Rereading and Rewriting Teachers’ Stories of Felt Impossibilities

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Rereading and Rewriting Teachers’ Stories of Felt Impossibilities

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Student teaching is a pivotal time period, as future teachers construct their new identities, trying to mesh their own ideals for who they want to be in the classroom with the ways schools and classrooms are run, and the ways in which teachers are constructed by others. Life experiences and embodied knowledges come into conflict with idealistic and program-based ideas of social justice (Britzman, 2003; Lortie, 1975). Even future teachers who are oriented toward change and social justice often end up embodying the very notions of teaching they had hoped to push against (Britzman, 2003; hooks, 1994)         Drawing on post-intentional phenomenology (Vagle, 2018) and narrative inquiry (Barone, 2007; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007; Huber et al, 2013), this study investigated a phenomenon I call felt impossibilities in becoming teachers who aspire to be antiracist, anti-oppressive, social justice-oriented educators. I define felt impossibilities as a crisis of identity or an identity paradox, in which teachers feel that they cannot enact the values they hold, for all of the reasons--institutional, structural, emotional, and embodied. The dissertation is organized around stories of teaching: my own and one of my participants, both of us cis-gender, white, middle class women. I reread our stories through one another, as well as through Thandeka’s (1999) theory of white shame, Yoon’s (2012) theory of whiteness-at-work, and Mazzei’s (2011) theory of desiring silence to see what our feelings of impossibility produce and provoke.I argue that we must attend to the silences--in teacher education, in our teacher actions, and in the stories we tell--to combat the harmful effects of white supremacy in our schools. Inspired by adrienne maree brown’s (2017) Emergent Strategy, I also suggest that rewriting our stories may help us flip the script, to see felt impossibilities as a way into productive change, rather than just a place of “stuckness.”


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2020. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Timothy Lensmire. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 230 pages.

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Boehm-Turner, Abigail. (2020). Rereading and Rewriting Teachers’ Stories of Felt Impossibilities. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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