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 ID Number: 23077, Date Accessed: 12/5/2020 4:18:20 AM

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