actually signed up for that class this Fall semester, but we are going to visit innovative schools in central Texas. What kinds of things did you see in New York?

ABBY: Well, there was this one school, and they called teachers by their first names!

Part Two: Stories from our School Tourism

All students in Michael’s Innovative Schools course write a journal about their

experiences visiting schools and then carry- out a project to design their own ideal school. Alys read these assignments and recognised the key subjects that had troubled and excited the students during the visits, such as hierarchy, grading, and freedom. In Part Two we share a series of scenes written to explore these themes initially from journaling reflections and then added to in group skype meetings and interactive google docs.

The aim of these scenes is to show how different the students’ points of view are from each shared school visit and how each has their own feeling response to the school which extends beyond the actors to the audience as they too are invited to reflect on their experiences of school and schooling.

Scene 4: 'They call teachers by their first names

STAGE NOTES: Location: Group walking out of a school gate. PROJECTION: A Progressive School in NYC, May 2017 with a photo of a school in the background.

ALYS (ADAIRE): One of the things I loved about that school was how the students called the teachers by their first names. I’m very interested in unpacking hierarchies and societal norms in the classroom. I think by using first names there is an opportunity to connect as people. An opportunity for mutual respect, instead of superficiality or arbitrary customs.

KELLI: It was so interesting to observe it in action! I think I actually like the idea of having the students call teachers and administrators by their first names. I think it really does eliminate some of the weird authoritative-like stigma that comes from calling someone Mr. or Mrs. As the students put it, it really does make you feel like you’re talking on the same level as someone. This could be something to take with me into my future teaching career. I’ve always said that I would like to be Ms. Kelli, since I don’t really like the way my last name sounds, but now Pm thinking of throwing out the ‘Ms.’ as well.

ABBY: Uhh ... I’m not sure if I agree with that idea—with students and teachers being on the same level. A teacher is still an adult. I think if a student still used Mrs. or Mr. in front of the first name, that might work for the teacher and student relationship. But... I still like last names used, especially with secondary students.

SARAH: I think I’m with you. I’m not sure how I feel about letting students call teachers by their first name. I agree that simply putting a Mr. or Mrs. in front of a person’s name doesn’t automatically make you respect them, but I do think that it is one step towards respecting them. I think I need to learn more about that before deciding about my own classroom.

MK: Do you think it is more appropriate for students to call their teachers by their first names in a high school? Perhaps the culture of the school determines how students and teachers feel about using formal versus informal proper nouns. I wonder whether this school-wide choice actually has much impact on students’ attitudes and their relationship with teachers, or if it serves more as a statement and indicator of the school’s philosophy. I think that level of formality chosen indicates an intentional decision about power relationships and the degree to which students are given freedom.

Scene 5: Grading

STAGE NOTES: Slowly walking across the stage.

PROJECTION: Southwestern University Texas, Fall 2017, with image of the SWU in the background.

ABIGAIL: How interesting, I can see both sides of the first name debate. But I’m not sure I have a solid opinion on it yet. What else did you see?

SARAH: Well, we also saw some schools that didn’t give out grades or report cards. I have mixed feelings about it.

ABIGAIL: Why is that?

SARAH: On the one hand, I see how eliminating grades could be beneficial so as to keep students from comparing themselves to one another or from having negative self-views based on a number or letter grade. However, I believe that students have the right to know their progress. How will the students know how they are doing, and how will the teachers know'?

ABBY: Yeah, I wasn’t impressed by the school that had a rubric where the students are either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. This, to me, does not provide enough feedback and could possibly limit these children.

KELLI: But think about it from the teacher’s point of view. If we don’t need to teach to a test we could truly allow the students to learn and connect to things in the outside world. I think that grades don’t show how smart a child is, just shows how motivated they are. Motivation and intelligence shouldn’t be determined by a number grade.

ABBY: I can see that, but I think that there should be some type of grading system— just maybe not such a forced one such as what we see in most schools today.

SARAH: I know you weren’t too impressed by the satisfactory' and unsatisfactory system but I like the idea that students were given feedback outside of letter or numerical grades.

ABBY: I agree. I also really appreciate the idea of giving in-depth comments midsemester before an overall grade at the end of the semester.

KELLI: I was really excited to see a school that did not have to do standardised testing. It gives me hope that as a future teacher, I will one day be able to assess my students without standardised testing.

ABIGAIL: I’m not sure how it works with kids, but wouldn’t it be nice if Dr. Kamen wasn’t giving me grades right now?

SARAH: I want to try and implement the peer editing we saw in the school that didn’t have standardised testing into my future classroom.

ABBY: Even after visiting all those innovative schools, I realise that I am really- opposed to not giving students grades. I think that in the early years it might work just fine, but as they grow up there will not be an incentive to do the best that they can on their work if they are not rewarded for it.

KELLI: I know what you mean, but I am starting to feel optimistic about the power of self-motivation. We saw it work really well in a few schools—kids wanting to learn and excel without any incentives or competition-and I think it’s really valuable for kids to learn to love learning just for learning’s sake.

ABBY: Don’t you think that if kids call their teachers by their first names and aren’t graded they have too much freedom?

Scene 6: Let Freedom Ring

STAGE NOTES: Choice, Power, Arts, and Play are performed by Abigail, Abigail, Kelli, and Sarah all hanging a sign around their necks so their role is obvious

to the audience.

ABIGAIL SINGING: My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing; Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’iy mountainside Let freedom ring! (Ascher, 1861).

CHOICE: ‘Let freedom ring’, they say. A line that encourages Americans to embrace and uphold the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But how might we let this freedom ring in schools? Now that, my friends, is a question that all institutions should ask. On that note, I am Choice and I would like you to meet some of my dear, closest, friends that I have met along the way of this freedom journey.

POWER: I am Power.

ARTS: I am the Arts, of all shapes and forms.

PLAY: And I am Play. Ground couldn’t make it.

POWER: We four are showing preservice teachers what it takes to build a ‘child centred education’. After all, isn’t that what we should be striving for? School is not about the teachers, administration, janitors, or parents. It’s solely about the students. What do the students want and need, and how can we help them succeed?

CHOICE: That is why I give children the ability to choose what they want to do with their life. Instead of forcing them to learn concepts, we believe that if a student wants to be educated about something, they will learn it. They have the choice of spending their day however they’d like.

POWER: But Choice, what if they choose to not learn anything? What’s the point of school, if they are going to jump around and do gymnastics all day?

CHOICE: Children are learning all the time, even if it might not look like it. Kids are social sponges.

PLAY: As the students participate in gymnastics they are learning how to work together, develop social skills, and learn from the mistakes they make. Learning happens everywhere, especially during play!

ARTS: Oh yes, ‘play’! The magical word that adults seem to be so afraid of.

POWER: It’s as if adults feel like they have no power if students are playing.

PLAY: But that’s the very least of it. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I am such a valuable part in everyone’s daily lives. For the students, I am able to promote learning in a whole other manner. I give students the freedom of letting their mind and body explore.

ARTS: Umm, hello? You forgot about me, Arts. Everyone seems to forget about me- I’m usually one of the first things to get cut in school budgets. But I bring you all together! You can make powerful statements with art, and art is also play!

PLAY: Exactly! I supply many materials in the room for children to explore. They have the freedom of playing with whatever they want. In my opinion, including a lot of hands-on materials is important because it allows students to embrace all kinds of thinking.

KAMEN (AS OUTSIDE VOICE): This conversation between the importance of Choice, Play, the Arts, and Power represents what many preservice teachers struggle with. Finding the perfect balance between these four ideals is vital for students’ freedom. If we ‘let it ring’, maybe we will see what they are truly capable of.

ABIGAIL SINGING: Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’y mountainside Let freedom ring!

Part Three: Applying the new experiences

As we collaborate and our ethnodrama takes form, an awareness grows that the new experiences of visiting these innovative schools has an affective process on developing teacher identity, by giving voice to how being a teacher, working with young people and setting up our own classroom environment actually feels. It is the forum to create, write and perform the stories of these visits that further extends each student’s ability to become socially-just educators, although we recognise that this can be challenging when trying to get a job in the mainstream school system.

Scene 7: Anxious interviews

STAGE NOTES: Michael and Kelli on either side of the stage pretending to be

talking into their cell phones.

PROJECTION: Kelli’s Phone Interview, Summer 2018.

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): Hi, Kelli. This is Mr. Dornsby from Sunshine Elementary calling to conduct your interview for the third-grade position you applied for?

KELLI: (Oh, Lord) Right, hello! Nice to meet you, Mr. Dornsby.

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): I’m going to begin by asking you a few questions about your teaching philosophies and the like... are you ready?

KELLI: (Inner voice: no!) (clearly nervous) Absolutely. Couldn’t be... ready...-er...

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): In what situation would you send a student to the principal’s office? (begins taking notes on a notepad)

KELLI: (Inner voice: ummm never?) Well, I believe the only situation in which

I would send a student to the principal’s office would be if they began to become a danger to themselves or other students... I personally don’t believe in using a trip to the principal’s office as a discipline measure.

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): (shuffling papers and looking slightly skeptical) ... Alright. And could you explain your grading policy to me?

KELLI: (Inner voice: Aw crap. He’s not gonna like this ...) Well, I’m always looking to learn from other more experienced professionals and their seasoned strategies and policies... But I personally like to lake into large account a student’s effort and progress made from where they were previously to where they are now, rather than on a standardised scale compared to that of their peers. (Inner voice: Dang, that was eloquent.)

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): Right, okay, (nodding, taking more notes) And why do you want to work for our school district?

KELLI: I heard a lot about your district and it is the kind of district I want to work at. (Inner voice: I need a job, I applied everywhere)

INT ERVIEWER (I)R. KAMEN): Why do you think you are a good fit for this position?

KELLI: (Inner voice: I don’t know, aren’t you supposed to tell me?) Well, I am very passionate about teaching and educating the younger generation. I am a strong nur- turer at heart, and I love to support and encourage young students. I love getting to see the growth that a year, six months, one month, two weeks can show.

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): How sweet! Now, say that a student is consistently showing misbehaviour in your classroom and requires some kind of punishment. What does your discipline strategy' look like?

KEI.I.I: (Inner voice: Punishment? Jeez ■■■) I am personally a firm believer in using positive behaviour interventions and supports my students, focusing on the ‘why’ behind each misbehaviour and dealing with it on a situation by situation basis. I want to provide my students with opportunities to build character and understanding of the negative impacts of poor behaviour on their own terms and help them develop plans for bettering themselves.

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): So your students would not have any consequences for misbehaviour?

KEI.I.I: Well, it depends ...

INTERVIEWER (DR. KAMEN): (raises eyebrows) I see ... (writes down notes quickly).

Scene 8: Michael and Alys video call following the NYC school visits

STAGE NOTES: Recorded video chat.

ALYS: When we visit schools, we need to be aware of our privilege. We are white, able-bodied, and able to afford to study/work at university and to spend a week in New York. When we walk into these schools each day we need to hold an awareness of this. We, too, are part of the performance. We wear our privileges as we visit schools, and in turn the schools perform to us and share what they want us to see. There are many unspoken themes, topics, and judgements left hanging in the air. We had one challenge with the patriarchy and what we discussed later as the ‘white saviour’ concept. What responsibility do we have in not only visiting schools but in sharing the stories from these places we visit? How do we tell these stories? What language do we use?

MICHAEL: Yes, and in turn you and I have the responsibility of choosing which schools we visit and which schools we choose for the students to experience.

ALYS: Exactly. New York is unique in that way. We managed to choose several places that tackle diversity, social justice, and inclusion in numerous ways. I was impressed by one school we visited that had created a sliding scale of tuition fees in an attempt to include more students, but I was frustrated when I realised that this still is not an option for families from the poorest areas. It was unsettling in some ways to visit some exciting and innovative schools and know that many were only accessible to affluent families.

MICHAEL: Thai’s why we’re visiting public schools as well as private schools. We even visited a public school that doesn’t participate in high-stakes testing at all. We toured a few others that have made social justice a key part of their curriculum.

ALYS: It’s been such a treat to visit so many schools and to have a group of people to talk about each experience with. I have felt that these discussions have really helped my thinking and ability to reflect on different places and to unpick my own privileges, assumptions, and biases. Although I do wonder about our responsibility.

MICHAEL: Oh, interesting. What do you mean?

ALYS: Well, by being upfront about my dislike of hierarchy and the use of titles such as Mr. and Miss I may have unfairly influenced the students...

MICHAEL: I can see that. Although by explaining why you dislike hierarchy, it means that the students are beginning to question thoughts and beliefs they might have had about education. I think that some of them are now less bothered by the use of first names for teachers, for example, which provides the opportunity to look further at what that school has to offer.

ALYS: So although we need to be aware of our privileges and position in these school visits, we may also be able to help the students extend their thinking and understanding about educational possibilities.

MICHAEL: Yes, but I think it is good to keep being conscious about our responsibilities. For example, when we visited my favourite progressive school, but the teaching did not seem particularly alternative to the students—they were not that impressed. I realised that we hadn’t necessarily given a historic/ pedagogic overview of the different types of approaches, so they may not have known what to look for. You and I were also on that same school visit, but we could see levels of innovative practice even when the teaching in a particular class wasn’t that innovative in itself.

ALYS: Exactly. For example, we saw wooden blocks for building in the upper primary grades, but we didn’t see them being used.

MICHAEL: I wonder what the students’ takeaways will be as they become established in their teaching careers.

Scene 9: Final teaching scene

ABIGAIL: Good morning class of 2031! Please find a seat on whatever you’d like. You can sit on the bouncy ball, swivel chair, beanbag, or regular chair. Before we begin, I would like to remind you to wear tennis shoes tomorrow, and be prepared to get messy in whatever clothes you wear! We will be working in the garden and with the animals on the farm. In our class, it is important that you learn how to help nurture the environment that we live in. It doesn’t need to be Earth Day in order to be an active community member.

KELLI: Hello everyone! I’m so glad to see you all today. In a few moments I’d really like for us to all introduce ourselves and share one good thing that happened to us recently. But before that, let’s go through what classroom norms we’d all love to set in order for this to be a positive, safe environment for all involved.

(Writing down on a whiteboard and saying out loud) Community... Guidelines... Anyone have any ideas for a good guideline? ... Yes, and what is your name, sweetheart? Johnny? ... Respect ourselves and each other ... That’s a wonderful idea, Johnny ... (writes down guideline)

SARAH: Its Passion Project time! Today we get to choose our new passion topic! Last unit y’all decided to lake a closer look at why immigrants are discouraged and discriminated against when they speak a language other than English? What are some topics that you are interested in learning more about during our studies for this unit? Everyone turn and talk with your classmates about possible ideas.

ABBY: Okay friends, let’s start packing up. As a reminder progress reports have gone out. You and your parents should sit down over the weekend and look at the comments that have been made. Read over, discuss, decide, and write what letter grade you think you should have and what you would like to have and why. This reflection should be approximately 500 words and is due Monday! Remember to make smart choices, think about the bigger questions at hand, play, make art, and that Ms. Earle will always love you. Now be gone and go take chances, make mistakes, and be messy!



Through writing this ethnodrama as a collaborative work from a shared fieldwork experience, our whole group continues to be affected by the research. By concluding our ethnodrama with Abby, Abigail, Kelli and Sarah embodying their future teacher identities we collectively aimed to share fingerings of the relational encounter, a trans-materiality in the sense that the impact of school tourism and visiting those innovative schools continues to permeate our understanding and beliefs as new teachers. These scenes link back to Scene 1 and show changes, differences, and multi-faceted and personal responses to becoming a teacher. From this experience, as both pre-service teachers and more experienced teachers, we realise we are moving beyond school ‘tourists’ to becoming ‘residents’ with these experiences and discourses of education now embodied in our identities of ‘becoming teacherjs].’ It is worth appreciating that this becoming ‘resident’ is not a stationary expression, but one dial also continues to move with new understandings of pedagogy, experience in the classroom, and further school tourism.

With reflection, a further realisation emerged for Alys and Michael, recognising how difficult it is to look outside of one’s own educational culture and judge the schools visited in terms of their own unique culture. We know that the preservice teachers among our group naturally evaluate from our own experiences and assumptions of school culture, based on 13 years in mainstream education environments. Appreciating the difficulty to evaluate from within, we are eager for the preserv ice teachers among us to evaluate a school on the school’s terms, with the question ‘How well do they enact their goals, their understanding of children and learning and their holistic theories of being?’


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