Seeing life through multiple lenses
Ellett, Jacqueline Marie
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In this national study nine K-12 art educators who had been recommended by their peers as highly effective art teachers share their stories of staying in the art room. The qualitative methodologies of narrative and phenomenology were used to examine and interpret the reasons given for staying to gain an understanding of the question, why do exceptional teachers with 20+ years of experience choose to stay in the art room? Arts Based Educational Research (ABER) was used to further inform the discourse around teacher retention through interpretive poetry and participant-made self-portraits and reflections. The four themes of vocation, resiliency, reinventing and living-not staying emerged from this study and offer us the opportunity to see the humanness of teaching. Narrative art works were created based on the four themes out of a desire to create and offered another lens of inquiry. What is learned about the kinds of professional and personal experiences that motivate good teachers to stay in the classroom has relevance for both art education and general education. A significant percentage of new teachers leave the field in their first five years. This study offers implications for those involved in teacher preparation, administrators, and educational policy makers suggestions to keep exceptional art teachers in a long and productive career. Studying the art teachers’ narratives within the four themes which emerged offers empathy and understanding of the problems and challenges all teachers face daily. It is my hope that by reading the stories of the nine art teachers you will gain a deeper understanding of the humanness of teaching and how to support all teachers in meaningful ways to help them become the best that they can.