Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Hole, S. (1998). Teacher as rain dancer. Harvard Educational Review, 68, 413-421.

The metaphor of the teacher as rain dancer is used to explore some aspects of being a teacher. During a year-long sabbatical, Hole observed classrooms and engaged in conversations with teachers about what he was seeing. In this article, he describes the responses of a teacher focus group to a vignette about a teacher's dilemma between her desire to satisfy one student's interest and her desire for a democratic classroom. The vignette captured the tension inherent in trying to meet conflicting needs of the group and of the individual student. The teachers expressed concern for the child and made suggestions as to how the teacher might have solved the problem. Some of the teachers used storytelling to express their thoughts, relating the dilemma to examples in their own practices. Using the metaphor of rain dancer, Hole discusses how being a teacher is, like the rain dancer, more than "knowing the dance." It is a way of orienting the self to the world. And, like a rain dancer, the teacher might not have known that the steps were right until the "rain came." The question becomes, "What does it mean to be a teacher?" From his research, Hole concludes that being a teacher means finding a way to live in an environment filled with dilemmas and the inner tensions created by these dilemmas. Hole relates an incident from his own teaching where he let his own needs take precedence over his students needs, thus creating a tension in him over whose needs are being met in the classroom. Awareness of the tension is a beginning, Hole believes, to improving practice.

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