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The experience of staying : a phenomenological study of veteran special education teachers' resiliency


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The experience of staying : a phenomenological study of veteran special education teachers' resiliency
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vii, 158 leaves ; 29 cm
Knight, Lynn Marie
University of South Florida
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Tampa, Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
Special education teachers -- Attitudes   ( lcsh )
Special education teachers -- Psychology   ( lcsh )
Resilience (Personality Trait)   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Special Education -- Doctoral -- USF   ( fts )


General Note:
Includes vita. Abstract title: Experience of staying : a phenomenological study of veteran special education teachers understanding of the nature of their work,resiliency, and grace. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2003. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 135-144)

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University of South Florida
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Universtity of South Florida
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aleph - 029682699
oclc - 56501422
usfldc doi - F51-00007
usfldc handle - f51.7
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The Experience of Staying: A Phenomenological Study of Veteran Special Education Teachers' Resiliency by Lynn Marie Knight A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Special Education College of Education University of South Florida Major Professor: Betty Ed.D. Daphne Ph.D Jim Paul, Ph.D John Ferron, Ph.D Date of Approval: June 24, 2003 Keywords: retention, descriptive, caring, qualitative, feminist C Copyright 2003 Lynn M. Knight


DEDICATION This dissertation is dedicated to the five women special education teachers who participated in this study. These quality teachers have unselfishly stepped forward to share their personal teaching experiences within special education. I cannot express my gratitude enough for their time, effort and personal concern for me during this study. I only hope that their stories and description of staying will expand our understanding of the ways in which we can contribute to keeping teachers like them in special education.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful for the support from all of my professors, family, and students during the study. I especially want to thank my major professor, Dr. Betty Epanchin.l am also deeply indebted to Dr. Jim Paul for his caring concern for me as a person as well as a student. I also am grateful to Dr. Daphne Thomas and Dr. John Ferron for their time, patience and dedication. And to Dr. L\Wllle Panacek my "outside" support mentor. I also could not have ever made it through this study without the emotional and technical support of the wonderful administrative and secretarial staff in the Special Education Department I am also thankful for the strong beginning I received from professors at FMHI Dr. AI Dushnowski and Dr. Mario Hernandez, and professors outside my field, Dr. Michael Angrosino in anthropology and Dr. Wilson Palacios in criminology whom contributed greatly to my understanding of qualitative research. Saint Leo University faculty and staff also contributed significantly with their support of my work. My children, JoAnne, Tim, Mac, Ryan and Audrey have been the sustaining force throughout this process. My Mom, brothers: Mike, Steve and Bruce and their extended families all have contributed to opening time and understanding for support of this project. I also want to thank my best friend and business partner, Carolyn Scott for always being there for me. Finally, I would like to thank the hundreds of students I had the privilege to serve during this time, and who helped keep me grounded both in the practical application and purpose of special education and to the heart of teaching.


Table of Contents List of Tables Abstract I. Introduction Statement of Problem Statement of the Research Purpose Definition of Staying Significance of the Study Relevance to the School System Definition of Terms Phenomenology Section Feminist Section Additional Terms II. Literature Review Introduction Theoretical and Philosophical Framework Phenomenology Feminist Epistemology Situated Knower Standpoint Theory Feminist Standpoint Theory Retention and Attrition of Special Education Teachers Severity of Shortage Predictors for Retention and Attrition Teacher Preparation Programs Special Concerns Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Urban and Rural Schools Teacher Quality The Culture of Teaching III. Methodology Research Design Data Collection Participant Invitation Interview Process iv v 1 I 4 5 6 6 8 8 9 11 12 12 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 24 25 25 25 26 29 31 31 34 35 35


Participant Selection 37 Self as Research Instrument 38 Procedures 42 Participants' Reactions 47 Prorection ofHwnan Subjects 48 Reflexivity 48 Narrative Invitation 49 Study from Within 50 Personal Journal 51 Data Analysis 52 Multi-Method Approach 53 Biographic teaching experiences: a narrative story approach 54 Dramatic presentation and perfonnance: another way of knowing 55 Inreraction expressions: knowing through shared experiences 55 Phenomenological Analysis 59 Credibility 61 Ethical Concerns 62 N. Findings 64 Introduction 64 Participants' Descriptions 64 Danielle 65 Erin 67 Vivian 68 How Do You as a Special Education Teacher Define a Quality Teacher? 71 Cleo's Definition of Quality 71 Danielle' s Definition of Quality 72 Erin's Definition of Quality 72 Vivian's Definition of Quality 73 How Did You Enrer the Profession of Teaching in Special Education? 73 Introduction 73 By Default 74 Family Influences 76 Exposure to Disability 76 Being the Boss 77 Working with Children 77 Teaching as a Calling 78 Disability from Within 78 Describe Your Teaching Experiences in Special Education and How You Have Stayed? 81 Relationship of Connection 81 Love and Care in the Classroom 83 ii


A Balanced Lifeworld 86 Commitment to a Higher Calling 89 Passing on the Good Life 90 Interconnected Support System 92 Survival for Warrior Teachers 93 Defining Self within the Teaching Role 94 What Baniers or Issues Do You Think Have Interfered With Your Commitment to Stay? 95 Failing Support Systems and People 95 Exceptionality and Placement Matters 98 Teacher Voice: Being Heard or Not 102 V. Dramatic Presentation and Perfonnance 104 Introduction 104 Vivian 105 Voice Pitch and Narration Pace 105 Gestures and Sound Effects 106 Reiteration 1 07 Quotations and Voice Imitations 1 07 Em Voice Pitch and Narration Pace 1 Human Ecology 1 Danielle 112 Voice Pitch and Narrative Pace 112 Strategic Pauses 112 Quotation and Voice Imitations 112 Cleo 113 Voice Pitch and Narrative Pace 113 Reiteration 113 Expressive Vocabulary and Syntax 114 VI. Metaphors 116 VII. Phenomenological Description 119 Introduction 119 Phenomenological Process 120 Phenomenological Understanding 121 The Meaning of Staying 121 VIII. Discussion 124 Directions for Future Research 132 References 135 iii


Appendices Appendix A: Invitation Letter to Join the Study Appendix B: Statement of Infonned Consent Appendix C: Coding Guide Appendix D: Follow-up Letter to Participants Appendix E: Significant Statements of Staying Appendix F: Fonnulated Meanings of Significant Statements Appendix G: Cluster of Common Themes About the Author iv 145 146 147 148 149 150 155 156 End Page


1. Significant Statements of Staying 2. Formulated Meanings 3. Cluster of Common Themes List of Tables v 150 154 155


The Experience of Staying: A Phenomenological Study of Veteran Special Education Teachers' Resiliency Lynn M. Knight ABSTRACT This phenomenological study examines how women special education teachers understand the nature of their work, the challenges they have faced, and their reasons for staying in teaching. Using biographic narrative stories of their personal and professional lived experiences, a description of staying was developed from the standpoint of five veteran special education teachers who volunteered to extensive interviewing. Two interviews with each participant were conducted, and each ranged from one to three hours in length. A total of 11 hours of audio-taped interviews were transcribed and analyzed, including l) personal biographical experiences of staying, 2) dramatic presentation and performance, 3) prevailing metaphors, and 4) a phenomenological description of staying. The teachers described the experience of staying in tenns of their professional life histories. Staying became a way of life that fostered the development and growth of students with disabilities through a strong commitment based on the faith that they make a difference and love born from within their heart. What the teachers want is to be given the opportunity to do their job with respect, support and honor, and without undue hardship or interference. vi


These are women of substance, character and grace who have exhibited over time the ability to both withstand adversity, yet still come each day to school prepared to teach children most at risk for failure in school. They stay because they have committed to their work and for the light they see in their student's eyes that say, "I have made a difference." The teachers expressed a strong need to work in a more human friendly, sustainable, and emotionally supported environment. They spoke often of the need to be listened to and respected for their professionalism. We have an obligation to these quality teachers to provide opportunities of support for these teachers in a more personalized and holistic manner. vii


I. Introduction Stalement of the Problem Teaching students in special education is not for everyone. I have received over the years many condolences, prayers and, ''thank God there are people like you, because I sure couldn't do it!" statements, that make clear that working in this field requires more than just knowing how to teach. Few would argue that people who chose to not only go into special education, but also to embrace their students and the profession and chose to stay are unique. Teachers who have entered the field of special education in the last decade have seen the physical and emotional demands of the field in many positions multiplied over time to include very large caseloads, students with more severe and multiple disabilities, and mounting administrative tasks for both accountability and compliance purposes (Council for Exceptional Children, 2000). The paperwork in many states, heavily burdened with both federal and local requirements, has become so time consuming and cumbersome that numerous teachers have reported this as a major reason for giving up and leaving special education (Bendotti, 2002; Bobbitt & McMillian, 1994; Brownell & Smith, 1997; National Association of State Boards of Education, 2000). Numerous retention and attrition related studies document various factors leading to the crisis special education is experiencing within our public schools. Factors such as job satisfaction (Brown, Smith, & McNellis, 1997; Brownell, 1999), first year and beginning teacher experiences (Archer, 1999; Kilgore & Griffin, 1998; Mastropieri, 1


2001; Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000), working conditions (Council for Exceptional Children, 2000), and mentoring (Boe, Bobbitt, Cook, Whitener, & Weber, 1997) have all been explored and recommendations given related to the findings. While many studies have focused on why teachers leave, few have studied the teachers who are successfully staying and continue to be committed to teaching in special education. Retention of special education teachers has been reported to affect the quality of the education students receive in the classroom. Several reports have indicated an essential link between high achievement in students and the qualifications of the teacher. Research has shown that the single most important factor in a student's educational success is the knowledge and skill of his or her teacher and that becomes even more critical when the student has a disability (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Haycock, 1998, 2000; Wenglinsky, 2000). Darling-Hammond (2000), executive director, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, notes the importance of quality teaching in special education in confirming that we must have teacher excellence for every child. She purports it is not good enough to have well-meaning individuals in special education classrooms. There must be professionally informed and certified teachers teaching students with disabilities. She advocates for a fail-safe set of expectations for all special education teachers. And, in their pre-service classes, teachers must learn strategies, not just background knowledge of laws. "We can't compromise on what teachers need to know ... and we must assure that teachers get that knowledge," Darling-Hammond states. "If we don't, it does them and their students a disservice." She has also reported that having a professionally-trained 2


teacher three years in a row can mean a difference of 50 percentile points in a student's achievement 2000). ThusJ it is vital that we have special education teachers who are qualified and committed to teaching students with special needs over an extended period of their professional life. In today's classrooms, since the role of the special education teacher bas become so complex and requires such a high level of academic and emotional strength, our teachers must be of the highest quality. By supporting and caring for our quality teachers we foster the transfer of knowledge from the teachers to meet the academic and emotional needs of our students with disabilities. From within all the research on the problem of keeping quality teachers in special education is the anomaly; the teacher of quality who has stayed despite it all. These teachers continue to live through all of the barriers, all of the things to do, all the bureaucratic red-tapeJ and still manage to make a difference in the lives of their students with disabilities. These teachers have a wealth of information on how they have carved out their lives an important place that includes a significant contribution to the needs of their students with disabilities, and to their profession in special education. The meaning and value these teachers place on staying, anchors our thinking on the solid ground of those who live out the experience fully. In summary, studies of retention and attrition in special education indicate an acute crisis in keeping quality special education teachers in the classroom. The problem of replacing these teachers is a costly one, both to the school system and to the individual lives of students with disabilities. It appears not only necessary, but prudent to start with a description of staying that comes from within the teachers themselves. From within 3


their everyday life experiences as teachers they have a meaning of staying that can only come from one who has been in this world and shared both the pain and joy of teaching in special education. Their stories and insight will add another dimension to hopefully inspire and inform others to move toward creating ways to meet the needs of these teachers and alter the continual loss of quality teachers from special education. Statement of Research Purpose The purpose of this qualitative study is to reveal the meaning of staying in special education through the standpoint certified teachers in the field. Further, the research goal is to examine, extract and illuminate the essential structures of each teacher's experiences to reach a common meaning of staying in special education. The research question for my study is: How do selected veteran teachers understand the nature of their work. the challenges they have and their reasons for staying? Phenomenology creates the pathway toward arriving at knowledge of what it means to be a person in the world. Through this approach I have sought to study the inner life of these teachers in relation to their everyday, embodied life experiences. I used a strategy recommended by Leininger ( 1985) as a guideline for questioning the participants in open dialogue format. I sought to encourage expansion and clarification, while allowing the conversation to take a natural course. My opening interview questions were as follows: 1. How do you as a special education teacher define a quality teacher? 2. How did you come into the profession of teaching in special education? 3. Please describe your teaching experiences in special education and how you have stayed. 4


4. What do you think has interfered with your commitment to stay teaching in special education? Definition of Staying Differentiation must be made between the kinds of definitions of the word "stay" and what the word "stay" represents in this study. In the American Heritage Dictionary (2002) on-line dictionary, one way to define "stay" is as a stationary placement requiring nothing but to be in a place or condition without movement; to hold a place. This kind of staying is represented and studied in education in the area of retention and attrition. Then there is another definition of "stay" that represents the intent of my study of special education teachers, which speaks to endurance or persistence against all odds or through conflict. In this kind of staying, one holds one's ground and remains resolute and firm to a higher calling. It is within this definition, I have explored the teaching experiences of the four women teachers and how they have stayed teaching in special education. Significance of the Study This research focuses on an issue that has ramifications not only for the school system, but the individual students served in special education, and the teacher that has chosen special education as a profession. Current research has emerged to support the importance of quality teachers in the classroom to student achievement and well-being (Darling-Hammond, 1999). There is little research that has focused on teachers of quality who have stayed in special education and how they do it. Information that emerges from this study will be used to work toward clarifying the needs of veteran teachers working s


within the field of special education in the fonn of support programs for the teachers with undergraduate teacher candidates, and/or in consultation within school districts. Further, it is hoped that knowledge shared from this study by the teachers themselves will enlighten and encourage those who care about them and their students Abrahams, & Manual, 2000). Relevance to the &hool System The percentage of special education teachers leaving the profession has steadily risen since the passage of PL 94-142 in 1975. The number of people entering the profession of special education is declining at a time there is a substantial increase in the need for qualified teachers (Billingsley, 2002). In 2000, there were 453,000 teachers in the United States. And according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, there will be 611,550 positions to fill (Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001). Nearly 6.2 million students between the ages of 3 to 21 received special services under programs provided by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act during the 1999-2000 school year (Billingsley, 2002). The need to replace special education teachers who switch to general education, change careers, or retire will result in further replacement of qualified, quality teachers with teachers whom are likely to be under-

America bas reported the growth rate of autism is rising 10 to 170.4 a year (2002). The U.S. Department of Education has reported a 172% increase in this condition during the 1990s (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1999; Eric Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, 2001; U.S. Department 2002). Further, the retention of quality veteran teachers is important to the quality of education students receive in the classroom. Researchen have validated the link between the high achievements of students to the qualifications of the teacher (Darling-Hammond, 2000; 1998, 2000; Wenglinsky, 2000). To affect the number of quality teachen who chose to stay in special education, exploration of the problem from the teachers living within the system itself and performing at the level of a quality perfonnance will be vitally important. Definition of Terms Phenomenology Section Phenomenology: (I) A description of the givens of immediate experience. (2) An attempt to capture the essence in process as lived, through descriptive analysis. (3) A method of knowing that 'begins with the things themselves', that tries to find a 'first opening' on the world free of our perceptions and interpretations, together with a methodology for reducing the interference of our preconceptions. (4) A method of learning about others by listening to their descriptions of what their subjective world is like for together with an attempt to understand this in their own terms as fully as possible, free of our preconceptions and interferences. Phenomenology is the act of trying to experience the total reality of the consciousness of someone who experiences his or her 7


world in a certain place and time. Phenomenology bas roots in the Greek word 'pbenesti,' which means to show bringing into the light of day. Being-in-the-world: Acting with awareness, responsibility, and freedom within a context of given world-conditions. Bracketing: Suspending, setting aside our biases, everyday understandings, beliefs, habitual modes of thought, and judgments. Existentials: Basic structures which comprise the growld of existence, like space, time, embodiment. Phenomenological reduction: (I) an attempt to suspend the observer's viewpoint (2) Hearing another person's reality and focusing on the central, dominant, or recurring themes which represent the essential qualities or meanings of that person's experience. Themes: Layers of meaning which are less basic tlwl existentials, but are often related to the latter. (Phenomenology glossary, fO\md on May 1, 2003 at: http://www.sonoma.eduJusers/dldaniels/phenomenology .html) Feminist Section Feminist Epistemology: Studies the ways in which gender influences our conceptions of knowledge, the knowing subject, and practices of inquiry and justification. It identifies ways in which dominant conceptions and practices of knowledge acquisition, and justification systematically disadvantage women and other subordinated groups, and strives to reform these conceptions and practices so that they serve the interests of these groups. 8


Critical theory: Focuses on political, cultural, economic, and social relationships within a culture, particularly as they are related to what groups have power and which do not. (Critical theory, 2003 at: Situated knowers: Knowers are persons situated in particular relations to what is known and to other knowers. What is known, and the way that it is known, thereby reflects the situation or perspective of the knower. Here we are concerned with claims to know, temporarily bracketing the question of which claims are true or warranted. Consider how people may understand the same object in different ways that reflect the distinct relations in which they stand to it: 1) Embodiment. People experience the world by using their bodies, which have different constitutions and are differently located in space and time. 2) First-person vs. third-person knowledge. People have first-personal access to some of their own bodily and mental states, yielding direct knowledge of phenomenological facts about what it is like for them to be in these states. 3) Emotions, attitudes, interests, and values. People often represent objects in relation to their emotions, attitudes and interests. 4) Personal knowledge of others. People have different knowledge of others, in virtue of their different personal relationships to them. Such knowledge is often tacit, incompletely articulated, and intuitive. 5) Know-how. People have different skills, which may also be a source of different propositional knowledge. 6) Cognitive Styles. People have different styles of investigation and representation. 7) Background beliefs and worldviews. People form different beliefs about an object, in virtue of different background beliefs. 8) Relations to other inquirers. People may stand in different epistemic relations to other inquirers which affect their access to relevant information and their ability to convey their beliefs to others. 9


Standpoint: A place from which to view the world that detennines what we focus on as well as what is obscured from us. Standpoint theory: An approach that suggests that inquiry and research grounded in the standpoints of women and other marginalized groups is more objective and more complete than research based on the perspectives of the privileged. Feminist standpoint theory: Rooted in philosophy and literature, George Hegel's reveals that what people 'know' depends upon which group they are in and that the powerful control received knowledge. Harding and Woods' theory is grounded by the central tenet that all scholarly inquiry should start from the lives of women and others who are marginalized. Reflexivity: An interchange that has a cin:ular design where both parties are invited to be reflective, to know each other better, and participate in the observation and collection of interactive performances generated through the interviews. (Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, 2003 at: Additional Terms Hai/cu: A traditional Japanese poetry form containing only 17 syllables. In my study, I used Janesick (2002) as a model to create a haiku as a way to prepare my 'soul' and stretch the 'artistic frame' part of my brain to expand and include a multifaceted qualitative research design. Multiple voicing: There are many ways to interpret the use of multiple voicing with a study. In my study, the research participants are invited to speak on their own 10


behalf on a shared phenomenon. They describe, examine and interpret their own work within the study itself (Anderson, 1997; Lather & Smithies, 1997). 11


II. Literature Review Introduction The review of the literature for this study is focused on the issue of reversing the chronic shortage of qualified special education teachers. The beginning of this review explains the basics of the theoretical and philosophical framework I used during this study. Next, I included current studies on the issues of retention and attrition that contributed to my understanding of issues in staying or leaving in special education. Further, I reviewed how the educational systems view the issue of quality in teaching and its relation to staying. Finally, I included a section on culture in order to clarify my position in the fmdings of my study. Theoretical and Philosophical Framework I have combined a feminist and phenomenological approach by using the feminist standpoint theoretical framework as conceptualized by Sandra Harding (1989; 1992; 1998), and the phenomenological approach based on Husserl (1913/72) and Stein (1989), to create the philosophical framework for this study. Feminism is a philosophical moment that has roots in phenomenological inquiry and critical theory. Both feminist and phenomenological approaches reject hierarchy in the relationship between the researcher and participant in the interviewing process Additionally, a priority is given to the first hand, embodied, experience of each person, with the view of research as a reflexive, consciousness activity (Hartsock, 1987; Rose, 1987). 12


Phenomenology Phenomenology is a complex philosophical tradition that began with the work of Husser! (1913n2) and the exploration of the mind using pure description. Heidegger (1927/62) and Sartre (1981) adapted phenomenology to include the study of the lived experience. Merleau-Ponty (1962) stressed the role of the active, involved body in all human understanding. Though complex, phenomenology has emerged as a pervasive influence and can be concerned with the practical consequences for human living in the everyday world. It does not provide direct information, but instead moves us to "pathic forms of understanding that are embodied, situational, relational and enactive" (van Manen, 2000). All phenomenologist are challenged to follow Husser! and use pure description. Further, they all follow Husserl's saying ''To the things themselves." They do not, however, agree as to whether the phenomenological reduction can be achieved, and as to what is visible to the researcher giving a pure description of experience. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, Husserl's colleague and famous critic, claimed that phenomenology should make manifest what is hidden in the ordinary, everyday experience. Heidegger (1927/62) attempted in Time and Being, to describe what he called the structure of everydayness, or being-in-the-world. He described them as an interconnected system of equipment, social roles, and purposes (Giorgi, 1985). For Heidegger, one is what one does in the world, so a phenomenological reduction to one's own private experience is impossible. He feels that human action contains a direct grasp of objects, and it is not necessary to conceive a special mental entity called a meaning to explain intentionality. For Heidegger, living in the world among life itself is a 13


more basic kind of intentionality than just thinking or looking at objects, and this more fundamental intentionality makes direct analysis explained by Husserl possible. (Colaizzi,1983). It is, however, Edith Stein's (1989) work in phenomenology that has most evoked the path for me in this study of women special education teachers. In her work on the nature of empathy, she investigated how we begin to understand our personal, lived experience in our relationships to others in our world, things, and the events that occur in our lives. She understood knowledge to be less a transfer of information than as an understanding that never splits "feeling" from "thinking" (Taggart, 2001). The teachers in this study offered their meaning of staying from within a deeply embedded knowing that can only come from living within and sharing the practical work of a teaching position serving students with disabilities. Their embodied, experiences extend a higher degree of knowledge from the central location of teaching students with disabilities on a daily basis in our public schools. Feminist Epistemology Feminist epistemology incorporates a focus on gender and how gender effects and contributes to our knowing, our representation of those to be known, and in the ways we perform our practices in inquiry and explanation in our scientific work. Furthermore, it speaks to the way dominant ways of knowing have mitigated, suppressed, reduced, and systematically disadvantaged women and other subordinated groups (Anderson, 2000). These dominant ''male thinking" systems of knowing continually thwart women by I) denying them access to inquiry, 2) refusing to give them epistemic authority, 3) 14


demean their ''feminine" way of knowing and thinking, 4) developing theories that reduce women to inferior, deviant or insignificant unless meeting the needs of males, 5) producing theories that undermine the social interest of women and reduce their power base, 6) developing theories in science that do not address the needs of women and other socially oppressed groups. Feminist epistemologist believe that these issues have subjugated women in science, which in tum has caused science itself to have grown into a discipline that has failed to represent and create positive change for a majority of the earth's population. Many of these failures can be seen in the defective conceptions of knowledge, knowers, objectivity and scientific methodology (Anderson, 2002). Situated Knower Knowledge, according to feminist epistemology is centered on a located knower. This knower is specifically located with time, place, culture, gender, race and circumstances; therefore all knowledge reflects the particular perspectives of a person. Feminist are interested in finding out how gender influences and determines knowing, and this is explored in three main approaches: feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint theory, and feminist postmodernism (Anderson, 2002). I have aligned this study from within feminist standpoint theory. The feminist standpoint theory resonates within this study as representative of the preferred and privileged knowledge holders of information to the lived experience of teaching in special education. Also, to incorporate their gender as a viable and necessary strand in their way of knowing and in creating meaning for how they have stayed in teaching special education. The privileged position of these women gives a closer 15


account to the act of staying because of their position as special education teachers located within the school system serving students with disabilities. Following this philosophy, I kept the work in my study as a first person experience, using the words of the participants in most of the body of the study, especially in the findings section. I also included emotions, attitudes, interests and what they valued in both the use of this information in the text, and in the selection of what was represented in the placement of their voice within the study. I attempted to respond to the issue of relationship by coming forward concerning who I was, and allowing for the participants to make many of the decisions on how the study was to be and shared with the community. Standpoint Theory All standpoint theories represent the world through a particular socially situated perspective that states an epistemic privilege or authority. lbey are controversial because of their claim to epistemic privilege over social and political matters concerning systematic disadvantages to social groups, (i.e., women, people of color, people of poverty). This theory is represented in three major types of epistemic privilege of the disadvantaged group over the primary groups: Primary is a claim of deeper knowledge from within the oppressed and disadvantaged populations in societal issues over surface knowledge now predominately exhibited in science. According to this theory, people in disadvantaged sectors are more capable than dominant groups in interpreting and identifying the essential regularities that drive the experience in question. Second, it offers a greater knowledge of human potentialities because of the prior claim to deeper knowledge. And last, it claims more universality with broader representation of the 16


masses. Marxism is the classical example of a standpoint theory in its claim to epistemic privilege for the proletariat in questions of economics, sociology, and history (Anderson, 2002). Feminist Standpoint Theory Feminist standpoint theory comes from within the Marxist position that the socially oppressed can assess knowledge that the elite members of society cannot. During the continuing development of feminist standpoint theory, the focus has moved to a more political nature, moving from a ''woman's standpoint" to that of feminist, thereby including the standpoints of other marginalized groups. In this theory, feminist claim an epistemic privilege over the disposition of gender relations, and the social and psychological experiences in which gender is occupied on behalf of where women are centrally located (Anderson, 2002). Standpoint theory is birthed from within philosophy and literature and has grown from the work of Hegel and Kuhn. Feminist standpoint theory is a form of critical theory, as explained by the Frankfurt school of critical social theorist, from Adorno to Habermas. They support an epistemic privilege in gender relation for women (MacKinnon, 1999). This is in relation to theories that reflect sexist assumptions. In other words, women know women best, have a deeper rather than surface understanding of women's experiences and have more justification in speaking for women than men. According to Harding (1991), social groups to which we belong, shape what we know and how we communicate what is known. She holds that women do not experience their cultural identity in the same form as men, and in fact are considered to be under advantaged This under-advantaged status is based on social and political situations 17


women have experienced in our society that continues to emerge from a dominant patriarchic system. Further, only those who participate in a particular group can have the first-personal epistemic knowledge (Harding, 1991, 1993; MacKinnon, 1993). In this study on staying, the central issue comes from within the role these women have in their teaching position with students in special education. The feminist standpoint theory regards the goal of research as an emancipatory activity directly related to those who are marginalized. Women have been and are dominant in number in the special education teaching profession. Because these women are in charge of meeting the daily needs of their students, and are living out the social inequities that are dominating their professional lives, they are in a better position than others to offer explanations and representations of why the school system fails to meet teachers' needs. They spoke often during the study of experiences of the difficulties in being given a voice, when they felt that had important information that could help both their students and in their own work. The epistemic privilege of these women teachers lies in the fact that they have advanced knowledge and access to information concerning the needs of their colleagues and students in special education (Hartsock, 1987/1996; Rose 1987). This study hopes to focus the attention on the teachers themselves who are expressing the meaning of staying from within the central location of experience, and represent a clearer more grounded representation of what staying is for teachers in special education. Retention and Attrition of Special Education Teachers One of the identified challenges that face our nation's schools today is the retention and attrition of quality special education teachers The shortage of teachers in special 18


education is viewed in this section in terms of supply and demand. Special education has been extensively studied in the last decade on the growing crisis of the loss of qualified certified teachers, and the effect it has had on students with disabilities (Morsink, 1982; Smith-Davis & Billingsley, 1993; Smith-Davis, Burke, & Noel, 1984). The field of special education has continued to experience inadequate supplies of new teachers entering, as well as certified teachers in reserve who would fill the positions. Carlson (2001) reported the greatest barrier for hiring in special education is a qualified candidate. The escalation over the last ten years was predicted and has been consistent in the need of teachers to fill vacancies and replace unqualified teachers. It is estimated 1 00/o of special educators are not fully certified for their teaching positions (Council for Exceptional Children, 2000). Further expansion of the problem has been explained in studies that include the reduction of services to students with disabilities or in the raising of class size limits to those matching regular classrooms (Billingsley, 1993; Darling Hammond, 1996). The increased need has opened the profession to serious issues of students with disabilities being taught by unqualified or under-qualified teachers. Darling-Hammond (1996) exposed the issue of poor student outcomes within the shortage problem. There are many factors that help to understand the causes of the shortage problem in special education. The retention of special education teachers has been also identified as a way to help this issue. Ingersoll (200 I) has shared the importance of building a system that supports teachers in their efforts to stay, and not to focus on only recruiting in people that under the current system keeps them only a few years. 19


Attrition of special education teachers can be defined as leaving the profession, retiring, or in transferring to another field of teaching. As early as 1991, Billingsley and Cross were reporting this movement to be significant. Ingersoll (200 1) reported that special education, math, and science majors have the highest tmnover, with special education teachers more likely to leave that any other field of teaching. In the review conducted by Boe, Bobbitt, Cook and Barkanic (1999) recognized that approximately 14,000 special education teachers leave the profession annually, not including retirements. Additionally, the over 20,007 teachers who transfer out of special education is significantly larger than teachers from the general education population (14,792) of teachers. Schnorr claims that of teachers who plan to leave special education, 12% want to transfer to the general education classroom. In fact most teachers that hold both kinds of certification, do not chose to transfer to special education (Billingsley, 1993). Boe, Cook, Bobbitt and Weber (1998) found that special and general education teachers leave at the same rates. Still, special education teachers are significantly more likely to transfer to other teaching positions than general educators. A higher percentage of special educators will transfer to general education than the reverse (8oe et al., 1998). Understanding this complex issue requires a comprehensive approach to pull together all the research in this area of attrition. Two reviews (see Billingsley, 1993, and Brownell & Smith 1997) synthesize the research findings to consolidate the findings through the 1990s. The findings in these studies are mainly focused on state data and numerous small-scale studies. For a more extensive and comprehensive update of attrition and retention see Billingsley (2002c ). 20


Severity of the Shortage Shortages in special education have continued to escalate and are predicted to only get worse. In the most recent studies, data have indicated that in the 1999-2000 school year, 36, 671 people were filling positions as teachers in special education without being fully certified (USDOE, 2001) For a full decade this shortage has existed within the increased need of more teachers to enter the field due to retirement, increased enrollment, and better identification of students with disabilities (US DOE, 200 I). This increase will expand over the next decade leading to a need for 135,000 to 200,000 additional teachers needed in special education (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1999). Shortages in special education are greater than teaching shortages in any other area including mathematics and science (AAEE, 1999). The U.S. Department of Education predicts that our nation's schools will need nearly 200,000 special education teachers within the next five years. The shortage of fully certified teachers in special education and general education is reported by Boe, Bobbitt and Barkanic ( 1998) to differ greatly due to the higher turnover rate of teachers in special education. Special education teachers were twice as likely to leave compared to the general education teacher. This study was based on a national probability sample of 46,599 public school teachers. Most of the shortage in special education came from the 32% not fully certified beginning teachers. Further demand for special education teachers is coming from an increase in the number of children entering public school. The rate of growth in the number of children ages 3-21 years in the United States grew by 6.8% between 1992 and 1999. Student identified with disabilities also grew during that same period at a rate of 20.3%, or three 21


times faster than the general population. This increased need has and will continue to expand the need for qualified special education teachers (Billingsley, 2002b). Predictors for Retention and Attrition Billingsley's early research in 1993 extensively reviewed studies completed on retention and attrition in special education. She included in her study major findings from general education retention studies to provide additional context for understanding the decisions made by the special education teachers. She concluded three major factors that influenced retention: 1) external factors consisting of societal, economic and institutional concerns; 2) employment factors surrotmding professional qualifications, work conditions commitment, and employability; and 3) personal concerns such as demographics, family issues, and cognitive/affective concerns. Billingsley (2002a) currently reports similar working conditions issues related to attrition including school climate, administrative support, salary, job design, role overload, and characteristics of students with disabilities. Studies on predictor variables and teacher retention, school transfer, and attrition in special education have continued to indicate the same patterns in several other studies. Results from national studies have shown that teacher turnover decreases when certain variables increase: teacher age before retirement, the number of dependent children, teaching experiences, and salary level (Boe et al 1997). Boe et al. (1999) found additional concerns over the financial losses at the school level due to the attrition of teachers occurring in areas of school finance, instructional salaries and benefits, which have been reported as 57% of public school expenditures 22


Gersten (200 1) presented a study of factors that involved 887 special educators and their reasons for staying or leaving in special education. They used a path analysis to determine the relationships included in the decision to stay, using factors of job commitment to special and other aspects working as a teacher in the field. Gersten found a leading negative factor to be stress due to the expectations and requirements of the job. This factor could be mitigated through administrative and/or peer support. A local Florida study was conducted by Miller, Brownell, and Smith (1999) which surveyed 1,576 special education teachers to examine factors affecting their decision to stay or leave. After tracking the teachers for two years, the results from surveys indicated that teachers left special education due to the lack of certification in the field of their high stress, and poor school climate. The age of the leavers were also significantly lower than for those teachers that chose to stay. In a report commissioned by The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), a report was issued called, Bright Futures for Exceptional Learners (2000), which confirmed the barriers teachers felt were making it difficult for them to stay: 1) Continually enlarging caseloads of students 2) An increase of students with more severe and pervasive disabilities 3) Documentation and paperwork that includes redundant pages of work without additional personnel to help 4) Administrators lack of understanding of what the job requires 5) Increased standards and curriculum requirements with unrealistic expectations for students with special needs 23


Retention of special education teachers is important to the quality of education students receive in the classroom. Cunent research continues to confirm a link between high achievement in students and the qualifications of the teacher 2000; Haycock, 1998, 2000; Wenglinsky, 2000). Teacher Preparation Programs Recently teacher preparation programs have become the target for the lack of qualified teachers in the field of teaching as a whole (Abell Foundation, 2001). Critics have suggested that teacher education programs lack academic rigor and do not inspire those with high scholastic aptitude to enter the teaching profession. Instead of improving the teaching programs, however, some suggest teacher education should be abolished altogether (Abell Foundations, 2001 ). Conversely, over the past 1 5 years of research in the general education programs, results of studies have suggested an important link between improved pedagogical knowledge and increased student achievement (see Darling-Hammond, 1999; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mtmdy, 2001). Further research indicates that in quality teacher education program there are specific practices that make a difference for effective teacher education programs 2002). Darling-Hammon (2002) suggest this trend in general education is beginning to show relationships that exist between teacher education and the educational outcomes for their students Special education has no similar linkages at this time. There is little current research that examines the qualities of effective teacher preparation and what distinguishes an effective special education teacher (Darling-Hammond, 2000). Additionally, there is no research that ties quality teacher education programs and the educational outcomes of 24


students in special education (Billingsley, 2002c). A difficulty arises in even establishing a clear relationship between one teacher and a student due to the complicated and sometimes multiple roles teachers in special education serve in the current school system. Still, with so many certified, professional teachers leaving special education and the increased development of alternative routes for teachers to special education teaching, there is an increased need to determine what characterizes a quality teacher preparation program, a quality special education teacher and how that affects students with disabilities (Brownell, 2002). Special Concerns Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Compounding the issue of a severe shortage of special education teachers is the additional concern for teachers in this field that are cultural and linguistic diverse. Students identified with disabilities and who also have roots in cultural and linguistic diverse backgrounds, make up 38% of the special education population. Only 14% of the teachers who work with these students come from similar backgrounds (US DOE, 2001 ). According to Olson (2002), the situation will only continue to worsen as accountability requirements using standardized admission policies, and less interest in becoming a teacher, reduces the number of teachers with these qualifications entering the field. Urban and Rural Schools Shortages also vary in location, as experienced in the poorer, urban and rural schools. It is in these schools where the most severe shortages of qualified special education teachers can be found (Whitworth, 2000). The shortages differ greatly between states and individual schools. In one study, five states indicated no problem with 25


acquiring and keeping certified special education teachers, where the other five states reported extreme shortages of and upward (Boe, Bobbitt, Cook, & Barkanic, 1998/1999). Motivation for attrition was examined using Billingsley's (1993) model in a study on special education and teachers from a rural community. Eighty-six teachers were interviewed regarding the reason they either remained or left their special education positions. Of the 34 variables examined, five were predictors for staying. Staying appeared to be related more to having roots within their community; including desirable housing and close distance to the school they worked (Bornfield, Hall, Hall, & Hoover, 1997). Teacher Quality During the 1994 National Commission on Teaching & America's Future (NCTAF), Governor Hunt announced three premises that would address the educational needs of students. He pronounced what students needed most to succeed were, ... teachers who are knowledgeable, skillful, and committed to meeting the needs of all students." From this commission came three basic premises: 1) Teachers are the most influential component to what students learn. 2) Recruiting, retention and preparation of quality teachers are critical to successful student academic outcomes. 3) Teachers must be included in school reform and be given conditions that support quality teaching. Later, at the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (1996/1997), the necessity to link the quality of American teachers to educational reform was 26


"We propose an audacious goal ... By the year 2006, America will provide every student with what should be his or her educational birthright: access to competent, caring and qualified teaching., Teacher quality is a multifaceted phenomenon that is difficult to both measure and prescribe. The definition of a quality teacher depends greatly on the political, social, and pedagogical place you are coming from. Based on the Commission's report, teacher quality could be increased by linking standards for teachers to student reinventing teacher preparation and professional development, renewing recruitment practices, creating monetary incentives; with a fmal recommendation to create schools that are more conducive to student and teacher success. The politically charged call to increased standards in both student and teacher education bas increasingly taken over the focus in public schools today. Governor Jim Geringer (2000) chairing the Education Commission of the States (ECS), confmned in his report that unless the nation changes the direction it is going, we will experience a serious shortage of well-qualified teachers. Two main reasons for the shortage are 1) the significant number of teachers preparing for retirement, and 2) the demand for skilled professionals leading to too many college graduates choosing other professions than teaching. The issue of teacher education being inadequate in preparing teachers for the realities in the classroom is being debated by many (Abell Foundation, 2001). Recently there has been open and directed criticism on the ability of university teacher preparation programs to being intellectually stimulating enough to interest talented and bright students into teaching. The answer according to these critics is to eliminate teacher 27


education and allow people from other fields to "qualify" as teachers, thus answering the issue of the severe shortages in special education, mathematics, science and bilingual education (Abell Foundation, 2001). I recently experienced this thinking in action in my own state of Florida when I took the new Exceptional Student Education certification that certifies me for a variety of different disability areas. Anyone can take the test with a four year degree and become certified. A PE teacher who had not taught in over 15 years and was now teaching in an out-offield varying exceptionality position in a high school was in the same room taking the test I was. She confessed to having no real background knowledge in special education, but she loved her job and was complaining of the necessity to having to take any test to keep it. We discussed various issues about special education and she knew very little, still she later reported to me that she passed the test. In fact her county has recently hired me to prepare their other teachers to also pass the test since none of them are in-field I am willing to do this only because if they are going to pass anyway, I would like to have at least one day to give them some important information concerning the needs of these students. Many of the current studies mirror the importance of teacher influence on student achievement, and call for active refonn in the fields of teaching and policy concerning teacher preparation, retention, and in professional development. Darling-Hammond ( 1996) confinned a correlation between student achievement and teacher preparedness. In one study, there was an indication that more than a 9()0A, of the variance in students' reading and mathematics scores came from teachers' qualifications. Although this does 28


not necessarily indicate a causal relationship, the studies signify an area of concern that should be further explored. The National Association of State Boards of Education's (NASBE) 2000 article claimed it was a "no-brainer" that good teachers, more than any other educational factor, contributed to a positive academic outcome for students. This declaration, yet again pushed the issue of quality teachers into an imperative that putting and keeping good teachers in the classroom is a main priority. The importance of attracting and keeping high quality teachers is possible according to Choy (1996). She suggest that schools that offer their teachers a safe, supportive, and positive working environment with adequate compensation are in a better position to keep their teachers from leaving. Working conditions that cause teachers to leave were events that make it difficult for the teachers to focus on their work. for example, large class sizes or disruptive students. The Culture of Teaching It is within culture that the meaning of what we do in our life work comes forward. Bruner (1990) reminds us that, "it is culture that provides the tools for organizing and understanding our worlds in communicable ways" (p. 3). It is from within the culture of the everyday lifeworld of special education teachers that I have studied how the personal teaching histories these four women have experienced, lead to their staying in special education. The defmition of culture in this study is situated from the individual's encounter and reference point through which the "set of acquired guidelines" have served, "to help negotiate their way through interactions and the changing circumstances of life" (Angrosino 1998, p. 33). Bruner (1990) believes, 29


All cultures have as one of their most powerful constitutive instruments a folk psychology, a set of more or less connected, more or less nonnative descriptions about how human beings 4tick,' what our own and other minds are like, what one can expect situated action to be like, what are possible modes of life, how one commits oneself to them, and so on" (p. 35). Teaching culture comes from more than the skills they possess or the task that they perfonn. The meaning teachers give to their professional work with their students is wrapped up in the many parts that make up their everyday lives. Palmer (200 1, p.167) speaks to the complexity of teachers' lives when he shares his view of good teaching, ... good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." This connection between work well done and personal meaning is woven into the everyday lifeworld of the working teacher and her choice of staying as a teacher. The special education teachers in this study continually bring their stories into the context of how meaning and values both as individuals and in community play a critical part in their decision to stay in teaching. 30


III. Methodology Research Design To more fully understand how teachers stay in special education, a qualitative, narrative research design using a phenomenological approach was chosen. Phenomenology enables us to reflect more deeply on the way we see the everyday lives of others. Clearly a hwnan science, the emphasis on the individual voice and specific consideration for the nonnal occurrences of the everyday lifeworld, brings an opportunity for looking at ordinary phenomena with new, multidimensional understanding. Using a phenomenological approach during my research in this study, I accepted van Manen's idea to ( 1990, p.29), "ward off any tendency toward constructing a predetennined set of procedures, techniques, and concepts that would rule-govern the research project". I remained open throughout the study to the possibility and necessity of change in order to honor my responsibility to the teachers, and release control of the participants' voices. It was important to me to provide a rich synthesis that would lead to a polyvocality among all of us, and a creation of themes from within the group. I felt it was necessary to be as open as possible to change and sensitive to the needs of my participants. The teachers came forward during the interview process with personal and professional experiences that spoke not only to how they stay in teaching special education, but the escalating oppression and despair they are fighting against every teaching day. 31


It became clear from the beginning of the interviews that these teachers and I were working in an emancipatory framework that lent itself to critical theory. As I thought through how to "bring light" from within the stories shared by the I was confirmed in my use of phenomenology as a helpful way of illuminating the common meaning of staying for these teachers. Still, it was necessary to dig deeper into what could best serve the ideas of oppression and suppression that the teachers were sharing. Critical theory, then more deeply into standpoint theory was the corridor I followed as I read further into the needs and historical accounts given to me by the participants. I continued to collect the stories from the teachers over time. Time was necessary in this study if I were to stay as true as possible to the intent of representing the meaning these teachers give to their life time work in special education. Through this way of constructing a study, I have been profoundly affected by the strength and grace of these women who have stayed teaching in a field that at times appears totally hostile to them. These encounters have opened the pathways to deepening my interpretation of my own teaching life experiences. Van Manen (1990 p. 31) gives a strong calling to this way of knowing, "It is a being-given-over to some quest, a true task, a deep questioning of something that stores an original sense ofwhat it means to be a thinker, a researcher, a theorist." I have remained responsible to the procedures recommended by van Manen (2002) for human science research: 1 chose a phenomenon that is of interest and commits to increasing knowledge; 2. investigate experience as we live it, not only as we conceptualize it; 3. use reflection on centralizing themes found to characterize the phenomenon; 32


4. describe the phenomenon in a cyclical writing and rewriting pattern; 5. maintain a strong orientation to a pedagogical relationship to the phenomenon; 6. flow between parts and whole during the research process. (pp.30-31) Representation is reflected in this study Wlder the standpoint theory as employed in feminist research. My study became focused on the lives of women, during the process of invitation to enter the study through a list of qualified candidates. Only women of Euro-American descent came forward during the time frame for choosing participants. As the interview process unfolded and I began my analysis of these women's stories, the feelings of oppression and marginalization, both in gender and in occupation arose. Harding states that all research should begin from the standpoint of women's lives since they are the majority, marginalized group of our society (Hartsock, 1998). This does remain controversial even among other feminist (MacKinnon, 1993). All women in our society are considered Wlder this theory as a marginalized group. Still, Harding and Wood (Hartsock, 1996) point out that all women are not a monolithic group, and will not share the same standpoint. Economic status, race, and sexual orientation all play a part in a woman's stand in our society (Hartsock, 1996). Although I shared a common bond of being a woman, from Euro-American descent, within similar socio-economic status, and a veteran certified teacher in special education, I was aware of the difficulty in determining the level of marginalization of one particular person to another. Certainly my position as the researcher, my affiliation with the university, as well as some of my former professional positions that I have held and worked with could have been perceived as power by the teachers. 33


This concern of representation was addressed by inviting and requesting participants to share control over both the interview and writing process. The questions were left open and broad, and I encouraged the teachers to "tell their own stories" from whatever time frame or position they chose during the interview time, which also remained open. I invited the teachers themselves to indicate when they felt they had fmished in all they had to say, and then had them go through their own transcripts in text and add or delete whatever they felt was necessary. After completing the final writing, I delivered the whole study to each of the teachers, again asking for their confirmation of what was shared. Additionally, I have added to the study my own experiences and understandings to make clear my own views. Data Collection Authorized letters were sent out to qualifying candidates provided by the two adjoining school districts. The Directors of Special Education compiled the list based on the criteria given in the description of the participants which included the shared experience of the phenomena, staying. A list was generated of qualified candidates from the two counties adjacent to the university. Participant Invitation I sent an invitation to the study to be signed (Appendix A), with a copy of the IRB (Appendix B), and included a summary of the study to each person on the list. One county requested I send any potential participant from their county, an approval letter for my study from their county, which I did. The final selection was made by taking the first four candidates who responded. All other candidates that responded were given a follow34


up call and letter, thanking them for responding positively and letting them know that the places had been filled. Interesting side interviews came from several of these leading teachers concerning the difficulties and joys of teaching in special education. It was difficult to hold to the cut-off of the original four. Still, after the considerable time and detail required of this kind of study, I am glad to have held at the decision of four. All four teachers who responded called me on the phone and either spoke with me directly or left a message on my recorder and I called them back. We went through the study more thoroughly and I answered and asked questions related to the studies requirements. I accepted two more names as alternates, on the chance that I or more individuals might have had to remove themselves from the study. This did not occur, and all four original teachers remained in the study throughout the five month process. Interview Process The participants were assured of their right to privacy, and during the initial interview, asked to select their own pseudonym. A consent form (Appendix B) was included in their initial packet of infonnation and was obtained at the first meeting before the interviewing took place. Participants were advised that if they declined at any time to participate, or wanted to withdrawal entirely from the study, there would be no consequences for them with the school district, or at the university. An informal pilot study was conducted with one veteran special education teacher that I followed for a year prior to this study. She had dropped out to take a sabbatical and "recuperate", and then made the decision to return to the classroom during the time we were meeting together. The dialogue we shared helped to shape this study, facilitated the 35


process of interviewing, and gave an opportunity to refine the questions I asked in the final study. She contributed greatly in building the foundation for this study. The participants were asked to meet with me for the initial interview where we would discuss further how to continue in co-producing the research study, and they signed the written consent fonn. There was concern on the part of several of the participants about the time this project would take place, and if this time would interfere with their work. We worked out an agreed upon schedule to do the main interviewing during the summer when they were all not working. I made the decision to let them detennine the time it would take to get back any revisions, additions or questions concerning the study. I set no deadlines, but instead let participants fit what needed to be done within their own constructed timeframe. The study took on its own rhythm of giving and receiving and I was able to move from whole to parts and back to whole in a very organic process. We began our main face-to-face interviews in the summer, and only met in places away from the work environment. During the transcribed interview time, the teachers were asked minimal questions in order to maximize the information given by each participant. The beginning questions concerning their teaching experiences were as follows: 1. How do you as a special education teacher define a quality teacher? 2. How did you come into the profession of teaching in special education? 3. Please describe your teaching experiences in special education and how you have stayed. 36


4. What barriers or significant issues do you think have interfered with your commitment to stay teaching in special education? A description of the experiences and all other conversation were recorded. Further questions were asked by me only when it was necessary to clarify what the participant was relating or to expand on a topic area. I shared some personal infonnation about myself and a few teacher stories during the time of the interview as a way of connection and to open the power differential to a more neutral position. When the participant had completely described the experience and felt that she had said all that she had wanted to, we ended the session. I held at least one more face-to-face interview with each of the participants. The sessions went from one to three hours in length. I went to any location they chose at the time they chose in order to provide them with maximum accessibility and comfort. I did not put a time limit on returning the transcripts to me, instead waiting for their responses when they had time to put into the project. They afforded me the same, and we kept in touch by letter or phone when anyone of us felt the need to check in on the progress of our work together (see Appendix D). An example of this is the patience and support I received is in the note written on Cleo's transcription after she returned from reviewing it, Lynn, Thank you for LISTENING and for the TIME you spend on your project. I look forward to reading your Dissertation & glad I was able to participate. You will be kept in my PRAYERS in the weeks ahead as you are typing and revising. Good Luck. Cleo 37


Participant Selection The sample was a purposive one using criterion sampling procedures. The criterion sampling used was each participant shared the characteristic of being a certified, tenured special education teacher who had at least 10 years teaching experience in special education within a 15 year span of time, and was permanently employed as a special education teacher at the time of the study. Participants also were recognized in their counties as quality educators, evidenced by the following from their county: 1) recognition in the local commwlity by recognition as a Teacher of the Year recipient, and/or being a member of an honor teaching program such as a Professional Development School (PDS) teacher, and/or receiving a scholarship in the field of special education from a recognized special education organization, such as the Council for Exceptional and/or five years of above average recommendations and scores on teacher observation evaluations from their schools. This criterion was given to the I>inlctors of Special Education Supervisor from both of the two counties. A list was generated from the directors of both counties and invitations were sent to qualified candidates. Four women veteran special education teachers volunteered to share their experiences that led to a long-term stay in teaching special education. All four women were from adjoining school districts in the Tampa Bay area. Each teacher chose her own pseudonym for the study. A limited description of each teacher is included at the beginning of section IV. (Findings). 38


Self as Research Instrument In qualitative research, the researcher is also one of the instruments used to discover meaning and understanding. How well the researcher can conduct herself during the study, the skill which she uses, and the background that she comes with are all part of how the study impacts and represents those involved. Further, it is apparent in educational research that all text is "socially, historically, politically and culturally located" (Denzin & Lincoln, 1993, p. 582). In this study, I see myself not as an instnunent, but as an integral part of what has been shaped by the work of all of the women involved. It is within my belief system that I have constructed the question, chosen the pieces and aligned the stories. I have spent a large amount of time over the last three years in this study in continual research, reflection, and renewal of ideas. I have attempted to explore the meanings and interpretations developed from within the teachers' stories without undue interference of my own perceptions and bias, yet still I know that I am a part of all of this and must acknowledge where I come from in order to create a clearer demarcation of my thinking and the thinking of each of the teachers. 1be phenomenological description that includes all of the participants involved, including the teacher that participated in the pilot study, is a composite of all of us. Their words created into the description of staying hopefully transcend the written word, and truly reflects their hearts and minds. This description is also constructed from my view of the relationships and connections of staying, birthed from within my time spent with the participants themselves, their oral and written expressions of their experiences, and deep reflection during this experience of the study. 39


My teaching career in special education came relatively late in my professional life. I finished high school at night school, already married and with a year old baby girl. I have always worked with children in some regard since I was eleven, when I first started to watch children. The early death of my first husband to suicide propelled me further into a need to continue my education. Still, it was not until my second divorce in my late with now three children, that I decided to go back to the college. I started at a community college, became the first president of the student government there, and obtained scholarships to sustain me in my effort to complete my teaching degree. All along the way, I was sustained and nurtured by people willing to give of themselves some information, care or knowledge that I needed to keep going. I met many wonderful teachers during this time, many of them not "officially" in the field. In every place I have ever worked there has always been a helpful older woman or man who has become my mentor and helped me to the next level of experience I was to encounter. I completed my bachelor's degree in special and elementary education, and began teaching in a middle school for students with emotionally handicapping disabilities. I spent five years at the middle school teaching both resource, self contained, and fmally a class for drop-out prevention. During my last year there, one of my students's was murdered and decapitated. I was very fond of this student, and the impact of his death was very difficult forme. I left the middle school and began working with students at an intensive day treatment program, then juvenile justice programs. I completed my master's degree in education leadership and went on to become a coordinator for students in many programs from community service, group homes, run-away shelters, and juvenile offender 40


programs. I continued to teach GED in the jail system. It was there that I had eight of my former students come through as adult students in my class. It was during a study at one of my facilities being conducted by a university team that I was told of the doctoral program that I eventually joined. I have lost many of my students since the beginning of my career as a teacher in special education to drugs, alcohol, crime, and premature death. I have also seen many of them go on to get their high school diplomas, get good jobs, marry and have children (not necessarily in that order) and I have always been grateful to know that they have made it to adulthood. My interest at the beginning of obtaining this degree was to continue to better understand how to help these young people with disabilities to find a way out and up to a better, healthier life I had no idea until I beganjoumaling in this study, how much my first husband's death has lead me to a career that has continually sought to help students similar to his situation learn to love themselves, and not feel the need to end their lives so tragically. I bring to this research project 15 years in the special education field as a certified special education teacher. I am currently an ESE consultant for charter and private schools, the owner and educational director of a learning center for children with learning differences, an adjunct professor in special education, as well as an outdoor education trainer for a non-profit organization. I have in the past taught special education to students with emotional, learning physical, and mental disabilities from elementary through adult levels I have taught prison teachers about special education, GED to prisoners, both male and female, and general education to children, young men and women ages 10 17 41


years old, incarcerated in juvenile justice facilities. I was a coordinator of several juvenile justice programs for the local school system. I have supervised interns in special education in a large public university and was an intern coordinator and supervisor for a private Catholic university before becoming a professor for the special education program there, until I left to complete my dissertation. I taught numerous classes about special education to undergraduates in elementary and secondary programs, and out-of field teachers at both universities. I have conducted numerous workshops for local school districts on ESE issues. I am the mother of four children, ranging in ages from 31 13, two that have been identified as both gifted and with specific learning disabilities. I am the grandmother of three with one of them being a grandson who is currently being served in the learning disabilities program. I have myself had to overcome areas of learning differences in my own academic life. Over the years I have been involved in several organizations that promoted the issues of people with disabilities, the main one being the Council for Exceptional Students. I am a single woman of 47 years, from Euro-American and Cherokee descent. My experiences of teaching in special education are similar to the women teachers who have participated with me in this study. Still, I acknowledge that within any group, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to claim "sameness" and you cannot have true access without a shared understanding (MacKinnon, 1999). To this end, I remained open to the teachers in the study for guidance and support in how they would be represented. 42


Procedures Data gathering procedures took the fonn of a series of interrelated activities focused on collecting infonnation that would expand the meaning of staying for special education teachers (Creswell, 1998, pp. 110-111 ). I began with a set of open-ended questions used as a starting point that allowed for the participants to engage and transfonn the interviews into what they wanted to share about staying (Merriam, 1988). The face-to-face interviews were the primary data collection strategy used during the study. I understood my position as an interviewer from a feminist perspective, that is, one ... which dictates openness, emotional engagement, and the development of a potentially long-tenn, trusting relationship between the interviewer and the subject" (Fontana & Frey, 2000). Further data were collected during the follow-up and cyclical process occurring over the several months of transcripting, processing, revising, discussing and writing and rewriting of the narrative stories. The participants had open access to any avenue of contact with me that they chose to respond with concerns, additions, or questions concerning the study in all times after the initial two interviews. I received emails, phone calls, and written responses from the participants over the five months I was working with them on the study. There were several times of quiet, alone time where I had to immerse myself within the transcriptions to pull together the thematic threads. I kept a personal, open journal at this time which assisted me in documenting my own reflections, comments and "aha" moments. I also wrote pattern strands down as I began to see them emerge. 43


Interviews Using a phenomenological approach requires that I, prior to the act of interviewing, spend time to "bracket" my own pre-suppositions about the phenomena of study I did this by writing out what I believed about teachers in special education, what I thought about the issues of retention and attrition, my thinking on how teachers have stayed in the field, and what solutions or ideas I have concerning the issue of staying. I also made a commitment to prepare to listen attentively, allow the conversation to flow from the participant, and ask follow up questions from what is said by the participants during the interview (Schwandt, 1997). I also used the time a year prior to this study in "stretching exercises" by interviewing a veteran special education teacher in a pilot study, and refining how and what questions would best allow for a free flow of information from the participants (Janesick, 1998). I fmmd Janesick's (1998) reference to her book, Stretching Exercises for Qualitative Researchers (1998) very helpful in discovering how to view using qualitative research in the same way you would choreography. I wrote my first haiku as she recommended, as a way to "dig deep" in preparation for my study. The first haiku is from Janesick; the second is my attempt at a "stretching" haiku: Willingness to fail, Easing into silence, Stumbling upon secrets. 44


Opening to Falling into your heart, Listening to you I found the exercise to be very interesting and harder than I thought to get the required 17 syllables required in a haiku, and have it create the right meaning. Still, it was worth the effort, in that I have found myself more than once going to this declaration and seeing if I have followed through (Janesick, 1998). The foundation of this study shaped the preferred method of inquiry which was one of an open, personalized, and an easygoing style of data collection. This method lead to a more in-depth interviewing process. During the process of interviewing, the women teachers appeared to speak openly about their lives, at times showing great emotion, as they reflected and evoked memories and stories of both past and recent experiences from their teaching lives. Narratives of women's lives are often not chronological or progressive, but come in spurts and rushes as they rework in their minds how to articulate what is appearing before them (Krieger, 1983; Noddings, 1984). Each participant completed the interviews that were audio-recorded in two sessions and at various locations, according to the needs of the participants. Follow up discussions were conducted as I returned the transcripts for review and reflection by the participants. The participants chose the names that would be used for their pseudonym, and they all chose a name that had significance to them in some manner. The names used from now on in the study are their pseudonyms. Danielle and I met in the public library in her county next to her home. Erin and I met at her home and on her family's fann property. Vivian met me in a reserved room at 45


the university library, and Cleo and I met at the public library near her home. Further contact was initiated by me or by the participants and resulted in communication by phone, email and written mail. The transcribed interviews were all face-to-face and were completed in two, one to three hours sessions adding up to eight sessions for all four participants. Discussion between the participants and me remained open throughout the five months working time on the study. There were times that I mailed all of them update letters of my progress, or lack of it, and/or called them to let them know where I was in the study (See Appendix D). We also had informal times of conversation by email or phone to go over particular parts of the text, or to share some new information. Cleo wrote back often to me adding additional comments to her work. All of them contributed additional comments as the study progressed. I intended for this study to include a "co-operative enterprise that feminist research attempts to be" (Bird, 1995, p. 25). Sharing decisions in how to deliver their story is one of the ways I attempted to share power between us. To this end, I also shared small teacher stories of my own with the teachers, trying also not to dominate during the interview process. The information from these interviews appears at times to be autobiographic as the teachers spoke to the phenomenon, or issue of staying through their life histories as teachers. This was a natural outcome of weaving both the events and meaning of staying from within the context of life as a teacher over time. The formal interview process stopped when the participants felt that they had shared all that was necessary to cover their experiences with staying. Further information 46


was accepted as the participants reflected and read over their typed transcriptions, and during the time of analysis. I transcribed and returned the face-to-face taped interviews to be reviewed first for content and then meaning. The discussion/writing cycle did not finish until all participants felt comfortable with the result and the thematic structure was evident. Participants' Reactions During the interview process, I felt it a difficult task to neutralize the power position that one-on-one interviewing produced. I noticed that when interviewing Danielle, it was much easier to establish a more comfortable, shared experience faster, in part, I tbinl4 to the way we had known and responded to each other in our working relationship prior to this study. Feminist have advanced this issue of power deferential between researcher and lone participant. Their argument against this kind of approach to data collection notes that too much power appears to go to the researcher in the methods chosen in inquiry, the questions and even in the framing of the research findings (Finch, 1984; Oakley, 1981 ). I did experience this dilemma, and wrote of my concerns and difficulty with truly revealing the experiences of these teachers in the time and space available during the study. I used several methods within the interviewing to reduce the power deferential by, 1) the length and times we met during the interview to be at the participant's request, 2) the location and setting of where the interviews were held were at the participant's request, 3) after the initial "starter" questions, the flow and topic of conversations were encouraged to be from the participant. 47


Accessing and giving voice to the subjective experiences of these women was the focus of the study. Giving voice to the contradictions and complexities experienced within the lives of these teachers was a welcomed part of the research we accomplished together. In standpoint theory, as in phenomenology, the focus is on the everyday life of each person's experiences as they are shaped and reshaped by the individual (Olesen, 1994). Protection of Human Subjects The responsibility to protect participants volunteering in research is being met in this study in several ways. I have taken and passed the Institutional Review Board (IRB) test. My IRB application was submitted and passed. I developed a letter of consent that reviews the rights of the participants and been given clearance to use the letter. Participants were given both written and oral explanations both over the phone and in person on the role in the study and their rights during and after the study. All the participants including the pilot study participant have signed the consent form and I have the original copies locked at my home. Data gathering for the study did not begin until full approval was given. Only participants who volunteered to share their story were considered for the study, and participants were informed of their right to refuse, and could withdraw from the study at any time without ramifications. I remained diligent in my awareness of the needs and concerns of each participant as I progressed through the study. Reflexivity Understanding the everyday world of these women veteran teachers in this study using standpoint theory required that I, as the researcher, not objectify, but come into a 48


whole different way of approaching the work of thinking and inquiry. This approach necessitates I use a high degree of reflexivity and fully recognize how feminist, "participate as subjects in the relations of ruling" (Smith, 1992, p.96). Reflexivity here means that the exchange of our time together was a joined effort. Both of us during the interview process had the invitation to open ourselves to expanding our knowledge of ourselves and each other by participating in observation and voice (Turner, 1988, p. 81 ). I am aware, however, that as we were sharing in our performance, I was not the one being studied, and any position of researcher still lends itself to one of power over, rather than with. Although the teachers who had volunteered to join in this study had been given extensive information concerning the use of the study, and their role in it, they still were not in the same position as I was when engaged within the interview process. I continually looked for ways to equalize and negotiate this relationship to bring the closest possibility of a shared meaningful experience. Na"ative Invitation In the narrative way of knowing Bruner (1986) acknowledges how this kind of research, "leads to good stories, gripping drama, believable historical accounts." Narrative knowing deals in human or human-like intention and action and vicissitudes and consequences that mark their course (p. 13). Bruner (1996) notes that "Our interactions with others are deeply affected by our everyday intuitive theories about how other minds work.'' (p. 45). Within the qualitative mindset, the narrative approach leads me to use the interview data as a way to tap into the teachers' everyday experiences, through the various stories of their teaching lifeworld (see Holstein & Gubrium, 1995, 1997). Narrative analysis differs from other qualitative methods such as content analysis 49


and grounded theory, by keeping to the whole and working toward an unfractured system of study. The narratives were studied as they were organized and performed during the time of the interviews. I originally had thought I would use the system called NUD*IST to help in theme development and metaphor analysis, but felt this process to be void of the cultural and locally specific knowledge that was gained as I met and collaborated with these teachers (see Gubrium & Holstein, 1995). I saw my teachers' responses in this process as cultural stories, and as a descriptive study I needed to be actively engaged with the participants to tie together the components of their stories. I spent a great deal of time working on my own expansion of extended and deepened mind work by increasing my practice of prayer, meditation, and silence. I joined a poet and artist society, and wrote and performed my first poem. I tried to open pathways and structures within myself with a disciplined life to enhance my ability to process what the teachers were telling me in a more empathic and accurate way. The teachers themselves were the driving force that moved the narratives through what themes they would surface and how those themes were connected. It was important for me to be worthy of their stories, and I prepared myself accordingly to the best of my ability. Study from Within The women teachers I interviewed for this study appeared to recognize me as a member of their teaching culture and accepted me as such. My background as a certified veteran special education teacher engaged us in many symbols of interaction that I would respond to with understanding. My travels into the various categories of disabilities, as well as placement settings, also helped me connect with the types of areas the teachers 50


each were working from. I had worked in both counties and was familiar with the names and places that all of the teachers were involved and I belonged to the Council for Exceptional Children, which two of the four teachers were active members in. It was important to me that they knew that I had "been around" and "knew the ropes". Several times, I got direct comments from the teachers expressing their support for this study, and that they appreciated that I was, "one of them". Still, my role as the researcher placed me in the "other'' category at times during our exchanges. Personal Journal I kept throughout this study, a personal journal with thoughts, reflections, drawings, parts of poems, and additional scraps of paper with scribbled notes. My youngest daughter assisted me in this collection during car drives when ideas would come into my head. There would be a quick search through the car and a scramble for left over paper and writing supplies to jot down the words before they flew back from where they came from. Her efforts made for clearer handwriting than my own in these circumstances, and were more likely to be included in the ftnal copy, than when I attempted this type of joumaling on my own. This collage approach to joumaling came from my not being in possession of the "real" journal at all times that the thoughts would come rushing out, usually in some place like my car or bed. This journal brought out all kind of feelings, emotions, and side trips that at times were helpful, and at other times distracting. During this time, I would work on the concept of"bracketing" which is an attempt by the researcher to acknowledge and distance herself from preconceptions and inside views, still knowing that complete objectivity is not possible. 51


As I understood better the concept of standpoint theory, I identified with Denzin s (1970) idea of two worlds that researchers live in, the personal and theoretical perspective. This includes the everyday world of the participants, and checking into their ways of knowing and doing. I chose not to include any specific references from my own journal during the writing of this study. Instead, I used what was written as further frames of thought used to weave together the whole of what this study became. This decision came from within a constant concern for over-representing self in the researcher role, instead of continuing to focus on the four women represented in the study. Data Analysis The raw data were recorded and transcribed verbatim for each participant. All of the data remained confidential and were kept locked in my home or office at all times when I was not working on them. After an initial trial at using a transcriptionist for one of the tapes, I redid the transcription on that tape and completed all the transcriptions myself in order to not lose any of the nuances or connections that linked me from the tapes to the actual time I spent with each teacher. Due to the open agreement of time and flexible tum in dates, I felt a harmonious flow between the collection of interviews into the tapes, notes, and journals, and then back to the participants, throughout the process of analysis. My first objective was to get a full picture by completely going through the tapes and notes all together without interference of equipment. I then used the data in various forms to open my thinking and expand how I could give voice to the experiences of these teachers. I also chose various locations for myself to process and write during this time. I spent solitary time in a Benedictine monastery, several weekends at cheap beach locations, a 52


local ranch, and in the wilderness in a tent, to facilitate the opportunity for both inspired and quiet places of reflection to complete my analysis and writing. Multi-method Approach Denzin and Lincoln (2002) describe qualitative research as, "interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and sometimes counterdisciplinary" as it includes social and physical science as well as the humanities (p. 7). I have all my life, but more intensively within the last 10 years, been a "cross reader and thinker" to not only other ways of knowing, but other places to seek it out. Tile forces and images that have entered into our recent thinking from the fields of physics and biology have been a strong influence on my thinking and in my study. As chaos and complexity emerged in the literature, they began to create a new way for me to think about human study. I have become more aware of strong interconnects we have with everything around us. Prior to beginning the study, I audited a qualitative class in criminal justice and then in women's study in order to grow in my understanding of conducting research from this ''multi-paradigmic" approach. I also sought assistance not only from the Special Education Department, but met with a professor from anthropology to further capture the idea of being, "many things at the same time" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2002, p.7). I chose a multi-method approach to the study of staying in an effort to illuminate the strongest sense of discovery from within the lifeworld of special education teachers (Denzin & Lincoln, 2002, p. 7). In an attempt to be both specific to the particular issue of staying and emancipatory in relation to the plight of the women teachers who are fighting to stay in special education, I sought several methodological positions from which to 53


contemplate. In the first analysis I used personal biographic experiences of the teachers' professional life to more fully link their story of staying into the culture of teachers. In the second analysis, I studied dramatic presentation and perfonnance to give a deeper feel for the individual participant's expression of meaning from body, language and location. I then sought out prevailing metaphors to enhance our understanding of how the individual teacher used language to give meaning in her own personal semantic association (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Finally, I used dialogical phenomenology to give a common description of the phenomenon of staying as experienced by the special education teachers. Biographic teaching experiences: a narrative story approach. The narrative story form of the study was completed inductively and moved in a non-linear cycle (Spradley, 1979). The intent in this process is to situate the stories of staying from the teachers within the culture ofteaching (e.g., Atkinson, 1998; Holstein & Gubrium, 1997). As the teachers described their world in the context of their everyday life, we have the opportunity to view their "acts of staying" as they have experienced them. I used the transcriptions of each participant in conjunction with the other methods and sought themes from within the stories as "staying points" to share the experiences of teaching beginning with their decision to come into the field, through the different events that have made up their professional lives as educators in special education. There is a feel of a life history piece to all of this, since staying requires you to look at these experiences from within the life time history of the professional life of these women. It is from within the standpoint of these women in their everyday life, that we can come to 54


understand their world better, and hope to discover ways to support these teachers in their effort to care for and teach their students with disabilities. Dramatic presentation and performance: another way of knowing. My hope is that by using multiple methods of inquiry, I will be able to bring out and refme the meaning of staying in a more fully, integrated way. In this section I used Goffman (1959) as a guide to adding in the theatrical performance as a way to demonstrate how social life can be studied. It can, "give voice to what is unspoken, but present" within the narrative text (Richardson, 2000, p.934). This area is not extensively developed, but was my attempt at use multiple avenues to layer the frames to understanding the phenomena of staying. To further this end, Ire-listened over again looking for where the pauses, pitch, and intonation changes occurred, how the participant responded emotionally (i.e., crying, laughing) and included those within the narrative sections. Accuracy of the transcriptions was critical to this process, and I was surprised as I caught slight errors I had thought I had correctly transcribed the first time I completed the process. I ended up listening to the transcription many times over the course of the study to recapture the voice as well as the text when completing each stage of the analysis. Interaction Expression: lcnowing through shared experience. My study follows the line of practice as reflexive and requires the researcher and participant to be studied dialectically. The process of interviewing remains a "political" issue that has ramifications for both sides. 1be use of a collaborative, participatory method that includes the use of mutual understanding of both cultural and personal issues during the conversation deserves notice. 55


When I first began to transcribe my tapes, I did not consider schema analysis in seeking meaning from the text. However, after I began the process of analysis, I felt there was more to learn, and sought out other avenues. I consulted the Denzin and Lincoln's book, Handbook of Qualitative Research (2002), and spoke with professors that were my mentors. I felt that I was not getting at what could distinguish and deepened the teachers' meanings of their experiences. I studied the process of schema analysis and began the work of going through the transcripts completely marking the text for cues and emotion. After re-listening over and again, through the interviews, I used code for the narratives using a model close to what Reissman (1993) used by including a system to mark patterns of speech (see Appendix C for the coding guide). Interactive connections made within the dialogue between the participants and me was needed to establish trust levels and affected the amount of disclosure each teacher was willing to make. Later, I wished I had video-taped our interview sessions in order to better assess what had occurred interactively while we spoke to each other. Though, the interference of the equipment could have interfered with our sharing, especially for people like Erin, who because of her energy and ''wiggling" level, would not have remained on camera for very long. Still, I came to realize that important information was being delivered within the interaction from the ways each participant expressed herself, and the energy produced through her expressions and movement during the interviews. I strongly felt this during the times the participants expressed themselves concerning the frustration they experienced with the system, or a particular administrator. I wondered how much of an impact the flow of conversation as steady or jerky, rambling or to-the-point, or 56


sometimes completely off topic redistributed the power dynamics present, and was it contributing to making connections, or making it more difficult to stay on topic? All of the interviews held a pattern of energy levels based on the intensity of the events equally shared between the two of us. It became impossible to bracket my background knowledge from within the conversation, though I did hold my opinions and information at bay, I did disclose some of my own teaching history and personal struggles in an effort to equalize the power dynamics and build collaboration on the mutually shared teaching life brought out in the interviews. Goffinan (1963, p. 86) states that "every relationship obliges the related persons to exchange an appropriate amount of intimate facts about self, as evidence of trust and mutual commitment" I kept in the forefront my obligation to present the teacher's story as primary to this study, and kept refocusing and attending to the work of not dominating or overpowering the teachers with my own story. An example of how an interview was affected by the researcher-participant interactions came during the second time I met with Danielle. Danielle and I had moved from our quiet, secluded room at the library after over an hour of conversation, to a comer of the main library, behind the bookshelves because of a prior group's commitment to the room after an hour. We were finishing up on what appeared to me at first, a very calm and happy explanation of how to help a child learn to spell using marshmallows. I had just stopped the tape recorder to exchange tapes, at what seems to be the click on the off button, Danielle began to quietly and slowly go into a very personal, very difficult story of a break down that had occurred over the strain of trying to be wonderful 57


in too many things. Head mostly down and in tears, she recalled a particularly difficult period in teaching when she was not sure she could keep up with everything she was involved in. I remember at the time letting a fleeting moment of"Drats! My recorder is offi" when I stopped and just listened to what she wanted to say about all of it. Danielle had trusted me to open up an area of her teaching and personal experiences that she was willing to give me at the time with only ourselves present in the tiny space we shared. No recording of every detail, no playback. I stayed in the present moment with her and at the time, and only wrote of this in my own journal, holding on to it until I felt she was comfortable with me asking to include some of what she shared to the study. She agreed to this proposal, and that is why I have written of it here. Goffinan (1963) concluded in her studies on disclosure, when participants are evoked in particularly sensitive areas, they become concerned over how they will be perceived by the listener. Goffinan brings up the suggestion that people use a cyclical pattern of contingencies when managing information about (1963, p. 91). I believe my prior successful professional relationship with Danielle that spanned over two years, supervising both pre and final interns in her classroom, gave me a stronger ground on which to build our interactions, thus allowing for a freer and quicker disclosure time, based on prior experiences that had already worked through many contingencies cycles on both of our parts. The elimination of any help transcribing the tapes came after only the beginning of one participant's story, and my conversation with the person who was transcribing. I had full confidence in the ability of my chosen transcriber who was also a certified 58


teacher in special education and a trained transcriber. Still, I felt isolated from important information and details that were brought up as she began to complete the work on the first tape. I also was self-conscious of my own disclosures and how they would be perceived. There also seemed to be a breach of the private and secured relationship that I had so carefully cultivated during the interview process. Was everything a person shared during a research project fair game for everyone? Or wasn't that part of the point in all the protection and ethical concerns about emotional safety as well? Wheatley (1999) speaks to using musical metaphors in descriptions of working together in a successful relationship. She said that with careful listening, and constant communication we can create an agreed upon melody, tempo, and key and then music appears. I was seeking a connection with my participants that were so fme-tuned to each one of the teachers, that everyone could hear her own instrument, feel her voice in the melody, and could agree and know it was good and fair. During the time of creation in the study, allowing outsiders into the process was not producing the right "sound", and I am glad I narrowed the "musicians" to those immediately involved in the production. Phenomenological Analysis The research question from the phenomenological perspective is: From the standpoint of the teacher in special education, what is the essence of the experience of staying in teaching? The transcriptions were used for the phenomenological analysis in the following procedures (van Manen, 2002): 1) All of the participants' descriptions and dialogue were read in order to get a feeling for them. 59


2) Significant statements or meaning units were extracted from each of the teacher's descriptions which included phrases and sentences that directly pertained to the investigated phenomenon. 3) Statements that were repeated were eliminated to facilitate the merging inherent in the fmal description of staying. 4) Meanings were formulated using a partial phenomenological reduction. 5) Meanings were connected to the original description of the phenomena 6) Clusters of themes were organized from the accumulated formulated meanings. The clusters were referred back to the original descriptions in order to check for clarity and full essence identification. 7) A thorough description of the phenomenon resulted from the integration of the cluster of themes and the original description. 8) A final endorsement came from returning to the participants and asking if the description formulated matched their originally shared experiences. From the taped interviews and recorded time spent with the four participants, and the one teacher in the pilot study, the transcriptions, notes and journals were used to pull significant statements to use in a descriptive analysis. (Tables can be located in Chapter VII) After the mining of all significant statements was complete, duplicates were eliminated and the remaining significant statements are presented in Table 4.1. Meanings were formulated from the significant statements and are presented in Table 4.2. The meanings were derived from reading and re-reading and then reflecting on the significant statements in the original notes and transcriptions. Taking the aggregated meanings, I organized them into clusters of themes. The clusters represent what has emerged common 60


to all of the participants' descriptions. These clusters are recorded in Table 4.3. Finally, I wrote a full description of the phenomenon produced by the assimilation of the results from all the participants using the experiences of staying in a statement of its essential structure. The description of staying is offered in Chapter IX. Credibility In qualitative research there are several ways to go about verifying the work one has completed. In this study, I have chosen to seek the "narrative truth", seeking consensus among those whose lives I have worked with to represent the collective meaning of teachers staying in special education. Ellis and Bochner (2000) shares, "the meaning of the prenarrative experience is constituted in its narrative expression. Life and narrative are inextricably connected." The power of narratives is in, ''what narratives do, what consequences they have, to what uses they can be put" (p. 746). The specific information in this study is only valid to the particular women that I have spoken to. However, in the cultural identification of women special education teachers there is an opportunity to view this study as applicable to other teachers in similar situations (Hutchinson, 1993). I also shared the entire study with all of the participants and elicited their feedback, as I have throughout the study in various stages of the development. Bruner (1996) states, "The 'rightness' of particular interpretations, while dependent on perspective, also reflects rules of evidence, consistency and coherence" (p. 14). Using this in my design I consider the credibility of the study to be enhanced by the teachers' recognition and confirmation of the findings in the study. 61


Ethical Concerns This study used a feminist communitarian model as a way to view my shared responsibility with the participants to come to mutually held conclusions on how the study was conducted. Robley (1995 p. 45) advances that the "spirit, process, and form of qualitative research are woven together with the gossamer thread of ethics. Each of the participants, during interviewing and subsequent follow-up methods, decided what was going to be shared either in dialogue or print, whether the findings are valid or acceptable, and what would happen to their work after the study was completed (Root, 1993, p.245). This method insures a commitment to, "the community in which it is carried out, rather than the community of knowledge producers and policymakers" (Denzin, 1997' p. 275). Although I completed all the required IRB formalities concerning this study, I felt it necessary to add additional precautions to ensure the emotional safety of my teachers. I shared with the teachers my concern for them, and the notion of reciprocal care and understanding that would be a part of our time together. During the time of our interviews and subsequent follow-up experiences, during my analysis with the transcriptions, and as I wrote, I was openly seeking to provide respect for each teacher's personal experience as a participant in the study. The feminist communitarian model also assumes a condition of concern for action and the empowerment ofself(see Habermas, 1971, pp. 301-317). As the study progressed, much of what was shared had to do with political, social and gender oppression. In this study, as in all feminist communitarian research, I did not look at the issue of power through only the cognitive domain. Dialogue is crucial to emancipatory 62


strategy and by sharing these teacher's experiences, my hope is that I have provided a venue for these teachers to share a human moment of what Freire (1970v. p.47) calls, "speaking a true word" of their life as teachers in the field of special education, and perhaps creating a catalyst for critical consciousness (see also Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, pp.148-149). 63


N. Findings Introduction In feminist research, we are always concerned about the representation of the complexity of a woman's life. Although I have viewed myself as an "insider" into the teaching profession, I do not claim complete access. Further, I acknowledge that there are differences that may have led to interpretations into their teaching experiences that could have led to findings that were influenced by my own teaching experiences. In protection of the teachers' anonymity and in an effort to increase accurate representation, I have asked each one of them to share with me what they would want written concerning who they are in this section. Participants' Descriptions This section became one of the most difficult to write due to my increasing awareness of the difficulty in both providing enough information to clearly represent and delineate the individual women in this study, and the equally important task of protecting their anonymity. I went back to each of the teachers prior to completing this section to have them confirm what they would want written here. Erin, in her sharp-witted sense of humor, suggested I "spice it up a little," and write she started out on the streets of a notorious "hooker" district. She thought this might help to increase my readership of the study. While this suggestion was made in fun, it expressed the openness, trust and rapport in which we all came to work within during this study. 64


All of women expressed their confidence in my ability to write them up with whatever they had shared with me, and we went over together what I had, and what they thought would say enough, without over exposing them. Their willingness to give me so much latitude, and the trust they exhibited in me to present them correctly, made me even more aware of my responsibilities in representation and protection. Gilligan (1982, 1983; Gilligan, Ward, & Taylor, 1988) speaks to my concern to do more than avoid doing harm. In the care of humans there is a need to use a higher moral "ethic of care". Given the easily missed forms of oppression and imbalance that is often overlooked in research conducted on women, I am hesitant to give any information that is not absolutely necessary to the representation of these teachers and their experiences. To that end, you will not have everything you may want as a reader to "know" these teachers Still, I believe, and this has been confirmed by the teachers themselves, that you will know them well enough to gain entry into what it is they wish to tell you concerning their teaching experiences and how they have stayed Danielle Danielle is a 45 year old woman of Jewish heritage, Euro-American descent who views herself as coming from a middle class background. She is married and has two children, a girl 18 and a boy 21. She has been teaching in special education for 24 years. She began her undergraduate work by receiving an AA degree at a community college. She earned a bachelor s degree in special education in the area of specific learning disabilities and master's degree in special education in the area of varying exceptionalities. Danielle has certification in specific learning disabilities. She has taught for 16 years in specific learning disabilities (SLD) in elementary resource and self-65


contained settings, and for eight years she taught students in SLD in secondary resource settings. She currently has an elementary, self contained SLD classroom in a suburban area of her county. Many of her students receive free or reduced lunch and are considered to be from low-income families. Danielle in her professional life has always participated in many programs and activities with her school. She is currently a team leader for the SLD program at her school. She received additional training in the supervision of interns and professional practices from honor programs at the local university. She has supervised numerous practicum and final internship teaching candidates. She is a soft spoken woman though full of animation. She goes out of her way for others, and is willing to share her knowledge of teaching with both the new teachers coming into the and those general education teachers who are struggling to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Her meetings with her colleagues are always balanced with both information concerning school events and expectations and care for the personal needs of the teachers and their shared students. Danielle enjoys time with her family when not working. She also reads and is an avid sports fan, watching baseball, football, and soccer. To release the stress of her teaching day she also likes to spend time with her dog, go to dinner and travel. Danielle and I knew each other prior to the study when I began a partnership program from the private catholic university I was working at as an ESE professor with her elementary school. I had several practicum students with her and a final intern. Her patience and effort in working with these students showed her commitment not only to her students in class, but extended to anyone in her care. When we had to remove a final 66


intern who needed additional experience before completing her internship from her room, she was both professional and caring in her attitude and behavior. The love she has for any student that is in her care was evident to me by her actions and attention. Erin Erin is a 52 year old woman ofEuro-American descent, Catholic, who considers herself to be a part of the middle class. She is married with three children, two boys ages 26 and 22 and one girl age 22. Two of her children were identified as having learning disabilities. All of her children have graduated or are attending a university. She began her undergraduate degree in a private Jesuit Catholic university, and switched to a public university after two years. She has certification in specific learning disabilities, elementary education, and ESOL. Her bachelor degree is in special education, specific learning disabilities and she has a master's degree in elementary education. Her entire teaching career of 21 years has been at one suburban middle school, and she has only taught students in the specific learning disabilities program. She enjoys teaching writing and has participated as the yearbook representative at her school for eleven years. She describes her students as being from a "broad spectrum" in socio economic status. She loves large animals and has several horses on a ranch she shares with her sisters. She also has three dogs, one that she shares as therapeutic assistant for her students in class. She also runs for exercise and stress reduction as often as she can. At the time of the interviews, Erin had recently experienced the burning down of her family home, and was relocated into a rental house. She has strong family connections besides her immediate family. She has four sisters, one of whom she shares 67


space with in the care of their horses, cows, goats and other fann ranch animals. She shared with me her home and ranch during the time of the interviews, and I enjoyed getting to know more about her from the environments that she lived and worked in. Vivian Vivian is a 39 year old woman from a Euro-American descent who describes herself as living in a middle class environment. She is married with no children. She has a bachelor's degree in teaching special education, after completing an AA degree at a community college, and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction. Vivian is certified in specific learning disabilities and varying exceptionalities, and has taught for 17 years. Vivian has had many moves in her career due to job changes for her husband. She worked at several elementary schools in K-2 setting for students served in educable mentally handicapped programs. She has also taught at the elementary level in the specific learning disabilities program for children with both SLD and language impairments. She had one placement in a middle school in a varying exceptionality setting, and her first experience teaching was at a Christian private school teaching math and science to sib-sib grade general education students for one year. She describes the school she now teaches as a suburban elementary school that serves mainly students from a low socio-economic neighborhood. She indicated 92% of the students who attend her high school are on free or reduced lunch. She has a K 2 setting for students served in an educable mentally handicapped setting. She has had this position for three years. She refuses to teach in an ESE position that does not provide a paraprofessional. 68


Although her family mainly came from a medical backgroUild., she chose to follow a teaching career during her first years in college. She has always loved working with and is an active puppeteer and actress. She performs both for her students, and on the school's morning show. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her strong sense of the importance of drama and performance comes through in both her work and in her interviews. She spoke often of the importance of developing the "person" as an important component of being a quality teacher. She belongs to several organizations affiliated with her profession, the Council for Exceptional Children, the International Reading Association, and the PTA. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2002, and 1996 in her district, Top 10 teachers in her county, and Top Five Teachers in a county in 1997. She keeps active in her community and enjoys reading, swimming, crafts and watching soap operas and old movies. Vivian sent me a quote by William Yates that she goes by in her teaching, "'Education is NOT the filling of the pail. It is the LJGmiNG of a fire. Hand me the matchesr' This choice of quote by her will give you a hint of her strength of character, and her need for action when meeting the needs of her students. Cleo Cleo is a 50 year old woman ofEuro-American descent who describes herself as both coming from and living in a middle class environment. She is married to the same man for 27 years and has two daughters ages 19 and 15 years old. She has lived in Florida for 28 years and taught for 29 years in special education. She has her undergraduate degree in special and elementary education with a minor in history. She 69


has taken over 15 hours of graduate courses at the local university in education. Cleo's certification is in mentally handicapped, specific learning disabilities, elementary education, and ESOL. For the last nine years she has taught students in an educable handicapped/varying exceptionalities setting in an upper middle class suburban high school. She has taught students in elementary and middle school settings in specific learning disabilities in mostly resource, and one self-contained university based setting. Cleo has received many awards from the educational community including: School to Work Award of Excellence in 1998, Nominee in 2002. Perseverance Award nominee in 1998, Council for Exceptional Children nominee in 2001, Teacher of the Month Award at her high school in 1997, Teacher of the Year nominee at both a middle school and high school. She also has been recognized in her community with a I 0 year service pin as a Red Cross Volunteer Sponsor, and recognition as a VA Hospital Volunteer. She belongs to many organizations, both community and professional. She is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children, Saint Timothy's Women's Club, Delta Kappa Gamma Educational Professional, Classroom Teacher Association, and has served as a professional mentor for new teachers since 1985 Believing in being well rounded in life, Cleo likes to participate in craft projects, cooking, journal writing, walking, listening to music, aerobic and yoga classes, nights out with teachers and friends, and beach time with her husband and daughters. She uses prayer and meditation prior to school each morning and reads inspirational quotes and books to keep inspired. A quote that is important to her is "We make a living by what we get -We make a life by what we give." This quote sent to me 70


in one of our feedback loops presents a view into the strong commitment Cleo shows to her profession, and her philosophy concerning her students. Cleo continually processed the writing and continued to get back to me her reflections both by calling and writing. She freely expressed her poetic and dynamic style of presentation during the study and this added to my understanding of the meaning she gave to her experience of staying a teacher in special education. How do you as a special education teacher define a quality teacher? The question of quality came up at different times during the interview process with each of the four participants. Cleo was the most active in writing back responses to me through the mail, and she wrote out her thinking as she reflected on her dialogue with me over time. Erin and I did not spend as much time on this topic, and she did not feel it necessary to expand on it after reading through her work. Both Danielle and Vivian gave me their definitions during the time of the interviews. All of the definitions are reflective of how they see themselves and their roles within the context of the expectations of the school system. Cleo s Definition of Quality A quality teacher has perseverance and through her actions is inspirational to those she teaches, even when she is unaware. A quality teacher maintains her high professionalism even when not observed by others. She is balanced; her personal life and professional life need to be nourished daily. A quality teacher is able to prioritize, extracurricular events and will participate in many for her students. A quality teacher receives the support of administration and is highly respected A quality teacher does reflect human qualities and students are very perceptive of 71


this and are supportive and nurturing during times of emergencies, such as death [she is speaking here of her father's death and her students' support during this time]. Quality teachers need some "pats on the back", some reassurance they are honored, as a little does go a long way and can "rejuvenate" our hearts. Danielle 's Definition of Quality There are some [teachers] that have come through and been doing it for a while and you want to say, "I never want my kid to ever have that teacher" and then there are other ones that you say, "Wow!" Those are the ones that are strong in knowing what to expect of the kids, so their expectations of them are high. They demand that of them, in the sense that they will push them to reach their limits, and excel for themselves. Also, having the compassion. I think if you do not have compassion and understanding of where these kids come from, then you're not going to make it. You have to have that strong base for bringing out the best in them. Compassion and a sense of humor, knowing the content and being able to deliver it. If you don't know what you are doing and can't structure your day to the best interest of the kids, and you are just floundering, there is no quality then. You will not get through. This is going to sound petty and trivial, but not yelling at the kids all the time. Your planning and delivery of instruction have got to be there, you have got to be organized person. Erin's Definition of Quality A good teacher is not a teacher of the year, it's someone who has school yrs ... someone, who likes people in general, but likes her kids ... The best teachers 72


are too busy teaching and staying out ofpolitics ... (They aren't the Chainnan of This or That . ) They learn to compromise with parents and students. Vivian s Definition of Quality My definition of quality comes from what I feel is important as a teacher which is going to be probably things that I am really good at, or things that I feel like I am not very good at that I need to work on and be better at that I think a quality teacher does. The quality teacher is a good time manager in the classroom, especially utilizing time efficiently at school, not meaning you can't be social at school. My job is to teach my children and get them prepared for life. And being a good time manager using my planning time to plan, not getting caught up in the teacher's lounge or something like that-that kind of stuff. I have always said a quality teacher knows how to document herself and cover her behind if she needs to, whatever your strategy is-they have a strategy somewhere in place to document phone calls that they have made with parents, notes home, so those types of things don't get thrown in their face. All the extra paperwork that we have to do, keeping 'it all organized and making sure you can do that. A quality teacher is able to do all that. A quality teacher is able to do that as well as present a very energetic learning environment in her room where the children's learning coming first. How Did You Enter the Profession ofTeaching in Special Education? Introduction As I entered into the process of analysis for this study, it was important to me to have a clear and thorough knowing that came not only from the interview, transcribing, 73


and reading process, but by accessing the text in multiple ways in order to come increasingly closer to the meaning these teachers were sharing on their lives as teachers in special education. In this section, I took all of the transcripts and after several readings began to cluster them into themes that told of who they are and what they share in common with the other teachers in the study in relation. This process I believe also gives the reader an opportunity to view part of what I experienced as I worked my way through to the fmal description of staying given in the phenomenological part of this study. The following is a representation of the taped interviews given, as well as additional information and clarification shared by the teachers as they read over their work and added further pieces to our study (see Appendix C for Coding Guide). The women in this study had various pathways marked by many different experiences that led into the field of teaching in special education. Their narratives "weave a complex thread of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students ... that extend throughout their lifeworld experiences as a special education teacher (Palmer, 1998, see front flap). I begin this part of my study by "setting the stage" of the teachers I interviewed in the study, by their stories of entering the profession of teaching special education. By Default For Erin, Vivian and Cleo, the era in which they grew up influenced what they perceived as there limited options for professional work. Erin speaks first: By default (R: by default?) [laughter] It was simply a default mechanism I wanted to have a second income, I wanted to do something [p] like so many people, that 74


would keep me home with my kids. I didn't want to spend a year where I didn't work and didn't have any income coming in. (R: So [p] then why teaching instead of other ... ) Like business? (R: yes) Ummm. [P] Because I like people ... .l wasn't sure I liked kids. [more laughter] So my being in a middle school is really, really by default. Also, I came from a generation that said all girls had to be teachers and nurses. I hadn't broken away from that. It was a good thing to fall back on. That is where my background initially came from. Vivian's family influence was strongly within the medical field domain, so this is where she first put her efforts. There were no teachers in my family. My whole family is basically in the medical profession; my Dad is a pharmacist, my brother is an OB-GYN, my aunt is a nurse, my grandpa was a pharmacist and owned a drugstore; my Mom is an LPN, my aunt is an RN; it is all medical. My route in the future was going to be medical. I had no doubt about that. Cleo was also caught up in what women were expected to do, but also she felt the influence of the feminist movement that was just beginning to take hold in our consciousness. She describes her dilemma in working through her choices this way: Part of that [time], my older sister was in nursing and her friends were either nursing or in education. So don't ask me what happen in 1969 [laughter] except things in the world were changing [p] there was the Vietnam War escalating [P] In 1970 everything seemed to just go, you can do whatever you wanted to do. Not so much the women's lib organization, but there was so much radical decision at this time, so I did not choose to go into education. I started in physical therapy. 75


.. .1 found out then I was too sensitive to, and that I was too involved in [the patients], and it reflected in the patients. [getting quieter] I had young men coming back from the war with no legs and no arms and I was 18 ... 19. I knew medical was not for me ... I had too much emotional involvement. .. so I went to my counselor who recommended special education. Family Influences Although Vivian had a strong medical history in her family, she also had ''teaching" experiences early in her life: Honest to goodness, it was back in kindergarten. I started with my brother, who is gifted. I tell him to this day, it was because I taught him everything [p) I knew when I carne home [from school). I'm serious man; he had a whole year ahead before he got to school, and I am the one who taught it all to him. Exposure to Disability Vivian also had exposure through her mom's work that at first during the interview did not come out. She had said it was all medical in her family, and then she began to speak about her mom later, remembering that she had worked for a time as an aide. She explains: My Mom taught mentally retarded children in Lincoln, Nebraska. She was an aide in the classroom, so I was around those children. Now I never thought about special education at all. She was around mentally retarded kids all the time. I was so young at that point. I remember her telling me that and I remember vaguely. I was in 2nd or 3nl grade and I can't remember the details. I just remember she taught and I can remember going to that school occasionally when she was off 76


work or something. But no details as far as "I want to teach mentally retarded kids when I get older", nothing like that. Being the Boss Vivian came across during the interviews as someone use to be being in charge. She liked the idea of having things her way in the classroom, and started early in developing her skills at keeping control. I always enjoyed teaching others. Now I don't know if this was a control issue at the time, the fact that I was the boss. The, "I know something you don't know so you sit down, so I can teach it to you" kind of thing. Working with Children Vivian recognized her desire to work with children. Vivian explains: I wanted to do something with kids. To me it was either pediatric medical profession or teaching. I was still thinking kid, so //pediatric medicine? Well, if I can' t do the medicine, what else could I do with kids? \\Those were the two things you could do with children. So teaching was it. And then to make myself more desirable, special ed was the route to go." Vivian also had, prior to entering her university program, spent time volunteering with children and developing her "dramatic flair" that she has now so successfully incorporated into her classroom and school life. She shares her story: When I was a teenager at my church we had a bus program. You take the church bus around and you go pick up the little children. Being a teen helper on the bus to teach the children because you are riding around for an hour, you needed something for the kids to do. The teen helper on the church bus would be the one 77


who planned the program for the bus .. .I did the songs, and I would make up posters, and I had my Dad build me a little puppet stage .. .I still do puppets to this day I love puppets. So I was doing puppets and we would do that kind of thing and we did songs and played games on the bus to keep the kids entertained while we were on this hour trip back to the church. I knew that I was going to be working with kids. Teaching as a Calling For some, the decision to become a teacher has been something they have wanted to do all their life. A "calling" can refer to an internal voice that elicits a "this is what you are here for" kind of commitment. For Danielle, the idea of becoming a teacher was recalled as something she had been practicing and planning to do since she was a very little girl. Danielle explains: When I was in high school, I wanted to teach deaf ed, that is what I really wanted to do ... [R: So you started out early knowing you wanted to be a special education teacher?] Right [p] I remember when I was little doing phonics with my dolls and things ... I remember putting my finger over the parts of words and then taking it off and doing this with my dolls and kids I babysat with. It went way back doing that, having a chalkboard and all that. Disability from Within Despite all the good grades, honors and organizations Vivian belonged to as she went to school prior to entering the university, she expressed many occasions of frustration with her academic work, especially in math as compared to her younger "gifted" brother. Her own perception of herself as a student, as mirrored back to her by 78


the significant others in her life, fluctuated as she grappled between the love, admiration and genuine care she has for her brother, and her feelings of being constantly compared to him and coming up short. These reoccurring messages appeared to lead to feelings of not being quite good enough, and sometimes to the extreme of labeling herself as a "stupid-head". Vivian gives an example of how the comparison of her brother and her feelings of inadequacy in school affected her: Anyway, ... [speeding up in rate ]when I had to choose SLD or whatever [slows down][p] I've always felt, because you know of course I have a gifted brother, so that of course can make one feel like they are stupid. Thus, leading her to make a decision to gain certification in the field of specific learning disabilities (SLD): I went into SLD mostly because I always felt I was disabled in some regard because ... (R: Really, with all the good grades you made and all?) But I had to work so hard, compared to what Tom [pseudonym for brother] was able to do. My mom just gave me back my report card book. I am looking at my grades. My mom held me back in fourth grade because of math. She held me back in the fourth grade. And my brother never got held back. The decision of becoming a teacher in special education can be located from the teacher's connection to shame or humiliation from her own educational experiences of how it feels to be "not good enough". Because I did bad [in school] in my own eyes. A lot of things I could relate to with a learning disabled student. I was like, //"Yeah, you know I understand, I understand where they're coming from" \\Not that I myselfhave ever been 79


labeled handicapped, in any regard, or taken a test, or really had a big split on scores, but I know what it is like to struggle. I know what it is like to have someone in the family that is gifted. I know what it is like to sit in the room and be the stupid-head and not answer any questions. I know what it felt like, I felt like I could sympathize, not sympathize, I could empathize with those students. I could put myself in their position and say, [voice changes to a character] "Yeah honey, I know exactly what it is like." Erin shared her identification as learning disabled in her writing to me after she reviewed her transcripts, "I was LD, but it was diagnosed as reading difficulty. I was in remedial reading classes and had tutors." Erin, as with Vivian used this affinity with being learning different as a catalyst for both becoming and working with students with the same kind of problems, "I also had teachers who made me read in public .. .I never was given a large role in a play because of my oral reading. I remember all of this when I work with the kids." Often in my classes that I teach at the university for both general and special education, the discussion on disabilities brings up the personal issues of ''feeling different" and the horror stories of what happen to them to some of them when they were in school. This identification and empathy with students who experience problems in school, lead many of them to gravitate to positions where they work with them specifically in their professional careers. 80


Describe Your Teaching Experiences in Special Education and How You Have Stayed? Relationships of Connection Listening. watching and understanding are ways in which these teachers have gone about the job of connecting to their students, not from power and status, but by developing interpersonal relationships built on trust and acceptance. Cleo tells of a conversation with one of her most disruptive students. He told her, "You know sometimes I am so bad, and when I am bad you tell me I am bad, but the moment I do anything, and I hardly do anything good, but the moment I do something good, you see it." Cleo's philosophy extends not only to what she wants for her students when they are in her classroom, but on what she wants for them in life. She states: I don't want my students in special ed only to be good when they are doing career experience or math [p] I want them to be good in all of their classes when they go out to eat, when they are in the community, I want it to stay with them. After the death of Cleo's father, her students came forward with support and care; she explains, "Ms. Cleo we all got our papers finished. Cleo are you going to smile again?" "I'm smiling" ''No, your not, your not smiling, when are you going to smile. Are you going to cry everyday?" "I am not crying." "Yes, you are." Cleo wrote me in response to her transcript reading, "Quality teachers no matter what's going on, they continue to work, to do their jobs. It is not like you are superwoman, but you do." Erin explains her relationship with her students in this way: How do I stay? I stay like I stay in a marriage. [R: And that would be?] And that would be everything has ups and downs. Marriage has ups and downs, and 81


because I like the kids, and because money is not an issue. I put up with the good or the bad because I know the pendulums going to swing. Danielle is sharing a story in this section on her struggle to take care of a boy who she sees being persecuted in another classroom. She has such a strong tie to this child's dilemma that she takes up his cause with the administration, and goes against the normal cultural pattern for teachers in a school to look the other way when another teacher is doing something wrong. She explains: I remember this little boy who ended up getting killed by a hit and run. I remember going to his classroom, I talked to the principal, a beautifollittle boy, lot of problems I remember going into the principal and saying, \\ You know this kid is being ... he is not even being given a chance when he walks into the classroom each day."// This one teacher does not give him a chance. If he didn't have a pencil she was all over his case, one side up and down the other unnecessarily . Ifhe doesn t have a pencil. Give the kid a chance Danielle also spoke of the long term relationship that is developed sometimes among students and their teachers. She speaks here of her part in this student s successful entry into adult life : There was a boy who I really connected with who went [p] to finish high school because he went into the Navy. He had to finish high school at least, he went into the Navy, and I have since seen his mother out and about in the community and he still asks his mom about me. \\"Have you seen Ms. m Once in a while I will see her and ask how he is doing and everything I made an impact on him somehow I don't know but it was a good one, kept him going. 82


Another one of her stories led to a time when Danielle felt a sense of disconnection: There were only white kids [p] that was very unusual to me. I wasn't use to that. I found only two black kids in the whole school. I was discouraged by that, coming from where I taught before, it was normal there. I really felt like, and you know, middle class white neighborhoods going on and the kids were, you know, snotty. They were snotty. I had kids I was trying to get them ready, trying to get them to know their stuff. And I would have kids in there saying, [aggressively] \\"I am just waiting until I am 16 and then I am quitting. I am not going to do anything you tell me to do." //Six foot two kids telling me to F off [p] Then they would be suspended for two days [p] they sent them back and they would be lying across the table. "What am I doing?" I am making no impact on these kids' lives what so ever. Love and Care in the Classroom The topic of love and care, thanks in part to the feminist movement, has become a topic worthy of exploring in education. I recently attended a meeting of the non-profit organization I work for in outdoor education. We had a staff member that was taking a course in character education at my university, and was using us as guinea pigs for her assignment in class. We had to go through and list all that we thought was important to our program. She thought we would get it all done in one session, maybe two. We spent two hours on just the first list and in our t111 session we threw out love as being too misunderstood and difficult to define, but left in "care". In this study, love and care for students came up in several different forms that I share now with you. 83


In Erin's story of a girl in her class who was experiencing severe mental problems, she speaks to what many of the teachers in special education have to fight with on a daily basis these days, with less and less support. What is the priority for our students during the day-is it academic, personal? According to much of what is being thrown around lately, the emphasis should be on academics only, "We are not here to be shrinks." Really, well what do you do, where do you go when you have children who are beaten, or scared, or sad? How do you just bring out the worksheet and the book, and ignore the cry for help? Erin didn't: I had a little girl last year who attempted suicide./ /Did I care if she learned to read and write? No, that was not really the issue right then. She had very crazy parents. I really cared that she came to school and got out of that environment. The last thing I needed to do was get on her case about whether she should do her school work. Awareness of the need of their student's privacy concerning the issue of their disabilities is apparent in Cleo's story on inclusion: Like if I did go into the English teacher's class and the regular ed kids were lib!, we never told them who the special ed kids were. They knew who I was and I knew who they were, but the other kids didn't and they wanted to learn all these learning strategies that we already knew and so it was a very positive thing without a lot of labeling." Students in our programs know when they have found someone authentic, someone that they are safe with. With Cleo, this student she describes is ruining almost every day of her teaching time when he is in the room, but after all the conflict, and all 84


the pain, this is what he says to her when they are at a meeting to determine the next step to follow in his escalating behavior: "But I want to stay with her!" I went, If' Why do you want to stay with me when you were being so disruptive, so disrespectful, so defiant, and you are getting documented and everything you are doing is going to cause you to be removed not only from this school, but possibly from the county.\\ They may be looking for expulsion. I want to know now why do you want to stay with me after you have just confronted me in a very belligerent way. And the student said, "Because you care for me. You are the best teacher, and you care for me. And I don't know why I, I can't help the way I am." She spoke to me about a huge production she puts together once a year for her students in an effort to include them in on what family means. She puts a great deal of time and effort that exhibits the love she has for her students and the extra effort she is willing to do in order for them to feel cared for. Cleo shares: I had students that never had a big family unit meal. They would eat in shifts. They would go to the food, to the TV, to the chair. They eat out of bags, or they buy fried chiclren and sit around. When they had a meal one time [she made a holiday meal with her students). It was almost lilre they were at my house for a family gathering and we decorated, and we invited the principals, and our counselors. It would be a very formal, professional affair. We would cook and it was work, a lot of energy. Even my young interns would go, /f'Gosh, were tired."\\ I would say, "Yeah, you 're tired." But there are certain things that I think 85


that regular kids in elementary and secondary school get to do that are they don't ever have. Erin sums up it up in this way, "I come back because I love the kids. ESE kids are different than the rest of the population even those that are less severe." A Balanced Lifewor/d 1be teachers in this study have had a variety of experiences in building a life that includes a job that requires so much of the individual self in the performance of her role. There are few jobs in our world that expect a person to be in a face-to-face, interactive relationship with so many of the same people on a daily basis. As Nias (1989) relates, for teachers to become fully participating members of their school culture, they must have, "bannony between their substantial selves and the social context of their work" (p.44). Nias use of the idea "substantial self' is directed as the core set of beliefs and values that are a part of the person's personality. Each of the teachers in the study has expressed the importance of her family, community work and school, and the necessity of harmony and balance needed in order to stay. The following are sections from the narratives on this issue of balance and harmony. field: Vivian shares her views on why she has not burned out like other teachers in her I can leave the job at work and I can go home, and that is why I believe I haven't burned out. When I went to school as an undergraduate, I remember my professor saying, special education teachers have the I /highest bum out rate of all the 86


teachers\\ and all this other stuff[p] and I was like, Whew. We read articles about burnout, and I made a decision then not to bum out; I am going to pace myself. Erin considers her time outside of the classroom to be an important part of her preparation for her coming to work ready to go. She answered this question: (R: So, how do you renew yourself?] ''Summer and horses. I have been running for years." For Cleo, her children are a major concern during the school day. She expresses the importance of how necessary it is to have them taken care of in order to give her full focus to her work: My youngest was going to start kindergarten, and I had just left my daycare that I had, so she was going to be able to start coming to kindergarten, so I would be close to the kindergarten setting at Z. There is a lot of stability and security once you have your children [p] knowing [that they are taken care of]. [P] I was very content because my daycare was right there. Cleo, later in the interview went into her struggle to decide on whether to continue on to get a master's degree. She had already been offered several leadership roles, and was active her both her school and community. She explains: I had an opportunity, when I made a decision to have children I had to give something up and I did give up my masters. I didn't finish it, and some say,//"Oh, don't you regret it."\\ And I said, "Well, I still had a lot of experiences. I still was given opportunities to do everything." .. .I was never denied anything that I wanted, that I don't have." ... [R: Quality oflife is important to you] Yeah, and I think that balance has made me excited each year to go back to school in August, it is nice to be off in the summer, especially with my children. 87


I have never heard anyone say, 1/"0h" five years from now, "Oh, I took time from my husband. took time from my daughters and got my masters."\\ [quieter, softer voice] Because I experienced a loss a few years ago when my father died, and I realized then the happiness from when I didn't work and went home to visit. There is something about gualitv. Cleo wrote me back on her transcript, "I have always felt the importance of balance in my spirit social & personal activities beyond the time I teach continues to create enthusiasm and excitement each new year." Work for these teachers takes on a powerful position in the juggle for managing and taking care of personal well-being. According to Long (1995), "stress results from the perception that the demands exceed one's capacity to cope." The relationship between increased administrative duties pressing on special education teachers and their leaving the profession was documented recently in the CEC study on working conditions (2000). Danielle gives an example of how a policy made to reduce the stress and time needed to complete IEPs for special education teachers can become just the opposite. In her county they had chosen a new computer software that was linked to all the schools in order to streamline and condense the amount of time and effort it took to complete the process. However, the lack of understanding of how special education teachers had made the time fit within their other family and community responsibilities resulted in the process actually taking away more of their personal time. Danielle speaks: But if you have children at home that you need to get home and take care of, then at 8pm at night, I could sit down and do this stuff, now my children are in bed, I can't do it anymore. Unless I go back to the source [the computer program at the 88


school], and that is what is happening. Now /wouldn't have a problem with it.[p] Now because I am at the other end of it. If I had to go up and do things [p] which I have [p] six o'clock I'm going back up to work and saying. "[animated singing voice] Dee (pseudonym) let me in." Commitment to a Higher Calling Is there a difference between teaching as a calling and teaching any other way? What is a calling? According to American Heritage's on-line dictionary a calling is, "a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence; also the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages. The first definition is laden with more passion than the and fits the "higher" focus these teachers have shared within their stories. Still, it is in the everyday choices of taking care of the students that this "calling" shines through. Cleo expresses herself in the way she goes about her work, "No one had to say you need to put these SLD kids in a regular homeroom, we just all knew, from the beginning that this was in the best interest of the students." And in the way she thinks of her role in special education: There has to be some evidence of instruction [in your work] as an educator [in special education] that makes you different. If you are not diffirent, then why are we special educators? 'There has to be evidence that you are reaching out and challenging your students within their instruction to show that you are doing something "unique,. to make that individual child learn in your ESE classroom. Cleo writes to me further, "A quality teacher sees potential in a student and is inspired to drive their students to reach that potential." She has a strong conviction of what her role 89

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means to her self-identity, "We do things all the time, we don't slack off. We have such a high value within our own personal lives, it is an automatic carry-over", and finally, "I have a very strong commitment. I think I best serve it in the position that I am in. I like what I do [special education]." Passing on the Good Life Being in special education, we know that statistics tell us that our students are not going to make it. They fail school, go to jail or prison, have children to early, and live in poverty. Hearing all of that hard data does not change the work, it just increases the intensity. Erin talks about the rewards of when our kids do make it: I do have kids who want to learn and make it rewarding, who make me feel good about myself And I have kids come back, they come back [P] These are the things that make me glad that I stayed 20 years. She speaks about a specific student she works with that was especially troubling: So this kid, his mother said he couldn 't write, and then we were picking on him. Poor Tom (pseudonym), and I was giving him things that were above and beyond his ability. She didn't take him out of my class [p] that was amazing. I expected that. I did ride him because he was smart, not stupid and I had him for three years, I am sure I had him for three years [P] He came back this past Christmas with a candy bouquet and a balloon and the information from his class. He had graduated from one of the flight aviation schools. You had to have a high school diploma. He was so excited and he said, he did attribute that to me, but it wasn 't me, it was him, he finished. So, those are the things that make it, that keep me there. 90

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Keeping the focus on the future and making it possible for the students to transition to the next step moved Cleo to follow her students to the next level: I went to the interview and one of the things that struck me during the interview was that I had had so many students that when they did leave me [at middle school] and went to [high], they were not graduating, they were dropping out at high school. All of sudden, all these kids you had in elementary, middle school, all this closeness and then I would call the high school teachers up and they would go, /f'you have them so dependent on you."\\ But then they would get to high school and they would like ... they would get cut off and they dropped out. Cleo wrote me back on her transcript, "I felt quite motivated to provide high school students with skills that were going to make them function in a realistic setting for the rest of their lives." She went on to speak about the importance of both the social and personal needs of her students, and not just focusing on the academics in order to have them prepared for the outside world, "You are not just teaching them a letter, your not teaching them a course you are getting a grade in, your teaching them something they will take with them." lbis effort pays off in the student's ability to perform a "real" function in our society instead of the institutional places they are ending up in. Cleo shares: So then we go to Target, Publix and they not only like us training there, they like to hire our students. lben the people in our community, I live in the community, so and so is working."\\ You can see the growth and application of the special edu student working. The people in the community can visibly see, and they are not hiding them in the back of the stockroom. 91

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Cleo writes: I have experienced daily rejuvenation from observing the success of students as they apply their skills in the community. We are doing it because it is an opportwrity for us to expand that individual student's skills. Not only for today, but for tomorrow, for the future. Interconnected Support System The issue of support came forward strongly for all of the teachers. The first thing Vivian said in the first interview was almost in a shout, "I have a para! (paraprofessional). Ask me how I stay in special education. I have a para! She made it a point to let me know that under no circumstances does she work alone. She actively seeks positions that require a paraprofessional and other support personnel to make it possible for her to do the quality job she expects to do. She shares one of her positions where she had the opportwrity to co-share in taking care of her students: It [the job] was severely language impaired, SLI position and I worked with the speech and language pathologist full time and an aide. [P] So there were three of us in the room [p] with the fifteen kids. [p] Boy [p] you talk about a good thing [p] if you could have a cushy job in special ed [p] and I mean [p] there are hardly any of them [p] that would be the job to get. Cleo also has had the experience of working in environments of support, and relates how even sharing the everyday, life happenings of pregnancy and children help to bond and secure a place of contentment with your job. She explains: We had a reunion last summer, but we got really tight, the entire faculty that year, about eight of us had our first child. Everyone .... would ask, II "What is in the 92

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water at X Middle School!''\\ and then the same thing happen at Z, because it was the era that every women is going through. When I was at Z Middle School, I was very, very happy there ... We had team concepts there. I was the special education electives team leader there. The importance of support from work that extends to home was critical for Cleo to feel secure and ready to focus on her students in the classroom. She shares, "I was very fortunate that if there is an emergency, my peers will go, 'We got your class covered.' In some jobs you can't do that." Cleo wrote later on her transcript about the importance of support within the school for what she was trying to accomplish with her students, I truly felt honored and respected as an educator to receive unconditional support from parents, coworkers and administrators to implement this program." [on being involved with a new transition program with high school students in EMH and TMH.] Survivalfor Warrior Teachers So how do they survive their teaching day? Vivian shares: Being able to have an exciting classroom that is fun and enjoyable, because /have to be there all day and I [am] not going to do the same rote things. Yes, my children need rote learning over and over, same thing, over and over, that doesn't mean I have to present [the work] in the same way over and over, every time. Cleo uses reflection to get back on track, "The days that I am not happy in school, I reflect back and head home, and go over what it is that I don't particularly like." Sometimes survival means doing whatever it takes to walk back in the next day without a lot of"stuff" to do, and then not have time to teach. So then when you are Danielle you 93

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"just do itf" Danielle shares her experience of getting to "the source" to finish out her IEPs: I can't do it anymore, unless I go back to the source [the computer program at the school], and that is what is happening. I can now go up at night and do things, because I am on the other end of it now [children older], which I have. I say, If' Ms. Custodian let me in, I am coming back."\\ Calling so she will not be alarmed [p] and her calling me back saying, "Are you o.k.? call me when you leave." She is the custodian doing that, but the new ones coming up have small children and families, they can't do that. I can whip out an IEP in about 45 minutes, beginning to end because I know the programs, I trained it, I can whip it out. The new people coming in, it is very hard on them. I tell them, "Do these pieces first, then come back to the harder stuff." Sometimes, as in Erin's case, you just have to make do: They say they will hold your paycheck if you don't have them [IEPs] completed and turned in by the end of the school year. There is no way to complete them and teach, and be a teacher, not even feasible. I get them done; I get as many as I can done. I have done my IEPs. I had them copied, and I did not put them in the cum. I will go back sometime this summer, and get it taken care of. Nobody is going to die because of it. Those are the things I have learned. I have learned to relax. Defining Self within the Teaching Role Vivian reflects on what really makes up what she is about in her answer on leaving: (R: Have I ever though about leaving teaching?) [P] Yes, I have [p] but it has always been to work with kids and maybe as an occupational therapist It has 94

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never been to not work with kids. I never said, II' I am just going to work in the business world because I can't stand working with these children.'\\ [P] I love working with these kids. It is the adults, the administration, the state department, all the other junk that makes people maybe consider not teaching. I love working with the kids and I love occupational therapy. Cleo defines herself in her role as teacher: We get a lot of self fulfillment and satisfaction knowing that we are doing the best [we can] We don'tjust do our best once a week, our goal, we are very goal oriented, for everyday when we go in, no matter what we encounter that we are going to do our best, and we try to do our best no matter what. What Barriers or Issues Do You Think Have Interfered With Your Commitment to Stay? Failing Support Systems and People Still, now more than ever, teachers are feeling the supports slipping away, and a new kind of more "hostile" school environment emerging that is unfriendly to the living humans that live in the system. Vivian explains the pressure she is feeling from the political "outside forces" that are creating unhealthy and nonproductive working environments for both her and students with disabilities: Those children (in SLD inclusion) are going to feel more of the pressure to take that FCAT test. And feel more of the pressure to fit that regular mold. (R: they can't graduate without it) That's right. Exactly, we have made conditions of graduation now that you have to have this and you don't have this, you don't graduate. I feel like we are part of the Borg [p] and they are assimilating us right now. [Voice changes to robot, unhuman voice] We are all going to be the same. 95

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All be the same, here comes the Borg with Governor Bush and his little metal hand. RRRRRR. We are the Borg, we are here to assimilate you. [voice back] I feel like we are in Star Trek or something. We are individuals. We learn at different rates. [Note from Vivian: Borgs are 'h human and Y2 machines who believe in assimilating all life forms to fit into a single consciousness] Erin stresses the importance of administrative support in the life of a teacher. The tension associated with her job became such that she withdrew entirely into her own small classroom world, until she found it safe again to come out among the group once again: We had lost an administrator and the second administrator [P] [dogs barking] went on full contract. And I didn't like I had known him at another school and he was very, very ugly about the EH and SLD kids, and what he thought of them. More along the lines of them all being emotionally unsettled. I don't always keep my mouth shut, and I voiced that to other people who apparently it got back to him and he called me in and told me that ifl was going to get a .full contract that I would have to give total loyalty to him. I wanted the job, so I stayed and he stayed the administrator for about three years. And I don't think I ever came out of my classroom. I don't think I went out to [eat] lunch in those three years. This deprivation went away quickly once a new administrator came into the school, providing for another opportunity to feel once again a part of the community: Then we got another principal who is with the county office now, which is a shame. He is a real teacher's advocate, and I don't think there is anyone who taught under him at the school, that did not feel they were teaching to their full potential He was wonderful. He was wonderful. wonderful. wonderful and he 96

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would support you, with parents in discipline issues. He believes that everybody who is working is working to be the best person they can be, so the cyclical effect was that you worked to be the best you could be, so that you did not let him down. There was a cyclical effect there. Although the teaching system has never been one where you expected too much in the way of recognition, Cleo's disappointment at not being even congratulated on her 25 years as a teacher from the county is understandable: I will one day write a letter to Dr. Superintendent, I will let my administrator know, I was so disappointed that on my 25m year of teaching came, you don 'I get a certificate from the county! ... thought on my 25m year I was going to get something. I didn't think I was going to get a gold watch, but I thought fme. They said, "Cleo, you don't get anything. [p] You really don't get anything. You get nothing." So, they [the administration] gave me, they have like a little stapler with a star, which was one of theirs. The issue of class size can also be looked at in terms of support. When I first began teaching in special education I had 8 students in my class, the last time I talked to an SLD teacher in this county, she had 32 students in her class. This is not special education. Cleo speaks: I think the first day of school last year I had in my first period math class, EMH, I had 25. [R: with an aide or without] No aide. And the sewing teacher came in and asked: I rAre you special ed or regular ed?" and she said, "How come you have more kids than the regular classes down the hall?\\ I said, "I have been wondering the same thing." 97

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Of course the area of paperwork goes along with the issue of caseload. Each student comes in special education with their own separate "individualized" set of documents that must be able to pass audits. Cleo reflects on the "insanity" of the process, and how the lack of necessary support makes the job impossible to do correctly: Those little things that you do, a one page narrative, then everything documented and you have to get them done. Another thing, if you have to do them on these forms, I have told my ESE specialist. I think all of the resources should be given to us. If I have 25 IEPs that I should NOT have to scrounge around and get 25 of these ... [p] Just give them to me, not other business in America would send their IBM executives into a meeting, and then say, lf'Oh, you mean there are 10 people, so go Xerox them." Cleo writes to me back on her comments: The development of a workable organizational system is imperative with all the ESE paper the district and federal government requires. Your organization will reduce the stress level and increase the quality of your IEPs. Your time will be PRODUCTIVE. Exceptionality and Placement Matter The importance of matching the student with the teacher was brought up several times with the teachers. Cleo wrote me this in the margin of her transcript: I wanted the opportunity to instruct and expand academics and real life situations for special education students so they could be successful and maintain their life in our society [on her decision to not work with students with severe mental handicapping conditions] Within that environment we had to do a lesson where 98

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you had to work with the profound student or adult, and do a unit on, with lesson plans on how they brush their teeth [p] which you developed over the semester with picking up the brush, having the brush part here, very extensive. I knew then, no [finnly put]. Danielle also spoke of the need to be working with a population of students that she could relate to: So, I went there and they really immersed you in the major exceptionalities, and I knew when I went out to X Training Center that I did not want to teach the mentally retarded. Because that freaked me out with the adults coming at you, trying to hug you, and they don't know [p] and it freaked me out! Danielle also eliminated the field of emotionally handicapped: He [the student] scared me, and at one point in time I thought I would go back and get certification in EH, but our portable was attached by a deck to an EH portable. The experiences of seeing the teacher work with them and the kids and that kind of stuff, I said no I don't think I'm going back to get EH. I never went back to get re-certified or add certification in anything but LD, that is my only certification area. She does feel comfortable in the SLD program that she has worked in and explains why: Even though my class is one step above EMH because of the group I teach, the population I teach, that is o.k. They can and I get a lot of gratification from what they can do, without foe ling like I am butting my head against the wall everyday with those other populations. I think that being able to choose makes a big difference. 99

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For Cleo it was the age of the student that made the difference for her: I knew then that I didn 't want to go back to elementary because I /i/ced, I loved that thirteen and fourteen year old. It is a difforent type of child. Not many people really care for them. They are at the beginning of their hormonal changes. They are very challenging, but I like the middle school program." This was the opposite of what Vivian felt about this same age group: I was in a middle school, SLD pull out (p) awful! They should have given me combat pay. I did not want to teach anybody higher than elementary (p] because I got the power issue going on (p] those middle and high school kids are not going to listen to you. And in the middle school, they are caught in the middle(p] they have just had five or six years of elementary school and they do not see the end of the tunnel (p] because they are in high school yet. And their hormones are just pumping and condoms, and I am just like (p] I don't want to talk about this stuff. They are just into the social thing. And the peer stuff [p] I am like (p] get over the peer thing (p] But that is them. That is what middle school is like. (p]I can't deal with that. No, after one year in middle school, I'm like (p] "ya'll need some But Erin was right there with Cleo in her feelings on middle school students: I found that I related better to middle school, than I possibly would have related to the elementary school kids, because I have a caustic, sarcastic attitude, which I am sure you haven't seen yet, and actually it is really mellowed, but what happened is that I could talk to them on their level, and not insult them and not hurt their feelings. When I met Erin for the second time, it was at her family farm. She handed me back her copy of the transcripts with her notes in the margin, and then went to work 100

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grooming the feeding the goats, and mucking the stalls. If I had managed to hang in until all the chores were done, I had been promised a ride. I declined at the last minute, due to my rush to get back to work. I truly regret that decision today based on all that I have learned through this study on the importance of"being in the moment", and missing such a clear opportunity to get to know Erin in a different environment from her work or ather home. She was giving me the gift of getting a closer and more intimate view of herself as a person in the world. In her interview with me, she began to share how this outside world she has constructed for herself, makes it possible for her to stay in teaching, (R: So how do you renew yourself?) "Summer and horses and I run. I have been running for years." We talked quite extensively about her love of horses and how they are a big part of who she is and what she does in "spare" time. As we were talking, during the time I spent out with her in the bam area, I noticed the warmth of feeling her animals had for her as she groomed and readied them for riding. Her affinity with her animals is a part of her she takes to the classroom. Vivian shares, "it is so easy to get tied up in the 'profession' of teaching that the individual is lost. We don't get to know one another outside our teacher role." I really appreciated the way Vivian expressed her position of the importance of the individual. She speaks: I am not going to be pressuring those interns that this is their life. Because I don't believe the school classroom is your life. You have a lifo outside this room that makes you the person you are when you come back on Monday, or the person you are in the room .... So, I am like, a quality teacher is not someone that can fill out 101

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paperwork, and say, "I am involved in the steering committee, and this in the school, and this in the school." And all there things revolve around school, work, and that kind of thing. So where are you as a person then in here? Where is Vivian, the person? I see you as the teacher, and I see what you do in school, and that is wonderful, but where are you as a person. Teacher Voice: Being Heard or Not Vivian sent this letter to me as an update to what was happening to her life and her thoughts on our discussion: Tom, my husband, had an interview for a job promotion last week. I contemplated yet another move. It seems once I "get to know" the system, once I make a place for myself, we move. I was talking to my ESE specialist about this and she mentioned that she, too, had moved around a lot and contributed that to her lack of "burnout". I had never really looked at my constant moving as a plus in that regard. However, once the thought entered my head, I began to think about it. Even though I am the kind of person who likes routine, who doesn't like to move, could be a homebody, I have to agree. I do believe that each move has resulted in a variety of challenges. These challenges have kept things different, unique and in a way exciting. I can appreciate where I am and what I have because I have been in worse situations. On the other hand, I have "known the good life" (if I can phrase it like that) -in Ocala. Whereas some teachers may wallow in nostalgia, crying that it is sooooo hard elsewhere, I, on the other hand, get down and dirty to make my experiences more like my blissful memories. I know I can't hire more personnel, but I will utilize my assistant to make sure I have time to get my 102

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paperwork done. If this county would rather have a para teaching my students than me, simply so I can fill out papetwork--so be it. That is the decision of the School Board and administrators, NOT ME. So, I don't allow that to bother me. I guess I have had to develop a skin". When you graduate from college you think, "Hey, I'll be doing something I enjoy alllll day! Wake up and smell the coffee, sugar. You'll be doing what you enjoy PART of the day. The rest is papetwork, meetings, more papetwork, documentation, testing, more papetwork, etc ..... You have to fmd a way, within yourself to juggle all the demands without going crazy. Each person has their own survival mechanism. By now mine is finely tuned. I know what it takes to make me happy and fulfilled at my chosen career: 1) an assistant in the room, 2) a chance to use my leadership skills (team leader, chairperson, etc.), 3) a chance to use my dramatic ability, 4) living within close proximity to my school, 5) class size-having a cap on the number of students I serve (15 cap), 6) feeling confident with the cwriculum being trained. If I continued to stay at a school where I wasn't feeling good about what I was doing then I believe, I too, would eventually bum out. But I have this self preservation thing going on. If I'm not happy tiine to look somewhere else. There are plenty of schools out there looking for good teachers. I don't need to settle for second best. 103

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V. Dramatic Presentation and Performance Introduction I used dramatic presentation style as another way of accessing the experiences of the teachers to reach the true meaning of the dialogue. Using this method helps to '"reconstruct the sense' of an event from multiple 'as lived' perspectives; it can allow all the conflicting 'voices' to be heard, relieving the researcher of having to be judge and arbiter" (Johnston, 1997). To not privilege "written" text over "oral" and "body" presentation, attention to the dramatic presentation styles of the interviews are explained. Goffinan (1963) points out that as humans we organize our activities to communicate certain impressions that will show us in our best light. GotTman distinguishes between two ways of presentation in communication: 1) verbal assertions, and 2) the expressive behavior that accompanies it. To capture the expressive behavior given off from the participants, I made notes to myself after each interview. During the study I at first focused my main attention after the interviews on typing up exactly what had been said. I then re-listened to the tapes, several times, with my typed transcripts in front of me to refme the text to include the expressions both given and received during the time of the interviews. I added in the noises, word emphasis, pitch changes, remembered gestures, and sound effects such as table-pounding or kitchen noises, laughing, crying and sighs. Other forms of self-articulation of shared culturally validated expressions were also noted, i.e., self-reliance, toughness, caring, strength, and others. 104

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Before I move to the phenomenological reduction to create a common description of staying, I used this section to focus on each of the teachers and what I found significant about how as well as what they said to me during our time in the study. As you may have noticed by the previous section, each of these teachers is unique in her presentation of her own ideas and motivations, and I found it helpful if not crucial in some cases to gaining access to the full meaning of what they were conveying to me. Vivian Voice Pitch and Na"ation Pace Many of Vivian's animations came from the way she modulated the pitch of her voice and the speed of her narration. It was not surprising to have her tell me she was a puppeteer and loved to create drama both in her classroom and for the school's morning T.V. program. Her rate of talking was at times amazing, the thoughts tumbling out at what seemed like warp speed. Then just as you felt yourself taking off, she would sweep you back into place and lay a few lines on you from below. She had a rich and colorful vocabulary, and often spoke in third person, giving a higher or lower pitch voice to her outside characters. In the following passage, Vivian spoke with such mobility and musical precision, I felt like I was in the middle of a really good story: Because I am not mentally handicapped, I cannot sit there and do nuts, bolts, and screw things, you know, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of my life and think that is my job. And I can keep doing that? I could get burned out. I need something more challenging, so the challenging aspect for me is [voice changes to higher pitch] yes, my children need a lot of repetition, they are not going to learn all their colors in a year, and they are not going to learn their 105

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numbers 1-S, or how to WRITE them in nine months. [lowers voice back down] So, what I can do as a teacher [p] to make it fun and enjoyable for them, a good learning experience for them, and also make it challenging for myself Because I have to present this stuff, over and over again [rolling words up and down]. [Now down to low voice tone] Yes, I know her. I know she needs to practice writing her name. She still does not know how to write her name. How am I going to present this? [Voice rises quickly to loud announcement and at the same time modulating up and down] Let's do shaving cream, let's do whip cream one day! Pudding, you can eat with your fingers!! Gestures and Sound Effects Vivian's presentation of what it felt like to be a part of the FCAT standardized testing world was vivid and raw. Gestures and sound effects are a part of many teachers' effective strategies to keep students alert and on-task. Her perfonnance of this section left me with a clear picture of what her experience was like for her. I really wished I had a video camera for this part: I feel like we are part of the Borg [p] and they are assimilating us right now. [Voice changes to robot, unhuman voice] We are all going to be the same. All be the same, here comes the Borg with Governor Bush and his little metal hand RRRRRR. We are the Borg, we are here to assimilate you. [voice back] I feel like we are in Star Trek or something. We are individuals. We learn at different rates. [Note from Vivian: Borgs are human and machines who believe in assimilating all life forms to fit into a single consciousness] 106

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Reiteration Reiteration is repeating words or phrases in an effective way to emphasis a point. Vivian often used reiteration both with words and phrases. She used reiteration in the following selection to describe how a quality teacher needs to have more in their life than just work; she or he needs to be developed as a person. I am not going to be pressuring those interns that this is their life. Because I don't believe the school classroom is your life. You have a life outside this room that makes you the person you are when you come back on Monday, or the person you are in the room .... So, I am like, a quality teacher is not someone that can fill out paperwork, and say, "I am involved in the steering committee, and this in the school, and this in the school." And all their things revolve around school, work, and that kind of thing. So where are you as a person then in here? Where is Vivian, the person? I see you as the teacher, and I see what you do in school, and that is wonderful, but where are you as a person. Quotations and Voice Imitations Quotes were used by all the participants in helping me to understand the characters in their narrative stories. Often they would change their voice in dramatic presentation of the separate voice of the character they were quoting. Vivian was the teacher who most often used quotations and voice imitations in her narrative style. With her flair for the dramatic plainly in view from the beginning, she 107

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would break out in direct quotes by imitating the voice of the character she was attempting to represent, including herself: [In strong, agitated voice] I like to know what's going on. I get very upset when the office doesn't communicate with you [hits the table] during the day and you hear the intercom thing, [high pitched, shrill voice] "Oh, will all the kindergarten and first grade report to the multi-purpose room for a program." [drops voice level, back to agitated] I am like, [loud, booming, strong ann gestures with something slamming to the floor] "What program? Where is the paperwork for that program? That tic/cs me off. That ticlcs me off. They have a job to communicate to me. I have these lesson plans, and going to some program was not in the plan. Now I have to move that down here to the next day, and move the whole week down there, [slows pass down to emphasis point] That [p] just [p ]makes me mad. She also used an interesting technique of posing a then answering it, in the voice of another. Vivian also used numerous different voices to depict either various characters or to emphasis the meaning as in this passage: I don't think I am nurturing. I am authoritarian. [Changes voice to one of gruff authority] "What I say goes, there is no, let's vote on the rules. I am going to tell you the rules. These are the rules in my room. Because see [p] I got to live here for twenty some odd years, and whatever, and maybe you are here for two or three, then you out the door. These are my rules. These are what I have to live with." [Vivian later expands of this statement and realizes that she is much more nurturing than she first thought.] 108

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Erin Voice Pitch and Narration Pace Erin spoke in quick, short spurts, often tumbling over words. She would often begin with a thought and move to the next sentence without hesitation that I had filled in the blanks. I have a daughter that speaks this quickly, so I had advanced training in holding on, and processing quickly. When she did pause, it was usually to make a particular point, or to add in a quotation from a person she would speak for. The following passage is an example of how Erin could move into a crescendo, speaking in wide variations in pitch and then move back into a running pace with ease: So, he had come to me, in trouble because a teacher had written him up for skipping and they had seen him on X Blvd. in front of the school [p] with some girls leaving school that were Preps. And I said I could see you with the Preps. I see you with them all the time, and he said, II "You're not a frm, you're a Redneck!" I said, "I am!" and he said "Yeah, you ride horses, go outside . I said, "I can be a Redneck sometimes too, I would describe myself as having a prep lifestyle." \\ [quickly stated] So, it is because I let my guard down with them. I let them know me a lot more than I did when I was younger. I think I am not as afraid of them as I was. I think they know that. I think that is why I don't have the discipline problems. Human &ology I also became aware of a third dimension that at first did not come to light until my second interview with Erin. I called this section, "human ecology" because of the connection this story has to the importance of understanding how we live and relate to 109

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our surroundings. It is the information coming from Erin's surroundings that I almost missed, and is an important part of her story. Erin was the only participant who chose to meet me within her own personal surroundings instead of a neutral location that was the selection of choice by the other teachers. Her home was filled with activity and noise. She was constantly moving up and down to take care of her dogs, speak to her son or mother, cooking dinner, or answering the phone. At first, I thought all this activity was a distraction to what she was telling me. This was my first interview, and I wasn't too sure of myself and whether I was doing everything correctly, and it didn't help when my batteries ran out. Erin herself seemed somewhat distracted and busy. I thought maybe I had not gotten her at a good time, and perhaps I should reschedule, still I pushed on and we got through with a good hour of interviewing in the time I was there. She was a fast talker, and very funny. She accomplished quite a few things along with the interview while I was there. And I noted on my field notes some of the things that had gone on while I was interviewing. What I did not do though is stop and ask myself what Erin could have been telling me by her choice of location, and her willingness to share a glimpse of her personal life with me. It was not until I met her at her family's farm that I became aware of how much she was sharing about herself through her chosen surroundings. Her home was not the one she calls her own. The family had experienced a fire recently and had located a house in the area to rent until everything was settled. We sat at her kitchen table to begin to get to know each other. When my batteries failed at the beginning of the interview, I had to llO

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leave and fmd a store, buy new batteries and come back to complete the interview. She took all of this in stride and gave me detailed directions on how to find the nearest store. After I came back, the activity intensified. Still, even through all of her busy activities, she kept focused on giving me her thoughts on the questions I asked. We did have to start over a few times and had more side discussions on children and horses than I had in the other interviews. Still, if I did this over again, I would have given more time to the connection of who Erin is and what she could be sharing with me in explanation of her life as a teacher. After reflecting on all that I had observed by being in Erin's personal space, I had a stronger understanding of her need for balance, her sense of pride in what she had accomplished, her roots in her community, and the time she spent in things she loved to do. The second time I met with her at the fann, I did not record anything, nor did I take notes until I left. I just stayed in the moment with her and watched the way she responded to her animals and them to her. I listened to how she spoke about her students, and what she thought about what we had already put down in text. My first impression of my time with her was totally changed by that experience. If I had interviewed Erin in a more sterile surroundings, I would have had been missing some of the critical context that makes up Erin's life. She reminded me that answers to difficult problems are going to involve a deeper knowledge about our values and beliefs. Seeking deeper knowledge requires an expansion of our viewing or listening circle. I went back over her tape with a different focus, capturing pieces of Erin that I had not noticed before. Even though I have worked hard as a special education teacher to be more aware of my students from multiple perspectives, trying to take the starting point 111

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from where their world comes from, how easy it is to forget to apply this knowledge when placed in a different context. If I had not picked up on this part of Erin, I would have not come to the same place of understanding her meaning of staying. Danielle Voice Pitch and Narration Pace Danielle's voice starts out in a relaxed, moderately paced speed of delivery then is punctuated by sets of speeded up words right after she emphasizes an important words with a more distinct definition. Although, at times, she could also jump into a voice and facial expressions that were animated and exciting: ... and then others are like, "Oh, my God! [eyes open in surprise] Why am I into this, this is not what I can do!" Danielle would also break into a whisper when she was saying something that was more personal or more confidential concerning her students. Strategic Pauses Danielle used strategic pauses throughout her dialogue which conveyed an intensity of feeling to her words. Her pauses increased in length and number when she was making a point. [Talking about keeping up with the paperwork]Unless I go back to the source, and that is what is happening. Now I [extending out the sound of I] wouldn't [speeds up] have a problem with it.(p] [slows back down] Now because I am at the other end of it Iff had to go up and do things (p] which I have (p] six o'clock I'm going back up to work and saying, "[animated singing voice] Dee (pseudonym) let me in." Quotations and Voice Imitations Danielle also used this question-answer technique in a very effective expression of what she was living: [speaking to an intern] She hated it (p] she would call me crying, 112

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"I don't know how I'm going to do !!!" [p] "Stick with it, stick with it [p] it is your in into the county." Cleo Voice Pitch and Narration Pace Cleo's voice was rapid, clear and often used stronger tones to regulate meaning within her dialogue. This is an example of this use in her discussion of downtime for teachers, "But you can't have too many days, too many hours or days of down time [speeds up] when nothing is going on [p ], that is what makes special ed look bad [P] I always like it when a teacher comes in to cover my class and they have fourteen kids in CBT or Career Experience Opportunity, and they see ffiLStudents doing structured work [p] with hands on stuff [p] and they go back and say your kids were working harder and felt like I had to be more of an instructor. All of the teachers used hand and eye movements to give more clarity or to make a point on particular topics. It made me wonder, because teachers are usually on their feet when they are performing as teachers, did sitting down during the whole time of the interviews interfere with any meaning or memories that they had wanted to share? Reiteration It is often the case that by using reiteration, the phrases can sound very poetic. I will further illustrate poetics in a following section. Using reiteration, Cleo also produced narration that lent itself to poetry: We get a lot of self fulfillment and satisfaction, knowing that we are doing the best We don't just do our best once a week, 113

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our goal, we are very goal oriented, for everyday when we go in, no matter what we encounter, that we are going to do our best, and we try to do our best no matter what. Cleo also uses reiteration to emphasis a point where she repeated her point three times when she was disappointed on her 25th anniversary in teaching with ''nothing". They said, "Cleo, you don't get anything. [p]You really don't get anything. You get nothing." Danielle: [about a principal who was supportive] "He was wonderful. He was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and he would support you, with parents in discipline issues ... Expressive Vocabulary and Syntax Often the teachers would use expressive vocabulary and differing syntax styles and to express their feelings. All the teachers had a way with using authoritative, concrete language to get their point across. The teachers were especially surprised when they got back their transcripts at how often they used shortened fragmented sentences or slang words, instead of the very proper "teacher" sentences they were thinking they were saying. Some of the examples in this section will demonstrate some of these techniques. Danielle would say, "Wow!" or "that freaked me out", Vivian used, "Whew!" and "That ticks me offi"; Erin used "Oh, Gee ... and "Oh, Yeah!", and Cleo shared, "Yeah ... and "Oh so and so". The use of expressive language was used in many ways to add meaning to the social interaction during the interviews. I have become more aware of the importance of 114

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understanding the depth of our everyday cultural exchange through this study, and how the use ofthese tools could be helpful in a deeper understanding of an individual person. 115

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VI. Metaphors I used the identification of metaphors to identify additional clues from the teachers of how they constructed their meanings or identified themselves by the choices they made in their language. Angrosino (1989, p. 1 03) suggest that an examination of how metaphors are shaped within the narrative, makes each text a "work of art." For this procedure, I listened to all of the audio-tapes, taking notes on this section, and then completely through the typed transcripts in order to examine the narratives for metaphors. The choice of metaphors has been determined by me, and may not reflect what the teachers themselves would have chosen as representative of themselves. I have focused on metaphors that illustrate the phenomena of "staying" in relation to their teaching experiences. For Vivian, the dominant strand that I have found in her narrative is one of strong, protective, and physical boundaries within a flexible, movable construction. Her metaphors are physical in nature. During the interview, Vivian was constantly physically alert and moving. While remaining in her seat, her eyes were active and dynamic; her hands were expressive and moved to the tempo of her language. The following phrases emphasize her use of physical, concrete, earthy structures when describing herself, or what others do. [I was the cream of the crop] [I just get very hard like a tough turtle shell on the back] [I am very much a control freak in that regard] 116

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[gave me a hard time] [get down and dirty] [I am tough-skinned] [so they do not bum-out] [Not being caught up in the teacher's lounge] [Not being thrown up in their face] [You've covered yourself, paperwork wise] [being a stupid-head] Metaphors by Erin direct, physical, dark and to the point speech [I was gung-ho] [foot in the door] [wouldn't go out with a bad taste in their mouths] [I spoke with a barbed tongue] [can't get blood out of a turnip] Danielle expressive and earthy [freaked me out] [bless their hearts] [other side of the railroad tracks] [down to the nitty gritty] Cleo was very specific in her word choice during her interviews. She spoke in mostly complete sentences and used fewer metaphors in her narrative. [keep you on your toes] [what is in the water at X Middle School] 117

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[they would get cut oft] [a dangling type of situation] Using multiple methods of entry into the text, language, and body expressions of the participants assisted me in moving into the final stage of this study in the development of a description of the meaning of staying. The following section reveals the description of staying as experienced by the special education teachers in this study. 118

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VII. Phenomenological Description Introduction Knowing is how we wrap ourselves into each other's shared experiences. It is in knowing that we build our connections and create the possibilities of a better world. My introduction into broadening my own knowing in other pathways than in the traditional positivistic tradition, came in a class where Dr. Heshusius was guest lecturing at the university I attended in this graduate program. She spoke of a genetic biologist I had never heard of at the time, Barbara McClintock, and how this scientist studied her com plants in a communal relationship instead of by objectification. All of this information was very new and exciting to me at the time, but caused quite a stir and a great deal of heated discussion among members of my graduate class. At the time of this class, I was preparing for surgery that actually removed me from the program for the last six weeks of my spring semester. What at first appeared as a disaster, in actuality became a time for deep reflection for me, and I have been thankful for that time of quiet ever since. I bought the book written by Evelyn Fox Keller (1983) who interviewed McClintock and spent a long time on McClintock was revealing about this, "language of relationship, of connectedness, of community" when engaged in study. I became a believer in this way of knowing, and have committed myself to becoming a researcher who would do as Keller (1983) describes McClintock as being: "Over and over again she tells us one must have the time to look, the patience to 'hear 119

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what the material has to say to you,' the openness to 'let come to you.' Above all, one must have 'a feeling for the organism."' (p.l64). Special education has certainly been a helpful way to begin in practice of this way of thinking. There is no teacher in special education that stays without developing an expanded view of time, patience, and the art of listening. Rollo May (2002) describes phenomenology as the science that makes the connection between nature, the world and our personal experience. One of my main reasons for using phenomenology in this study is because it is a science that includes both the mind and nature holistically in discovery Phenomenological Process Phenomenology is an endeavor to capture an experience in process of how it is lived out, through a descriptive analysis. Using dialogical phenomenology, I used the oral interviews given by the teachers, and involved them in thematic search during the interview process. Phenomenology has roots in the Greek word "phenesti," which means to show forth, bringing into the light (found in Phenomenology Glossary at It is during this part of the analysis that I have again added the voice of the teacher that I interviewed over a year for the pilot study. I went back through her transcripts during this time and selected statements that spoke to the same questions I had addressed with the four other women teachers in this study. Her inclusion was a decision I made toward the end of the analysis as I worked toward the description of staying, and realized her work with me also blended and added to the final description. In order to view the process that I went through in the analysis of the teachers' stories into phenomenological description of staying, please see Appendix E: Significant 120

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Statements on Staying, F: Formulated Meaning of Significant Statements, and G: Cluster of Common Themes, for further understanding. Phenomenological Understanding Phenomenological understanding is not primarily an intellectual or cognitive knowing, rather is it an embodied, situational, relational and enactive way of sensing the meaning of our everyday life experiences (van Manen, 2002). When you read the description from this study, you are entering into the essence of what this experience of staying in special education has meant to these teachers who have dedicated their lives to serving the needs of students with disabilities. Within this centralized location of teaching, their description and the further pieces they share with you come from this special world and hopefully will evoke a deeper knowing in you of how these teachers stay in special education. From within this privileged standpoint, we perhaps can come to a clearer understanding of how we can help them stay. Will we listen to them; will we act in their behalf? The following section is the main point of this entire study. All of the work surrounding this section was the background for what developed into a phenomenological description of staying. 121

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The Meaning of Staying The narrative stories of the five women teachers who participated in this study are now woven together into one common description of staying. Their shared voice comes from the privileged standpoint as veteran educators teaching now in the field of special education. My voice also is blended here as the weaver of the words, and includes my choice of inclusion, emphasis and integration. Yet each person represented here has confirmed their individual strand and has joined freely in the final production, seeing this study as a way to share their concerns as both an individual and as a group member. Our hope is that it will resonate in the reader, a sense of the importance teaching in special education is to us and how we stay. Staying in special education as a teacher is experienced as an on-going, commitment to the care of students who come with a high level of need in both their personal and academic lives. Staying commitments coincide with (a) the deep-seated belief that one's professional life, is in a worthwhile and significant occupation; (b) strong feelings of balance and hannony within the inner classroom world between student and teacher and the larger world of school, home and community; (c) an ability to attach meaning and create action to overcome barriers and obstacles both in the lives of their students and in their personal and working environments; and (d) love and/or care for their students. A special education teacher who stays: (a) focuses on being responsible to the experience of teaching students with disabilities by using it as a means of emancipation for her students to prepare for entry into the community successfully; (b) views her effort and sacrifice as both necessary and needed for the emotional and academic growth of her 122

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students; and (c) acquires an emotional identification with the successful entry of her students into their next level of academic, physical and/or social growth. As the staying lengthens in the career life of the special education teacher, she: (a) views her past as necessary preparation and a resource for future planning; (b) comes to believe that what she does in the classroom matters to the outcome of her students; and (c) becomes adept at removing, climbing, changing, enduring or going through barriers and policies that interfere with her work with her students. Finally, staying becomes a way of life that fosters the development and growth of students with disabilities through a strong commitment based on the faith that they make a difference and love born from within their heart for their students. 123

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VIII. Discussion The meaning of staying as constructed from within the everyday stories of the women that shared their teaching life with me, deeply affected my understanding of how the teachers in this study not only survive, but thrive in their chosen field. Bruner (1996) relates how, "the folk psychology of ordinary people is not just a set of self-assuaging illusions, but the culture's beliefs and working hypotheses about what makes it possible and fulfilling for people to live together, even with great personal sacrifice" (pp. 46-47). In this section I will discuss the findings of this research and then offer ideas to the education community. 1bese ideas are supported on what was learned from the veteran special education teachers in this study. I will also discuss what current practices in the field are barriers to teachers of quality staying in special education. Finally, I will discuss the political, social, and organizational policies affecting quality, certified teachers' ability and desire to stay. I feel the most disturbing element that has surfaced in this study as a whole is the continued philosophy of the school system to view their teachers through a mechanistic paradigm as "workers" that need to "produce" productive students. This negatively felt condition has created an environment that is hostile, demeaning and incongruent to the living human teachers who make up this "work force". Vivian's graphic depiction of feeling like a "Borg" clearly represented an example of conditions that fractured her sense of connection and wholeness important to her true self. 124

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The desire, heart, compassion and intelligence that permeated throughout all of the teachers in this study speak to the professionalism and personal commitment these teachers have made to the public school system. With current research discovering the importance of keeping teachers of quality working with students in achieving successful academic outcomes, there needs to be more planning and action that relates to what these experienced teachers care about. These teachers care what happens to their students and are feeling forced into compliance on more and more issues that they feel are detrimental to their students. One example brought up by each teacher is the escalating effect of using standardized testing to determine the rating of a school, and more importantly in the decision as to who receives a high school diploma in the state of Florida. Students in special education are routinely being removed from testing, and being placed on alternate diploma options, or made to take tests that do not reflect what the student can do. The stress of this issue has had a strong negative impact on the teachers in this study and their students, and strains the relationship they have in the classroom. Public education is being placed in the same position as other institutions like prisons and hospitals, in a drastic reduction of services and access to resources necessary to complete the quality work expected. The teachers in this study are increasingly being cut off from their support systems, leaving them vulnerable to stress and feelings of isolation. It is in our public schools that the democratic vision of a pluralistic society, diversity, and freedom was considered sacred. And although this idea has been darkened and battered, there still remains a strong desire in the hearts of those in the teaching 125

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profession to cling to and reinforce this idea. Special education is a shining example of progress toward the inclusion of all people into our society. Having been birthed from the civil rights movement, special education has struggled to become a strand in this opening awareness and responsible move toward equal access to education in our nation. We must remain diligent in our efforts to understand the ramifications of the social, economic and political manifestations in our decisions when creating and sustaining our public schools and our teachers. There is much to be done in the field of special education to strengthen our position of equality and fairness for all of our citizens. The voice of those living out the daily work of teaching in special education have much to say about how we can accomplish those goals and need to be heard with the authority and understanding that comes from the embodied knowing of living it. The teachers that I have studied have incorporated into their life experiences a desire and commitment to teach and advocate for students with special needs. They have integrated a strong network of support, combined with an equally strong commitment to the higher purpose of being in service to others; they keep energized by balancing and continuing to grow in their lifework both personally and professionally. They internalize their professional commitment to the identity of"self' by, as Cleo put it: ... it is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether you are in the classroom, you are in the community, people see you and they know that you are actually what you are ... It is a part of your nature. lbey are generous people who are willing to sacrifice for the needs of their students because they love them, or care for them in a nurturing way that is exhibited in their classroom environments. 126

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I believe one of the greatest expression of the human spirit still present in our schools today is the every day return of teachers to their classrooms, after all that we have done to them. The teachers in this study, as well as the hundreds I have encountered continue to make enormous sacrifices in order to meet the needs of their students, despite the fact that we continue to make their time in school continually more restrictive, less stimulating, and at times appear to lack any true regard for them as human beings. Williams (2003) recently completed a study with general education teachers on the same subject of staying. Her study spoke to this need of exemplary teachers to, "recharge by the sparks that leap between the creative art of teaching and heart-to-heart connections with others." With the continued direction of privatization and competition driving schools to be created and act in terms of profit and loss, these teachers still come to work seeking greater meaning and the shared purpose of working with students with disabilities, and rely on that to feed their soul. The school system has done little to deserve these people and this kind of staying power, and is why only so few can sustain themselves within this environment. The teachers in this study expressed a strong need to have the freedom to assert themselves in non-deterministic ways that supported their individuality and professionalism. Their centrality to the heart of teaching in special education gives them an epistemic privilege to the advanced knowledge present to them in their role as a teacher and as a woman. All of these women brought up the need for support and balance in their lives as an important component to their ability to stay. 127

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When I first met Danielle, it was two years ago, when I placed a practicum student in her class from the teacher education program. We had partnered with her school, so I came on a weekly basis and attended the meetings the special education teachers had to share information. The first meeting I attended, Danielle, who was team leader, broke from the list of"things to do" to get into a discussion on teaching in special education. She told me the story of the time she came back at the beginning of the year all excited about teaching. As head teacher she went to attend the county meeting that went over what was new in the county. When she got to the building it hit her that there were no meetings. The county had cancelled all outside meetings for teachers in her county. She said she sat in the parking lot and cried and cried. Crying, not for the "stuff' she would no longer have as easy access to, but for the human contact, connection and sharing of people committed to the common goal of special needs. Where is this support to come from now? Why were the teachers not asked to participate in making decisions about how they will interface with the district office and with their peers? Wheatley, in an interview on her book, Leadership and the New Science (1999), shares about life, "Life needs to create and participate in the creation of itself. Why would that not also be true for human beings, with our levels of thought and self awareness?" Clearly, these women come across as capable, strong, intelligent teachers who have the capacity to contribute to their school community. Failure to include them in meaningful decision making is damaging to both their own feelings of connection, and to their connection to the educational community at large. 128

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Conversely schools continue to work from within the modem paradigm of thinking, which I feel castrates the individual, and imposes external control on the actions and practices of teachers. This mechanistic, outdated framework contributes to the loss of creative and innovative teachers who are asking to have a way to share their gifts and regulate themselves in matters of their daily activities. A more progressive view of control according to Doll ( 1993) is found in, ... self regulation, chaos mathematics, Bruner's narrative, Piaget's phenocopy and Gadamer's hermeneutics. All of these [theories] assume authority to lie within (not outside) situational parameters" (p.l67). The question then becomes, what kind of schools do we want to create for these kinds of teachers? What can we do to in this particular community, in this context, with this population of students and teachers to provide a truly democratic, literate, supportive organization that enhances the possibilities of healthy, successful outcomes for its members? In Philip Slater's book, A Dream Deferred (1991), he talks about how "democracy is inevitable," because it's the only form of social organization that works under conditions of constant change and flux (p.3). Autocratic systems only work well under stable conditions, where following orders is mandatory. Systems like those however, fail quickly when equilibrium is lost through change, because change happens from the bottom up, and orders come from top down. These women are not coming to teach students in special education for profit. Their work is filled with deep meaning and heart, and with a common purpose of meeting the needs of their students with disabilities. They are alive, aware intelligent human beings that need to be fulfilled and feel a part of what they do. This truth is the same for 129

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them as it is in the patterns represented in all kind of systems, whether it is plants, molecules, or chemical. They all work best and break down the least using a democratic, inclusionary system that provides access to intellectual participation merged with social reconnection. Wheatley explains, Now I look carefully at how a work place organizes its relationships, not its tasks, functions, and hierarchies, but the patterns of its relationships and the capacities available to form them. What gives power its charge, positive or negative, is the quality of its relationships. Those who relate through coercion or from a disregard for the other person create negative energy. Those who are open to others in their fullness create positive energy. Love, in organizations, this is the most potent source of power we have available (Wheatley, 1991). Recently, I ran into the special education teacher that I worked with during the pilot study at a retirement party for a principal with whom we had mutually worked She had returned to the classroom after a one year sabbatical she took to regroup after 20 years of teaching in special education. I asked her how things were going. She told me, "I'm a bag lady." "A bag ladyT' I said. "Yes, I have the cart and everything, I go from room to room with my cart, and met the kids (SLD) in whatever room I am assigned." This apparently is the answer for overcrowding in our county; to take the students most in need for structure and place, and turn them and their teacher into "homeless" wanderers. She feels dishonored, humiliated, and ineffective. Her principal described her as one of the best special education teachers she has ever known. My now 24 had her as a teacher in middle school, and said she was one of the few teachers he ever had in SLD that he learned from. She is not coming back next year, and we needed her. 130

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I believe a starting place in our discussion of staying for these teachers should be mirroring to them a deepening of our commitment to see them as human beings and not as mechanistic "Borgs". There is a need to align decisions made in their behalf with respect for the meaning and significance they place on their role as educators of students with special needs. School systems are going to have to acknowledge quality teachers in special education as an important human element to the educational system and more than just replaceable cogs. We have an obligation as members of the educational community to commit to the common good for our students and teachers. My hope for this study is that the narrative stories and description of staying given by these teachers will enlighten and strengthen an understanding for the daily life work of teachers in special education and assist in rethinking the way we create community and work in our education systems for these teachers. What can we do to provide places based on relationships, healthy patterns and inclusion? How can we in education best use the information coming from within the description of staying from these teachers to flow their meaning of staying into action and empowerment? Can we grow in our understanding of their ethics and values in terms of their everyday lives, and assist in reversing the trend of quality teachers leaving the field of special education? 131

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Directions for Future Research and Support We know that we want quality teachers for all of our students in schools. We know that students with special needs must have the best teachers in order to overcome the enormous obstacles they face in our schools today. We have to start to understand that the teachers we already have in the field doing this kind of work are critical to the process of transforming special education. The teachers in the study have said over and over again, they have important information; they want to be listened to. We must begin to search for ways to encounter these teachers and learn from them without getting in their way, or wasting their precious time with their students. The teachers in this study came to my doctoral defense when I presented this study and expressed their appreciation of being "known". They did not need to hide behind anonymous surveys. With the dwindling numbers of veteran teachers in special education, they did not feel that they could not be identified anyway. The anonymous surveys given to them in the past had no meaning, and they said no one ever followed through to let them know what happened. The power relationships experienced now within the school system continually suppress and marginalize the ability of these women teachers to share their viewpoint with any real authority We in the research community need to align ourselves more fully to these teachers to create increased avenues of access for these teachers to express themselves in meaningful, empowered way that will not distort or exploit their information. To understand and appreciate their world, we need to belong in their world in a more significant and empathetic way that includes extended time in the schools working 132

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with teachers and their students. We need to grow in our awareness of one another's work and to become more self-conscious of our role in the "front-line" educational community we serve. Another discovery for me came in the process between interviewing and analysis. Feminist participatory research requires both the researcher and participants (who are also researchers) to co-create the study together. I needed to be as open as I wanted my participants to be in order to truly achieve the reflexivity necessary needed. I began to understand the huge responsibility of this very personal way of conducting research, and the heightened trust levels that we established. You cannot walk away untouched from this kind of study. I feel that I carry these women and their stories with me now, and the study's completion is only the beginning of the next story. They expect me to do something with their work, and I feel responsible to carry it forward. To begin this process, I share with you below the main suggestions the teachers shared with me concerning what they would like to occur now in their schools: bring back support group meetings for in their cluster areas. create places of opportunity during the school day to encourage creativity, reflection and connection. support individual and group growth in areas of emotional and intellectual growth. provide healthy, interesting, and pnxluctive ways for teachers to share time with each other. give honest and meaningful recognition. 133

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to facilitate engagement in meaningful discussions on the purpose and beliefs present in the school community. 134

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Appendices 145

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Appendix A: Invitation Letter to Join the Study The Experience of Staying: A Qualitative Study of Special Education Teachers Lynn Knight I am a doctoral student in the special education department at the University of South Florida (USF). I am also a certified special education teacher and have worked in Hillsborough County in both special and alternative education for twelve years as a teacher. I am writing you because you have the qualifications necessary for the study I have chosen to complete for my dissertation, and I am asking you to join with me in my study The study I have chosen is a qualitative exploration of how individual, exemplary, certified teachers continue to stay teaching in special education when so many of their colleagues leave the field. If you choose to be a part of the study, you need to know we will meet several times over a couple of weeks in an open dialogue interviewing process You will be able to share your story of how you have stayed teaching through the interview, by journaling, and by email, as we share back and forth in exploring your experiences. You will be given a copy of all transcripts of your interviews, and will be able to add or clarify anything you have said. Further rights are written out for you in the statement of informed consent that you will sign before we begin any of the interviews. Your voice is important and should be heard. I am only selecting four teachers for this study so that I will have the time to explore with you in-depth, your teaching experiences, and what you feel is important. Thank you for considering joining in my study. I will be taking the first four responses from the select group of participants asked to join. If you would like to participate, please sign the informed consent form, mail it back in the stamped envelope provided, and call me so that I can reach you right away. Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. There is a $50.00 stipend I will be giving you at the end of our interviewing Sincerely, Lynn Knight (813) 643-0815 146

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Appendix B: Statement oflnfonned Consent Research Project The Experience of Staying: A Qualitative Study of Special Education Teachers STATEMENT OF INFORMED CONSENT Goal of Research Project: To deepen understanding ofhow special education teachers stay teaching at a time when so many of them are leaving. The purpose of this research is to provide a meaningful description that leads to increased understanding of quality, veteran education teachers and their ability to teach at a time when many of their peers are leaving teaching. If you participate in this research, you will be asked to meet for at least three interview sessions that will take approximately one hour of your time. You will be free to email, write, pbone or add additional interview time to clarify and respond to the interview questions asked by myself, Lynn Knight. Owing the interview, you will be asked to share your personal viewpoints and some related experiences of your teaching career, at a time and location that is comfortable to you. You will be given a copy of your transcript, the interpretation and any narrative writing that is produced during the time of the study. Your participation in this research is strictly voluntary. You may refuse to participate at all, or choose to stop your participation at any point in the research, without fear of penalty or negative consequences of any kind. The information you provide for this research will be treated confidentially, and all your responses will be kept in a secured file at my home. Results of this research will be reported without any identifiable infonnation present. Your privacy and research records will be kept confidential to the extent of the law. Authorized research personnel, employees of the Department of Health and Human Services and the USF Institutional Review Board (IRB) may inspect the records from this research. You have the right to review how I recorded your responses and conversation, before the final results are published. I hope you will so that I can better verify my findings. At the conclusion of this dissertation process, a copy of the summarized findings will be sent to you, unless you tell me not to send you a copy. If you have any questions about this research study, you can contact me, Lynn Knight, the Principal Investigator, at (813) 643-4)815, or the IRB at (813) 974-5638. The results of this research may benefit you in an increased awareness and empathic understanding of your role as a special education teacher. If at any time you need more information, feel uncomfortable, or need to further clarify anything elicited as a result of the study, please feel free to seek my assistance, and I will work with you to find answers to your inquires or issues both during and after the study I, have read and understand the foregoing information explaining the pwpose of this research and my rights and responsibilities as a partic;ipant. My signature below designates my consent to participate in the project, according to the terms and conditions explained above. Signature:------------------Date : ______ Print Name : ______________________ This research project/study and Statement of Informed Consent were reviewed and approved by the University of South Florida Institutional Review Board for protection of human subjects. This approval is valid until the date provided below The Board may be contacted at (813) 974-5638. Approved thru: April2003 USF-02 INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD FWA00001669 147

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[p] [P] Appendix C: Coding Guide CODING GUIDE FOR PARSING NARRATIVES Pause of 2-3 seconds Pause of approximately 3-5 seconds Indicates voice trailing off A pause (maybe to take a breath) but a certain continuation of the same thought Voice offers clear pause within a sentence Voice signals end of sentence /1 Noticeable increase in pitch of voice \\ Decrescendo in pitch of voice, softening, quieter tone R: Researcher [ ] Side comments, usually indicating emotional overtones or activities, such as [laugh] or [cty), or to identify tone of voice [animated], [angry], or additional comments the participant made after reviewing the original transcript. Word emphasis indicated by italics Very strong word emphasis indicated by underlining 148

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Appendix D: Follow-up Letter to Participants Example of follow-up letter to participants Dear (Participant's Name): Weill bet you think it take this long to get it back to you; me eithet During this process, I have to make sute I have taken everything you have You will this to because we speak so than how we write. Please take the following suggestions as helpful hints on how to this without going crazy. 1 Do not cottect any grammar. I know you are a teacher this is what is happening with the others too, but resist this temptation. The transcript in this form is to make sute I have been accurate in what you now we to wotk on meaning. So it through to temembet what you tal keel about, then ... 2. Vsing the blank ot on yout own papet, write any further comments, clarifying statements, quotes you like to share on the topic of how you have stayecl teaching in special I want to use yout as much as possible. 3. I will take what feectback you give me then write yout story in a mote narrative form, correcting grammar, completing sentences, anct aclcling what othet information, stories ot quotes you have given me. I will then return it to you fot yout final approval fot meaning clarification. 4 Then I will (a net have begun) to pull out themes ot group what you have into areas, a net then I will look across the fout of you to see if there ate any similarities to pull out. I will write up my ftom what all of you have giving both stories group impressions, along with what research has saicl the in some of my own thoughts. 5. If you want to meet again to cliscuss any of this, just let me know, otherwise I will contact you again to check on yout ptogtess after a week ot so. I am hoping (praying) that I will be able to write all of this up in the next month, but I know that you ate back in school yout time is limitect. Thank you again fot participating. I have really listening to yout teaching experiences. I have leamect so much 149

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Appendix E: Significant Statements on Staying Significant statements are the beginning data extracted from all of the participants of the study pertaining to the phenomena of staying. With the attitude of seeing the world through the experiences of each of the teachers' lives, I first looked for any statement that reflected on the teachers' description of experiences linked to staying. I then continued to refine the list to include only statements that were unique parts that fit under thematic clusters. This process is represented in table 1.1 : Table 1.1 Significanl Statements on Staying 1. LOVE/CARE I love my kids, and know that they need extra handling I like the nurturing aspect of ESE, and would not want to go anywhere else Being a good time manager, and keeping organized with the ESE paperwork is very important Being able to have an exciting classroom that is fun and enjoyable It is a different kind of child -Not many people care for them. They were dropping out and not even getting their diplomas I am consistent and finn, but not punitive I have to pray for my students which I have done You can't pray openly, but you can pray when they are in the room, looking at them Student to teacher, 'But I want to stay with her .... because you care for me. You are the best teacher, and you care for me.' Bless their hearts Having the compassion and understanding of where these kids come from Not yelling at the kids all the time To make it worthwhile to them to grow up 2. RELATIONSHIP I have always enjoyed teaching others He told me [student], 'you know sometimes I am so bad, and when I am bad you tell me I am bad, but the moment I do anything, and I hardly do anything good, but the moment I something good, you see it.' I wanted to find out maybe if that is what I had [SLD] and a lot of things I could relate to with the learning disabled student I am their teacher 150

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(Appendix E Continued) If I get angry and I am mad, I tell the kids, 'I'm upset right now, I'm angry .. .' Ms. X is not feeling good right now, I got a stomach ache, I am human That's my teacher! It's work, but it is one of the things the students come back and if asked, 'What did you learn from Ms. X?' I take them out into the community. You have to be, the only way it works, it is not just the teacher, not just the kid, if you don't have a supportive family unit, then it is not cohesive. No, I don't sit at my desk and say, 'Everybody do your study guide and look up questions in a book.' When you can take a child that knows nothing, and make them want to read The light goes on, you know, like WOW! I don't' want my students in special ed only to be good when they are doing career experiences or math, I want them to be good in all of their classes, when they go out to eat, when they are in the community, I want it to stay with them. Humor is important The kids [tears in her eyes]. They make me stay They [students] keep me going I have kids say, 'I can't read that!' Well yes you can. They [students] are optimist. I think that's the key when I go into these classrooms and see these kids. They are excited, 'What are we going to today?' 'Oh my gosh' This made a difference to her, and it worked for her BALANCE I see you as the teacher ... but where are you as a person You have a life outside this room Hot bubble bath with candles all around and soft music playing, or whatever works for you to calm yourself back down and get yourself back in touch with your own reality I don't take a lot of work home I have always felt the importance of balance in my spiritual, social and personal activities beyond the time I teach. I can go home and rant and rave with my husband too and he has learned over the years to not try and fix it for me I am secure and loved in my family I take a break when I need one 151

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(Appendix E Continued) 4. SUPPORT I have a para, that's how I stay I don't think I ever came out of the classroom Scream and yell the loudest, kick your feet and you will get what you want My life is too short to be miserable It is not important enough to me to make myself sick over it We did all these things before they had these names [FUSE], but we were very innovative, very creative, very tight faculty He[ administrator] was very comfortable and has a really good rapport 'We got your class covered.' In some jobs you can't do that There is a lot of stability and security once you have your children taken care of I felt truly honored and respected as an educator to receive unconditional support from parents, coworkers and administrators to implement this program I felt supported and valued I said no, I don't think I'm going back to EH I can literally pick up the phone, dial the number, she sees my number and says, 'Hey babe what is going on? 5. COMMITMENT TO A HIGHER CALLING My students are my calling You cannot say, 'I am not doing your paperwork.' A quality teacher sees potential in a student and is inspirational to drive their students to reach that potential High value within our own personal lives, it is an automatic carry-over It is not something you tum on and then turn off, it is a part of your nature I don't think we are over demanding, but we don't slack It is the time you are not being observed, not being documented that people see it. I have a very strong commitment It was difficult, but I had to do it It think it is something I was given as a gift I'm in! To see a need, to act upon it and to accept the results Every human deserves a good education by a good teacher 6. PASSING ON THE GOOD LIFE I teach more than subjects, I teach how to live And I have kids come back and they come back ... these are the things that make me glad I stayed 152

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(Appendix E Continued) Granted everyday needs to be a learning experience, but there has been times that I have gone in there, one time I had a toy from Burger King that my child got, and for math that is what we did was play with this toy that rolled around on the floor Everyday ifl can't do something that is playing in some way, then I haven't had a good day 7. SURVIVAL Each person has their own survival mechanism You need to set up certain guidelines and boundaries because it does backfire. Get over it! Stick with it, stick with it Strength to preserve and do my job makes all the other stuff less valuable It is not like you are superwoman, but you do. Just let me do my job 8. TEACHING AND SELF IDENTIFICATION It was something different, so anytime anything new came along ... Because I am not mentally handicapped, I cannot sit there and do nut, bolts and screw things twentyfour hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of my life and say, 'this is my job' and keep doing that. You got to be very involve ... but you got to represent special edu, and people started seeing that you were not just ESE Every teacher needs patience, but in special education you need more of it I wanted to be in a field where I felt I was in a giving situation It was the type of position that makes you very excited I was never denied anything that I wanted, that I don't have A lot of energy If you are not different, then why are you special educators. I have a woman club meeting, I have a youth group meeting, my daughter is an a youth group, my other daughter is doing cheerleading ... Teaching is a part of my life You show your emotions I have human tendencies You feel validated in what you have done To make a difference in their lives What else would I do? I can't find anything else that would be out and about in the business world or community that would make me feel this good I am global in that way Teaching is what I do I can't shut it off at night or stop the lessons 153

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(Appendix E Continued) Life is what you make it, and I have had other jobs, I always come back to teaching I think everyday is going to get better I personally wake up everyday, knowing I have things to do that enrich not only me but others and that is very good for me It is more of a philosophy of life rather than a decision to stay in teaching It is what I do 154

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Appendix F: Formulating Meanings of Significant Statements Meanings were formulated from the significant statements. These meanings are represented in Table 1.2 Table 1.2 Formulated Meanings o Is associated with a sense of balance between significant others in personal and professional life o Evokes feelings of love, care, and compassion o Promotes a recognition of the necessary support needed from others o Facilitates a desire to be of help to others o Provides opportunities for growth, creativity, to be human o Provides for a way to pass on ''the good life" o Is a reflection of self o Creates an awareness of the commitment to a higher calling o Advances skills in resiliency to outside forces o Encourages empathy, awareness of advocacy role o Helps one to feel needed o Connected with a sense of balance of personal and professional life activities o Increases confidence in a place in the world that significance o Relationship building experiences with possibilities for positive outcomes 155

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Appendix G: Cluster of Common Themes Taking the aggregated meanings, I organized them into clusters of themes. The clusters represent what has emerged common to all of the participants' descriptions. These clusters are recorded in Table 1.3 Table 1.3 Common Themes 1. LOVE/CARE o Staying is associated with feelings of love, care and compassion the teachers have for their students o Associated feelings of nurturing, determination, creativity and tolerance, professionalism stem from the love, care and compassion they show to their students o Associated actions of doing a "good" job, being reliable, and having fun evoke from feelings of the love and care they exhibit to their students. 2. RELATIONSHIP o Staying is associated with the ability to bond in a positive way with their students that could lead to growth academically and/or personally o Associated positive bonding experiences can lead to comfortable, supportive, rewarding and enriching teacher/student relationships 3. BALANCE o Staying is associated with a sense of balance the teachers have with significant others in their lifeworld, both professionally and personally o Balance is achieved by meeting the needs of the self, as well as others. 156

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(Appendix G Continued) o Actions of organization and delineating priorities are crucial to correct balance. 4. SUPPORT o Experiences of support nurture the strength of the commitment to stay. o The eventual decision to leave or change a placement appears to be due to a weakening or removal of necessary support. o Support comes from many areas of both personal and work related areas of the teachers' lives. o Support is a part of balance. 5. COMMITMENT TO A HIGHER CALLING o The experience of the commitment to stay is linked to a perceived awareness to a higher mission to the care of their students. o Associated perceptiveness seems to influence their ability to raise their level of sacrifice for the good of their students. 6. PASSING ON THE GOOD LIFE o Staying is associated with the ability to link from what the teachers have within them to share in emotional, social, personal and academic dimensions to their student's survival into the "outside" world community. 7. SURVIVAL o Staying resiliencies are associated with the ability to adapt, change, withdrawal or remove barriers within themselves, others or outside forces that they perceive to be in the way of their work with their students. 157

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(Appendix G Continued) 8. SELF IDENTIFICATION Staying is identified with who they are as a person and that relationship to their role as a teacher in special education, as a human being; how that person operates; what that person needs to complete the job well (e.g. having human tendencies, making a difference.) From this point, I developed a thorough description of the phenomenon of staying from the interpretation of the lived experiences of the special education teachers. This description was a direct resulted of the integration of the cluster of themes and the original description. My hope is that the description given in the findings section reflects the voice of each and all the teachers in this study, and will stimulate further creative insights and understandings with respect to the issue of staying. 158

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About the Author Lynn Knight received a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education from the University of South Florida in 1987 and a M.A degree from the University of South Florida in Educational Leadership and Administration in 1994. She has an extensive history as an educator, administrator, consultant, and trainer for public, private, and charter schools. She presently co-owns ICC Teaching and Learning Center and Intellect Connect Consulting. She is a facilitator for the Pathfinder Outdoor Education Program and teaches at both the University of South Florida and Saint Leo University in the Special Education Department. She entered the Ph.D. program at the University of South Florida in 1996. She has four children and three grandchildren. She enjoys hiking, climbing, swimming, running, spending time with friends and family, yoga, canoeing, reading, good music, riding Harleys, and contemplating life on her trampoline under the trees.