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TitleComposing Diverse Identites: Narrative inquiries into the interwoven lives of children and teachers
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Total Pages209
Table of Contents
                            Book Cover
1 A narrative understanding of lives in schools
2 Working alongside children, teachers, parents, and administrators in relational narrative inquiry
3 Children's stories to live by: Teachers' stories of children
4 Children's fictionalized stories to live by
5 Children's and teachers' stories to live by in a school story of character education
6 Living alongside children shapes an administrator's stories to live by
7 Shifting stories to live by: Interweaving the personal and professional in teachers' lives
8 Living in tension: Negotiating a curriculum of lives
9 Composing stories to live by: Interrupting the story of school
10 Imagining a counterstory attentive to lives
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In this important new book seven authors bring together stories and questions
about the lives of children, families, teachers, and administrators. Lives are seen
up close, in all their particularity, and explored in terms of the contexts that shape
the experiences of students and staff. These stories provide an alternative view of
what counts in schools, with a shift away from viewing the school as a business
model towards an idea of schools as places to engage citizenship.

Building upon Jean Clandinin’s 20 years of narrative inquiry where she
worked and learned alongside school practitioners for extended periods of time,
this book uses a narratively-constructed theoretical background of personal
practical knowledge, professional knowledge landscapes, and stories to live by
to provide both a language and a storied framework for understanding lives in
school. In two urban multicultural schools in western Canada, the co-authors of
this book engaged in narrative inquiries alongside children, teachers, families, and
principals. As these narrative inquiries were negotiated at each site the co-authors
lived in the school, for the most part in particular classrooms alongside a teacher
where, as relationships developed, children as well as some family members were
invited to participate in the inquiry. Articulating the complex ethical dilemmas
and issues that face people in school every day, this fascinating study of school
life and lives in school raises new questions about who and what education is for
and provokes the re-imagining of schools as places to attend to the wholeness of
people’s lives.

The complexities and possiblities of the meeting of diverse teachers’, children’s,
families’, and school leaders’ lives in schools shape new insights about the
interwoven lives of children and teachers, and raise important, lingering questions
about the impact of these relationships on the unfolding lives of children.

D. Jean Clandinin is Professor and Director of the Centre for Research for
Teacher Education and Development at the University of Alberta, Canada.
Janice Huber and Anne Murray Orr are Assistant Professors at St Francis
Xavier University, Canada. Marilyn Huber is a doctoral student at the University
of Alberta, Canada. Marni Pearce is Senior Education Manager with the Alberta
Government. M. Shaun Murphy is a Research Associate and Pam Steeves is an
Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.

Composing Diverse Ident i t ies

Page 104

Living alongside chi ldren
shapes an administrator ’s
stories to l ive by

Chapter 6

One of the people we all came to know well at Ravine Elementary School
was Jeanette, the school principal. Jeanette and the members of our research
group knew each other from within multiple and different storylines. For
example, Jean knew Jeanette from working on earlier research projects in her
school, from serving as her graduate supervisor, and from working together
on various alternative teacher education programs and committees. Marilyn
knew Jeanette from working together on research projects and from her
work as a teacher in the same school board. Pam knew Jeanette from past and
present research projects and from spending many hours in conversations
with Jeanette at the school over seven years. Each of us had lived stories with,
and told stories of, Jeanette. She, in turn, had lived and told stories of each
of us.

As we arrived at Ravine Elementary School, we often checked in with
Jeanette who would welcome us into her cozy offi ce. She would clear the
children’s books, fi les, folders, yellow stickies, and papers off the small table
in the centre of her offi ce and invite us to sit and talk. Sometimes conversation
arose from our own questions but the relational space we created with
Jeanette meant she too had a place to inquire and wonder about things that
were on her mind.

Jeanette as principal often improvised ways to widen spaces in the school
for inquiry conversations. The traditional role for principal as manager and
monitor for policies leaves little room for a principal to express and continue
authoring stories to live by in a school. “Walking with someone, as in narrative
inquiry, might help keep present a belonging place, when there seems to be
none” (Steeves 2000: 233). Perhaps it is in walking with someone that we
learn to walk in a good way (Young 2003). Might our presence as relational
narrative inquirers in the school have enabled an inquiry place for her, for
school participants, and for us?

Often when we engaged in conversations with Jeanette in her offi ce, she
would leave her door open and teachers, secretaries, parents, and children
would interrupt our dialogue with her. Jeanette would turn toward the
person and, with a smile, greet them, deal with their concerns, and say

Page 105

96 An administrator’s stories to live by

goodbye before turning back to us to continue the conversation. It was in
one such conversation that a story of Amit, an 8-year-old girl in the Year 3/4
learning strategies classroom at Ravine Elementary School, began to be told.
Jeanette, we realized, as we compared fi eld notes and talked to each other at
research meetings, was telling many of us fragments of her stories of Amit.
Our own interactions with Amit occurred at a distance, in hallways, in the
library, and in other out-of-classroom places. While some of the research
team recognized her, she was not a child in a classroom where any of us
worked regularly. As we began to listen more closely to Jeanette’s tellings, we
began to piece together Amit’s stories, carefully stitching fragments together.
As we stitched, telling the stories of Amit over and over, adding details that
one or another of us had heard from Jeanette or from other teachers’ stories
of Amit, we began to realize that Jeanette’s intense interest in Amit told us
a great deal about Jeanette and the ways Jeanette’s stories to live by were
shaped by Amit and other children.

Amit: st itched-together second-hand stories

Jeanette knew stories of all of the children who went to Ravine Elementary
School. Whenever one of us asked about a child, Jeanette could tell us a story
of that child, something of the child’s family stories, stories of who the child
was becoming. We marvelled at her knowledge of the children. She came to
know these stories from living day-to-day alongside the children at school.
She listened carefully to the stories teachers, parents, and other children told
her about each child and she pieced together stories from these accounts. She
also listened to each child’s stories and it was the stories that Amit told her as
well as the stories Amit’s parents told that helped Jeanette frame her story of
Amit. Jeanette’s stories of Amit were shaped by stories that occurred both on
and off the school landscape.

Usually we went to Jeanette asking about particular children who were
participants in our research studies but Jeanette began, on her own, to tell
us stories of Amit some time in the fall of 2002. Her tellings did not emerge
from our questions but rather from the relational spaces Jeanette shared
with us for dialogue. Buber (1947) argued that the heart of education is the
inclusive community that comes through dialogical relation. The trusting
space created amongst us enabled Jeanette, a school principal, along with
ourselves, a place where we could speak openly and honestly; where we could
be vulnerable to try to fi gure out and learn from unfolding events on the
school landscape. As Jeanette told us story fragments related to Amit we
began to notice her concern, her feelings of being upset. The story began
to unfold after she heard some news at a November meeting with Amit’s

Jeanette told us Amit was born in Canada but that her parents emigrated
from India. Amit’s parents, she said, longed for a son and, after many failed

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