How an exceptional elementary physical education teacher navigates her working environment as the teacher of a marginal subject
Lux, Karen Marie
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The purpose of this study was to analyze how one exceptional elementary physical education teacher navigates her working environment as the teacher of a marginal subject. Specific research questions guiding the study were: (a) What is the context/working environment of an exceptional PE teacher who has managed teaching a marginal subject? (b) What are and how does she interpret verbal and non-verbal messages, actions, and symbols in her working environment about her subject matter and its place in the school environment? (c) What are and how does she interact with administrators, colleagues, parents, and students in her working environment? (d) What are the navigational strategies an exceptional physical educator employs to manage the marginality of her subject matter? Structuration Theory (Giddens, 1984) and Marginality Theory (Grant & Breese, 1997) were utilized to make meaning of how the teacher navigated the marginality in her working environment. Data collection lasted 11 weeks spending 8 hours each day three days a week with the teacher using observation and interviews. Field notes were collected during the observations and the interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. Data trustworthiness was established through triangulation, member checks and a peer debriefer. Inductive analysis of the data generated themes arising from the observations and interviews pertaining to Structuration Theory (Giddens, 1984) and Marginality Theory (Grant & Breese, 1997; Park, 1928; Stonequist, 1935). It was discovered that the teacher navigated marginality using four strategies: (a) “Getting In,” (b) “Procuring and Managing Instructional Currency,” (c) “Nurturing and Cultivating Kinship with a Paraprofessional,” and (d) “Selectively Initiating and Fostering Diplomatic Relations Outside of the Gym.” The teacher enacted these strategies using 16 tactics and 24 micro-behaviors collectively to form a comprehensive plan to navigate marginality. Findings indicated that the teacher responded to marginality with a variety of reactions resulting in an overall emissarial approach. Two simple implications have emerged regarding the navigation of marginality. First, a physical educator must be an effective teacher and second, be a diplomatic professional. Findings from this study have additional implications for the preparation of teachers, National Standards, and formalized mentoring programs.