The Personal and Professional Lives of RE Teachers Exploring the Relationship from English and International Perspectives The Workshop: Presenter Dr Judith Everington – University of Warwick, England Teacher educator working with trainee RE teachers (secondary level - 11-19yrs) Researcher in the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit 13 years research on the relationship between beginning teachers’ personal and professional lives. The Workshop: Aims To present research on the relationship between RE teachers’ personal and professional lives To share and discuss attempts to use research to support teachers’ development To stimulate discussion/sharing of European perspectives on the above To explore possibilities for future sharing and collaboration. In your view, is there a relationship between RE teachers‘ personal lives and the way that they teach RE/their ability to teach RE ? Is the relationship between an RE teacher‘s personal and professional life something to be explored or ignored? Discuss in relation to your own personal/professional lives and/or to teachers that you work with. Is the relationship between an RE teacher‘s personal and professional life something to be explored or ignored ? Professionals do not allow their personal lives to intrude in their work RE teachers should be strictly neutral in class so should make every effort to hide their personal beliefs and views from pupils In RE we ask pupils to share their personal experiences and beliefs so teachers should do likewise Teachers’ personal lives inevitably influence their teaching so they need to be able to judge if, when and how to draw on their personal experiences and beliefs. Is the relationship between an RE teacher‘s personal and professional life something to be explored or ignored ? ‘..for teachers, what goes on inside the classroom is closely related to what goes on outside it. The quality, range and flexibility of teachers’ classroom work are closely tied up with the way that they develop as people... Teachers teach in the way they do, not just because of the skills they have or have not learned. The ways they teach are also grounded in their backgrounds, their biographies...’(Hargreaves 1997). Why is it important that the relationship between RE teachers’ personal and professional lives is explored and studied ? To contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the nature and challenges of teaching To gain an understanding of the challenges that RE teachers face in developing a professional identity and ways of teaching that reflect a harmonious relationship between their personal and professional selves To develop strategies to enable beginning RE teachers to develop ways of teaching that reflect a harmonious relationship between their personal and professional selves. To promote a recognition and understanding of teachers’ individuality and commitments in the development of policies and top-down curriculum initiatives. The Research 1997-2011 ‘I Want to Change the World’: the Beginning RE Teacher, the Reduction of Prejudice and the Pursuit of Intercultural Understanding and Respect. Adolescent attitudes to ‘the other’: citizenship and religious education in England ‘Freedom and Direction in Religious Education. The Case of English Trainee Teachers and ‘Learning from Religion’ ‘Individuality and Inclusion - English Teachers and Religious Diversity’ ‘The Use of the Interpretive Approach in the Professional Development of Student Teachers of Religious Education. The Research 1997-2011 ‘Becoming an RE Teacher: A Life History Approach ‘'I’m a Woman before I’m an RE Teacher': Managing Religious Identity in the Secondary School ‘RE Teachers Do Get Drunk You Know’: Becoming an RE Teacher in the 21st Century' ‘European Religious Education teachers’ biographies and their perceptions of and responses to classroom diversity’ ‘We’re all in this together: beginning RE teachers use of their personal life knowledge in the classroom’. 3 Studies Considered in this Workshop Challenges faced by English trainee teachers in developinging an identity and ways of teaching that reflect a harmonious relationship between personal and professional selves European teachers‘ attitudes to and ways of dealing with diversity in the classroom in relation to their personal and professional biographies English trainees‘ use of and beliefs about teachers‘ personal life knowledge in the RE classroom. Research Context: RE and RE Teacher Training in England In state schools RE is compulsory, multi-faith (+ Philosophy/Ethics) and non-confessional Most secondary school RE specialists train for one year (PGCE course) after a degree Trainees do not need a degree in Theology or RS or to have a religious commitment Increasing numbers of agnostics/atheists and from minority ethnic backgrounds Interesting personal/professional issues. 1. Challenges that RE teachers face in developing an identity and ways of teaching that reflect a harmonious relationship between their personal and professional selves Theoretically, becoming a teacher and developing a teacher identity involves managing the relationship between the personal and professional self ‘Occupying and living a particular social role and taking on a particular identity - the RE teacher - is not the same as being seen to do so, and there is often a gap between public perceptions and individual experiences. To achieve personal and social comfort, we have to find some way of reconciling our roles and selves by constructing narratives or explanations that help us to understand who and what we are’. Challenges to RE Teachers’ Development of a Professional Identity In your professional and/or personal life have you encountered negative, erroneous, prejudiced views of RE and the RE teacher? What was/is your response to these views? 1. Challenges that Beginning RE teachers face 2 examples of the challenges that RE beginners faced as they grappled with the relationship between their personal and professional selves 1. The challenge of developing a professional identity in the face of negative images of RE/the RE teacher 2. Particular challenges for beginners with strong personal beliefs. 1a. The challenge of developing a professional identity in the face of negative images of the RE teacher ‘RE Teachers do get drunk you know!’ ‘RE Teachers do get drunk you know’ During our 1997-2000 research we discovered that many of our trainees entered teacher training with their own negative perceptions of ‘the RE teacher’ acquired as pupils and from the perceptions of others (parents, peers and media). During the course and first year of teaching they encountered the negative perceptions of trainee teachers of other subjects and in school, those of pupils and teachers of other subjects. Trainees’ memories of RE/RE Teachers during their school days ‘I hated RE it was so boring - a Mickey Mouse subject taught by Mickey Mouse teachers - it was a joke !’ ‘I went to Catholic schools and had it rammed down my throat so no I didn’t have a good impression of RE and RE teachers’. ‘ I thought of RE teachers as either Christians with an agenda or hippies with guitars and sandals’ ‘I don’t remember any of my RE teachers’. The RE Teacher : Encountering negative perceptions from other student teachers and pupils ‘Even the other trainees, when you’re introducing yourself and they say ‘What’s your subject?’ and you say ‘RE’, ‘Oh, Um, Well’ and they take a step back and look embarrassed and you can see them thinking, ‘What do I say to this person now?’. It’s really obvious’. ‘I had a lot of negative reactions from pupils. I was called “Bible Basher’ and they assumed that I had no friends and no social life because I was teaching RE’. ‘I never expected teaching RE to be easy. I know religion isn’t cool but that doesn’t stop me wanting to do it because I know it’s worthwhile ...To be honest though I hadn’t expected to work so hard to convince people that I’m still me even though I’m doing this job’. Trainee Teachers’ Responses to Negative Perceptions ‘I make sure to tell pupils early on that I’m an atheist’ ‘On occasion I was called “Bible Basher’. They assumed I had no friends and no social life because I was teaching RE. At first I ignored this stereotypical view but when I felt more comfortable with my pupils I chatted with them about music and nightclubs. I will always remember the astonished 30 faces looking back at me. I think this was a good thing to do because the pupils finally saw that I was ‘human’ and I was ‘normal’ and that religion is not simply confined to ‘stale’ and ‘boring’ people as they once thought’. The Value of the Research As a teacher educator I was able to hear what the trainees were experiencing/feeling and realise that some were responding to this inappropriately A conviction that I needed to know and understand for every trainee group that I teach But also clear that trainees had benefited from research opportunity to reflect on their experiences and express feelings A conviction that opportunities should be provided during training course for reflection/expression and strategies developed to help avoid inappropriate responses. 1b The challenge of teaching RE and remaining true to personal beliefs Case Study 1: Clive’s Story Case Study 2: Chip’s Story A Personal and Professional Response to Case Study 2 My negative reaction to Chip’s evangelical position and attitudes - I should not have introduced a person with such views in to the RE profession. Recognition that I was reacting personally not professionally - I had a responsibility to recruit, enable and support teachers from all and every religious background and belief I needed to develop an awareness and approaches to enable all trainees to feel sufficiently included and trusting to explore and develop the relationship between their personal and professional lives. In Chip’s case I had not done this. A Personal and Professional Response to Case Study 2 ‘Preservice teacher preparation programmes are usually too short, too structured and too insensitive to individual needs to do anything but provide a thin overlay experience, one that usually does not meld with previous life experiences and beliefs about teaching. By not accommodating and dealing with the biographies of teachers in preparation, future beginning teachers are bound to become teachers who teach in the way that they were taught and who will be limited in the ways in which they can professionally develop (Knowles 1992 147) Enter Trevor Cooling: ‘No RE teacher, religious or non-religious, can be neutral’ (‘Commitment and Indoctrination: a dilemma for Religious Education?’ 2002) Cooling 2002 We are all shaped by our ‘meta-narratives’ + by the stories we tell about our life experiences, which both influence and are interpreted in accordance with our meta-narratives. All teachers need to be aware that they come to RE with meta-narratives which define their view of the nature and importance of religion and the way in which society should approach it .These will be held with great conviction. It is easy to be blinded by the seeming common sense of our own commitments, so beginning teachers need to identify features of their own meta-narratives and consider how these have been shaped by their life experiences and might influence the teaching of RE. All teachers need to find a harmony between their personal meta-narratives and their professional responsibilities. This can be achieved if it is accepted that the teaching of RE can be based on shared goals which can be supported by teachers who have very different personal narratives. If teachers can see these goals as justified and derived from their own meta-narratives it’s possible to think in terms of ‘a coalition of RE teachers’ in which partners pursue the same goals but for different reasons’. Some ITE Strategies – Comments ? Building a trusting and supportive learning environment Introductory group sharing of personal beliefs (including tutor) Written autobiographies in relation to aims + periodic return to these Discussion of/reflection on issue of ‘neutrality’ + Cooling Case studies from research Reflection on school placements to include personal responses M level study of ‘Reflexivity’ related to pupils and teachers + Sessions on representing religions and personal perceptions of/ reactions to these. 2. European teachers‘ attitudes to and ways of dealing with diversity in the classroom in relation to their personal and professional biographies The REDCo Teachers Research Aims A small sample of practising secondary school RE teachers in England, Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway - to investigate: The teachers’ understanding of, attitudes to and strategies for dealing with diversity - in all its forms but especially related to ethnic and religious diversity The key influences on these, with particular reference to teachers’ personal and professional biographies. REDCo Findings: Similarities Despite v diff backgrounds, all teachers v committed to teaching RE - many identified themselves personally as teachers ie ‘I am a teacher’ not ‘I work as a teacher’ All viewed religious/cultural diversity positively + there were common strategies for ‘dealing with’ diversity = Enabling pupils to express their own beliefs, views + experiences + make up their own minds - concern that teachers’ beliefs and views should not be an obstacle Classroom discussion a key strategy but concern about pupils’ privacy and drawing attention to difference – all attempt to create a safe and inclusive classroom for personal sharing. Some REDCo Findings: Differences National socio-cultural factors – including dominant views of relationship between religion and education – affected how teachers prioritised aspects of diversity English + French prioritised socio-economic differences; German and Dutch = religious differences; Estonian = attitudes to religion and RE; Norwegians = learning styles + prior subject knowledge and attainment REDCo Conclusions/Recommendations Teachers’ attitudes to/strategies for dealing with diversity related more to life experiences and personal beliefs than to initial or in-service training But also influenced by national socio-cultural factors A need for teachers to reflect on the influences of the personal + national in order to be aware of these + for awareness to lead judgements about how to respond to diversity in the classroom A need for more research on personal and national influences on teachers’ attitudes/strategies + support in enabling them to make professional judgements with awareness of influences. 3. English trainees‘ use of and beliefs about teachers‘ personal life knowledge in the RE classroom. In recent years awareness of trainee RE teachers’ increasing use of their ‘personal life knowledge’ in the classroom Use of teachers’ personal experiences (individual, social, spiritual) in teaching strategies – researching what, how + why ? Summary of Key Findings Although not required or even expected to do so, trainee RE teachers make regular use of their personal ‘life knowledge’ in their teaching They believe this is a valuable, even necessary practice in RE but use their knowledge in differing ways + recognise differing ‘purposes’ for using it These differing purposes reflect the trainees’ own ‘theories’ of teaching and learning in RE Some view the use of their ‘life knowledge’ as an important aspect of their teacher identity + as contributing to their sense of fulfilment as teachers. Summary of Key Findings Trainees appear to have an intuitive understanding of when and how to use their life knowledge but recognise difficulties + dangers The research provided opportunities for trainees to explore + reflect on their life knowledge + use in the classroom These were valued and appear to have led to positive developments in trainees’ thinking Knowledge acquired in personal lives including: during upbringing and from family during adolescence and schooling through membership of a faith community or tradition from significant events + experiences eg illness, bereavement, parenthood, gaining/losing a religious faith + holidaying/working in unfamiliar cultures in ongoing, everyday life – from ‘hottest’ DVDs and popular TV programmes to ways of relaxing in the evening. Beginning Teachers’ Life Knowledge ‘I was teaching what a numinous experience is and I was saying for me I have had awe inspiring experiences but that hasn’t indicated God for me, but that’s just me – cos we were sharing our different experiences – but I was also saying, for some people it does indicate God’ (Agnostic trainee). Beginning Teachers’ Life Knowledge In one lesson on Buddhism reference made to: teacher’s own experience of learning to ice-skate – struggle and achievement teacher’s own experience of a ruptured appendix, painful operation + struggles to cope with medication a celebrity’s wealth – teacher’s view that he could feed Africa for a year on his annual income but wouldn’t because of his expensive life-style TV reports of earthquake in Japan – teacher’s view that this shows there’s no apparent reason for some suffering – it just happens. a popular TV ‘soap’ - statue of the ‘smiling Buddha’ in a family’s living room. What is the purpose of using life knowledge in the RE classroom ? Trainees’ answers + theories You open up yourself so that they (pupils) will open up’ Sometimes simply encouraging pupils to volunteer their ideas /experiences by giving teacher‘s own examples - creating interest and modelling More often aim is to create an atmosphere of trust and openness –breaking down barriers between pupils and teacher-pupils so there can be open sharing of personal matters – emphasis on the relationship between teacher and pupils ‘It’s not us and them. We’re all in this together, the kids and me’. ‘If they know you’re on their side, they’re less hostile to RE’ Non religious teachers working with anti-religious pupils reveal aspects of their own secular backgrounds /experiences to counter negative views of RE/RE teachers Muslim teachers working with Muslim pupils use personal knowledge of pupils’ reference points, attitudes and language to challenge negative views of other religions eg encouraging use of ‘non-Muslim’ rather than ‘kuffar’ (disbeliever) and quoting from the Qur’an. What is the purpose of using life knowledge in the RE classroom ? Trainees’ answers + theories ’They didn’t understand the numinous until I talked about my sunset photos and then they got it !’ Teacher creates a bridge between the pupils’ world and religion studied by choosing + using a personal experience that s/he believes will help pupils understand or interpret a particular religious concept/belief. ‘They seemed to think of people living in separate boxes so I told them how I celebrate Christmas the same way as they do (Sikh trainee) Teacher acts as a bridge between pupils’ world and religions studied by ‘personifying ‘ the ease with which many people live in ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ worlds. ‘You’ve got to make religious stuff real and relevant for them - to get them involved and interested’ Teacher draws on own life knowledge to offer lively examples and illustrations that will draw pupils in to the topic - trading on pupils’ fascination with teachers’ personal lives and desire to ask questions about these. English trainees‘ use of and beliefs about teachers‘ personal life knowledge in the RE classroom: Why ? Analysis – why this recent trend ? Socio-cultural influences – RealityTV shows, Facebook, Twitter = Intimacy ‘Tyranny of Intimacy’ (Bennett (1993), Aldenmyer (2010)) = concerns re teachers sacrificing professional distance and focus on learning But ‘Communications research’ indicates that effective learning = teachers who establish positive relationships thru affinity incl disclosing personal information about themselves (Richmond and McCrosky 92) Pros and Cons – teacher educators in France, Nlands and Germany very wary ! What is your view ? English trainees‘ use of and beliefs about teachers‘ personal life knowledge in the RE classroom: Conclusions A need for initial teacher ed courses to provide trainees with opportunities ... to explore the role(s) of the RE teacher + nature of their classroom relationships with pupils to explore the use of personal life knowledge in planning and teaching – what, how and when + benefits and dangers at an appropriate stage, collaborate with tutors in identifying guidelines to examine and reflect on relevant research findings. Final Discussion In your view now – is the relationship between RE teachers personal and professional lives something to be ignored or explored? Are differing national contexts a reason to undertake more comparative studies ? Are differing national contexts a major obstacle to collaborative research and development? (Toledo principles on European wide guidance to RE teachers) Establishing a European network for the study of teachers’ personal and professional lives? In Conclusion….. ‘Being an RE teacher is so hard sometimes and I wish people understood us and what we’re trying to do. But I love it and I don’t want to be or do anything else !’.