Listening to Adolescent Heartsongs: Phenomenological Possibilities in Teaching Writing
Hartshorn, Mary Ann M
Hultgren, Francine H
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ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: LISTENING TO ADOLESCENT HEARTSONGS: PHENOMENOLOGICAL POSSIBILITIES IN TEACHING WRITING Mary Ann McKenzie Hartshorn Doctor of Philosophy, 2007 Dissertation directed by: Professor Francine Hultgren Department of Education Policy and Leadership College of Education University of Maryland This hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry, is called by the question: What is the lived experience of high school students who share something they have written from the heart? The metaphor of the human heart opens my understanding of the experiences of thirty-two students who write and share their writings in sophomore English class. My understanding of this experience deepens during after-school conversations with twelve of those students. Text, offering words for hermeneutic pondering, was compiled from conversations, journals, student writings and sharing activities. All voices were taped and transcribed to provide a visual remembrance of these lived experiences. The methodology underpinning this human science inquiry, is identified by Max van Manen (2003) as one that "involves description, interpretation, and self-reflective or critical analysis" (p. 4). Through my students' heartfelt words, I see them write their way to self-discovery. The importance of "lived space" (van Manen, 2002, p. 102) is brought forward, and lets me understand that students need to feel at "home" in school if they are to be successful. As we create a sacred space together, my students and I experience safety and freedom. In this space we find our "i-dentities" and hear our heartsongs. When sharing those songs, students announce their fears of failure, death and the swift passage of time; their memories; their longing for communication and disappointment in not connecting. We dwell together in the unique, sacredness of each other, opening a listening space where relationality "allows us to transcend ourselves" (p. 105). It is here that we celebrate more similarities than differences. The valued end of any class should include a place where students feel comfortable with themselves and others. Curriculum should be relevant to each student, providing an opportunity for self discovery and acceptance. Writing of a personal nature must be included across the curriculum so students learn to value themselves, fellow human beings, and the universe.