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Seeing Through Serpent and Eagle Eyes: Teachers as Handlers of Memories

by Cristina Cammarano & Erin Stutelberg - 2020

Background/Context: This paper is part of the special issue “Reimagining Research and Practice at the Crossroads of Philosophy, Teaching, and Teacher Education.” We propose that there is a vital connection in teaching between curriculum and memories that should be fostered in our classrooms. Because memories are alive and bring meaning to our lives, they need to be handled with care. Unfortunately, however, much of teaching risks to simply embalm what is already dead. We examine how the living work of teachers might reposition curriculum as a body of dynamic memories: a constellation of struggles and belongings, failures and accomplishments. The role of the teacher, in this context, is as a handler of those memories.

Research Design: Our approach derives from sustained interaction as we have sought to bring our scholarly backgrounds in philosophy of education and English teacher education, respectively, into dynamic contact. The methodology of the inquiry is mixed in that it combines teacher narratives (our own) with critical conceptual analysis, collective memory work, and phenomenology. Drawing on a bibliography of texts organized collaboratively by the larger research group, our main authors of reference are Freire, Gramsci, Anzaldua, Style, and Britzman. We also feature several fine-grained narratives that illuminate what we mean by “handlers of memory” in the educational setting.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our shared philosophizing in this paper is a response to the concern that classroom teaching contributes to the deadening of curriculum as a source of meaning and an avenue for students and teachers to learn about themselves. In response, we propose the image of teachers as handlers of memory who work to cultivate and keep memories alive and central to learning. We recommend that teachers explore collective memory work (Haug, 1999) and reflective teaching narratives (Furman, 2015) as ways to get a handle on their own powerful memories of teaching.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 4, 2020, p. 1-24
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23077, Date Accessed: 8/2/2021 2:05:11 AM

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About the Author
  • Cristina Cammarano
    Salisbury University
    E-mail Author
    CRISTINA CAMMARANO, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Philosophy at Salisbury University. Her research interests include conceptions of inquiry in relation to education, the public dimensions of philosophy, and the role of philosophy in the education of teachers and students, especially in multicultural contexts. She taught high school philosophy and history for five years in Milan before beginning her doctoral studies in Philosophy and Education at Teachers College Columbia University. In 2018 she was awarded a Whiting Fellowship for Public Engagement in the Humanities for her work on philosophy in schools and communities. Some recent publications include “Philosophical Considerations on Teacher Presence” in E. Duarte (ed.), Philosophy of education 2015, Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education Society, and “The Work of Memory in the Project of Cosmopolitan Education” in OMNES, The Journal of the Multicultural Society vol. 6 n. 2, January 2016.
  • Erin Stutelberg
    Salisbury University
    E-mail Author
    ERIN STUTELBERG, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Secondary and Physical Education, Seidel School of Education, at Salisbury University. At SU she coordinates, teaches, and supervises in the undergraduate and MAT secondary English education program. Prior to her career in higher education, Dr. Stutelberg taught middle and high school English for six years. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Critical Literacy and English Education, from the University of Minnesota in 2016. Her work engages sociocultural theories of literacy and critical and feminist theories to study literacy practices, teacher identity, and teacher education. Her dissertation research explored issues of race, gender, embodiment, and identity in the experiences of beginning teachers through feminist and collective research methodologies. Recent publications include: Rollag Yoon, S. & Stutelberg, E. (2018). Rose’s Writing: The Generative Power of Affect in a High School Writing Center, WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship, Coffee, A.C., Stutelberg, E., Clements, C.H., & Lensmire, T.J. (2016). Precarious and undeniable bodies: Control, waste and danger in the lives of a white teacher and her students of color and In S. Hancock & C. Warren (Eds.) White Woman’s Work: Examining the Intersectionality of Cultural Norms, Teaching, and Identity Formation in Urban Schools. North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.
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