The Making of a Prison Teacher: A Phenomenological Journey Through Lived Experiences of Correctional Educators
Sayko, Edit Árvay
Hultgren, Francine H
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ABSTRACT Title of dissertation: THE MAKING OF A PRISON TEACHER: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL JOURNEY THROUGH LIVED EXPERIENCES OF CORRECTIONAL EDUCATORS Edit Árvay Sayko, Doctor of Philosophy, 2005 Dissertation directed by: Professor Francine H. Hultgren Department of Education policy and Leadership University of Maryland, College Park Despite powerful evidence that educational attainment by incarcerated learners significantly lower the rate of recidivism, correctional educators do not enjoy high professional status and prestige. Prison teachers are forgotten professionals, whose mission and praxis are shrouded in the same public misunderstanding, mis-information and prejudice, that surround all aspects of the criminal justice system. In this work I embark on a quest to bring into proximity concealed meanings found in the lived experiences of prison teachers. The stories and reflections of five colleagues, woven together with the researcher's personal experiences during two decades of teaching in prison, reveal powerful images. Sieved through the methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology, viewed through the lenses of philosophy, literature, or art, these images reveal significant themes that inform of the life-world of prison teachers. The research illuminates this phenomenon through the pervasive theme of dichotomy, a constant light-and-dark battle of opposing forces of punishment and rehabilitation. Themes of personal corporeal discomfort, the confusing spiderweb of time-perception, dwelling in an hostile environment, ambiguity regarding prison teachers' professional identity, open up the phenomenon and remove the shroud to un-conceal meanings in prison teachers life. Perhaps the most significant theme emerging from this research is the prison teachers' overarching commitment to their captive students, their disponibilitè, and their one-caring presence. The guiding force of this work is a simple question: What is it like to be a prison teacher? The research offers some answers that illuminate the phenomenon with a small but significant light. This light nurtures the hope that these answers will help illuminate public opinion, correct mis-information, eradicate prejudice and generate wide-spread, robust support for correctional education, whose "mission is one of the highest to which humans can aspire" (Gehring, 2002, p. 89).