Having met with a lot of very helpful folks who have been giving me the “lay of the land,” I hope after the holidays to begin meeting with current teachers in public schools. Given that, I met with my advisor today to refine my interview protocol.
First, what categories of teachers do I wish to interview? I began with Tanakh teachers, and added history teachers. Zvi suggested I also consider civics teachers (who are also often history teachers) and homeroom teachers, who often teach about the holidays, perform ceremonies with the students, etc.
I had designed a “face sheet,” the demographic information I want to collect from my interviewees. I had listed name, current job, national/ethnic/religious identity, date and time of interview, and how I had contacted them. Zvi suggested first to not keep the name on the face sheet, but rather to keep a separate list of names that matches with numbers, and to use numbers throughout the rest of the documents. Then he recommended adding number of years in teaching, degrees, subjects taught (even if not taught now), languages spoken, and where born.
Most interestingly to me, he had a series of suggestions around my questions. I had a basic set of five questions that I had found at least in initial conversations with people had lasted me an hour. He recommended adding a good number to make sure I addressed. My questions had been:
-How did you get involved in teaching?
-Where do the students in your school come from? What are their national / ethnic / religious identities?
-How do you teach about religion in your school?
-What role do you see your class playing in your students’ lives – their roles as citizens, their personal religious choices?
-When in your school would students learn about religious traditions other than their own?
First, he suggested the need to get the story of their family. To know that a non-religious Jewish teacher had grown up in a religious household, or to know that a very religious Muslim teacher’s parents had been secular and involved in the communist party would be quite applicable to understanding their worldview. He proposed
He recommended first to change “religion” to “values.” He then suggested beginning “Tell me a little bit about the home in which you were born? Where did you live? What were your parents’ involvements? (If necessary, I could prompt with “How did they relate to politics, to education, to religion?” He then noted that for an Israeli Jew it might be important to know if they served in the army or did some alternative national service. I suggested that a question like “tell me about your schooling and what you did after high school” might work and he added “and about university.” That would bring us up to “How did you get involved in teaching?” and give us the story of their upbringing and education. Then, rather than beginning with how they teach, Zvi recommended beginning with “How would you describe your current school’s approach to values education?” If needed, I could prompt them to be specific – “How would you describe their approach to teaching national issues, civics, religion?” Then I could move to the question “How do you teach about values in your work?” Zvi suggested clarifying prompts: “How do you understand the meaning of, the essence of, teaching your field? What should a good education in your field accomplish? What are the challenges in the way of accomplishing this? What supports teaching it well? What is most needed to better achieve the goals you have identified?” He suggested I ask another question about the students, specifically about how they relate to values education. “How do you feel the students relate to the place of values in your field?” Finally, he suggested that since I’m interested in how this helps students deal with people who are different, I ask about this. He used the words “recognition and inclusion” and the word “alterity” – a question like “How do you think values education helps your students relate to the other?” I might change “the other” to “people who are very different than they are.”
He then recommended that I have my first interview – he was clear that I should record and transcribe them – and then send it to him to read. We would then further adjust my approach.
Hunter Thompson said:
Have you thought of how these questions pertain to you and the possible comparisons and contrast you can make with the teaching and the way people get into teaching in the United States?
Great question, Hunter! Yes, I’ll be interested in how the Israeli and Palestinian responses compare to my experience of U.S. teachers. I can’t do a systematic comparative study – I won’t have the time when I get back to the U.S. – but I could make some reasonable comparisons.