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Foundations of education.research paper i

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Foundations of education.research paper i

  1. 1. COUNTRY ROADS 1 Country Roads, Mountain Folk, and the Appalachian Traditions: Construction of a Teaching Identity Rob Schupbach The College of William and Mary EDUC F11-01, Dr. Gail McEachron
  2. 2. COUNTRY ROADS 2 Country Roads, Mountain Folk, and the Appalachian Traditions: Construction of a Teaching Identity In his book, The Thread That Runs So True, Jesse Stuart recounts his experiences as ateacher in the rural mountains of Kentucky from teaching in a one-room rural school to being acounty school superintendent. While working at Landsburgh High School, a new teacher, MissHelen Kirsten, came to the school from New York City. A native New Yorker coming to ruralAppalachia town was a major culture shock for both Miss Kirsten and the entire school andcommunity. Mr. Stuart reveals how Miss Kirsten soon became an accepted and beloved memberof the community. Stuart concluded that, “having Helen Kirsten, with an entirely differentbackground, added to our school. It gave me this idea: That there should be an exchange ofteachers in schools of America. That teachers from different parts of America gave pupils abroader outlook on life, gave them better background and preparation for the future” (1958). Mr. Stuart’s book, written in 1949, is an excellent example of how Appalachian culture isdefined by the intersections of family, community, hard work, and an overall appreciation forculture and traditions. Being born and bred in West Virginia, the only state entirely within theAppalachian region has helped shape my identity in various ways. Appalachia is rich in itsbeautiful landscape and natural resources, history, folklore, arts, music, language, and literature.Yet, poverty, stereotypes, and bias continue to plague my dear homeland. The following storieswill highlight how my diverse experiences living in Appalachia have constructed my strongsense of cultural identity and how that translates to constructing my teaching identity. Family, Cars, and Culture at Schupbach’s Valley Motor Co., Inc. I was born June 28, 1980 in Wheeling, WV to Ronald and Monette Nichols Schupbach.We lived in New Martinsville, WV. According to the 2010 US Census, New Martinsville, WV
  3. 3. COUNTRY ROADS 3has a total population of 5,984. I attended New Martinsville Elementary School and graduatedfrom Magnolia High School in 1998 with high honors. Affectionately referred to as “Robbie”, Ioften describe my parents as the modern-day “Ma and Pa Kettle”. It is an amazing experiencewhen your parents become your friends. I am fortunate to have their solid work ethic, support ofmy goals, and unconditional love. I have a brother who is seven years older than I am. Sadly, dueto a deep and ugly family feud, my parents and I are estranged from my brother and his family. Ihave a niece and nephew that I have never met. Although the Appalachian culture is usuallydefined by strong family ties, some disagreements just cannot be resolved. My paternal grandfather, Amos Schupbach, Jr. or “Jun”, was a veteran of World War IIand a recipient of the GI Bill. He attended the GMI, the General Motors Institute, now KetteringUniversity, where he graduated at the top of his class. With his knowledge of mechanics andbusiness, he and my grandmother, Alma, started Schupbach’s Valley Motor Co., Inc. in 1951. Ahometown Pontiac and GMC Truck dealership that was described by “selling our service,”Schupbach’s was committed to their customers and their needs. A proposal in the late 1990sfrom General Motors radically changed our small family business. GM was proposing that wediminish our service department and increase our sales department. This shift in corporateculture did not align with our values. My father never wore a suit, rather he wore jeans andflannel shirts that were usually covered in oil and grease from working on cars. My grandfatherand father were mechanics, not salesmen. We were not going to sell someone a car that theycouldn’t afford when the one they had was perfectly fine. We severed ties with GM in 1999when we sold our Pontiac and GMC franchises. Appalachian scholar Richard Straw writes that, “Mountain people in Appalachia have notbeen strangers to change but that Appalachian people have sometimes struggled over the past
  4. 4. COUNTRY ROADS 4three centuries to adapt to the best of the new while working very hard to keep their feet plantedfirmly on the ground of tradition” (2004). My small family’s struggle with the corporate giant isa prime example of how we base our values on an Appalachian culture of honesty and respectand not on monetary motivations. Since my grandparents have passed away, my father and I arenow the sole corporate members of Schupbach’s Valley Motor, Co., Inc. Dad continues to workas a master mechanic and retains his used car dealer’s license. Mom, while disabled by heradvanced coronary artery disease and Type I diabetes, fights to stay busy with her multiple civicand political groups. We are together a strong family with Appalachia values and traditions. Wefarm our own garden every summer, and can the fruits of our labor in Mason jars for the winter.This tradition is just one of many examples of my strong Appalachian cultural identity. Helping a Stranger in a Strange Land In 1989, when I was in fourth grade, my family played host to a foreign exchange studentfrom Switzerland named Claude. The Schupbach family descended from the Germanic part ofSwitzerland and arrived in America in the early 1800s. Although Claude was Swiss-French, westill had a lot to learn about our ancestral homeland and culture. Along with Claude, three otherforeign exchange students completed their senior years at Magnolia High School. Brent wasfrom Australia, German from Chile, and Maya from Germany. Each of them brought theirnational identities to everything they did. My family tried our best to learn about their cultures,and to show them about our Appalachian and American cultures. A common thread throughout our relationships was that we were all amateur radiooperators. Once during a trip to Dayton, OH for a “ham” festival, a life-long learning lessonoccurred. My father and brother, Claude, Brent, and myself were carrying heavy boxes filledwith books and radio parts back to the RV in which we were staying. German, however, was
  5. 5. COUNTRY ROADS 5laughing and jumping with the amusement of a young child. When we returned and were settled,my father gathered everyone around and asked German a question: “What did you bring backwith you today?” German responded, “Nothing.” My father then went on to explain to Germanthat while everyone took part in helping complete a job, he did nothing more than fool around.Dad pointed out to German that he didn’t even ask any of us if help was required. German wasquite shocked, and he explained that his family was part of the upper-class in Chile and thatservants did all of the work. Dad continued to explain a simple, yet poignant Appalachian andAmerican value: “When we see someone that needs help, we help them.” Dad went on todescribe how sharing in the workload can get the work done faster, and how participation in thecommunity can be personally rewarding. I have held this memory in my heart for years. I took my father’s teachings about helping,sharing, and being a part of the solution instead of part of the problem very seriously.Volunteering, work with civics groups, and even holding doors for people are a vital part of mycultural identity. The day before I moved to Williamsburg, I was selling poppies for theAmerican Legion in order to raise money for the local veterans and current military men andwomen. (We raised over four-hundred dollars!) Susan E. Keefe writes in ParticipatoryDevelopment in Appalachia: Cultural Identity, Community, and Sustainability that the“Appalachian people are hard working and resourceful, generous and neighborly, and honest andtrustworthy. They are rooted in the land; they respect their cultural traditions; and they cherishthe memory of family members who have passed on” (2009). At times I feel like I’m losingthose values, in this modern, technologically enhanced world. Still, at other points of my life Ifeel like I am being consumed by constantly giving and helping. This continues to be a struggleto achieve equilibrium. I find that Keefe is correct in her assertion that, “people have the capacity
  6. 6. COUNTRY ROADS 6to envision and lead their own social change. This requires reframing the development processwith a new narrative in which Appalachian communities are cast as the plucky and hardworkingself-starters,” (2009). I am ready for this challenge, yet I am assured of my strengths and awareof my weaknesses. You’re from West Virginia…Does Everyone There Wear Shoes? On my first day of class in Foundations of Education at the College of William and Mary,the class conducted a meet and greet. Upon hearing that I was from West Virginia, someoneasked me if I had seen the film The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. I replied no,but that I had watched the PBS documentary Dancing Outlaw on the mountain dancer JescoWhite many years ago. Jesco and his family are natives of Boone County, WV. The Whitesstruggle with domestic violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, troubles with the law, and an overallgenerational cycle of poverty. Their actions are appalling; their language is vulgar. They areclearly the most inappropriate example of Appalachian culture. It is sad that I wasn’t asked about the beautiful mountains or about my feelings about thecontroversial mountain-top mining proposed at Blair Mountain. I would have loved to answer aquestion about whether or not the “Moth Man” was real or just folklore (he is real). Straw writesthat, “The region has been characterized by and labeled with inaccurate and negative stereotypesabout its history, culture, and people” (Straw, 2004). “Li’l Abner” cartoons, The BeverlyHillbillies, and more recently the documentary about the White family have all played a part insullying the image of West Virginia and the Appalachian culture. Because of theserepresentations, I continually find myself justifying the actions of the few, explaining mediaimages, and defying stereotypes about Appalachian community. Is Williamsburg, VA or any
  7. 7. COUNTRY ROADS 7other town or city in America immune from the problems facing the White family? No, butsomehow the Appalachian bias persists. “Appalachian communities must create a new narrativeto counteract the destructive narratives that others have imposed” (Keefe, 2009). I hope to beable to combat the Appalachian stereotypes though my work as an educator. Confident in Self-Identity—Composing a Teaching Identity “Culture consists of the meanings shared by members of a society and the practices bywhich shared meanings are produced. Cultural competency requires an understanding of agroup’s way of life as well as how group members might be mobilized in the struggle to interpretthe social meaning of their life” (Keefe, 2009). Understanding the meaning of culture, culturalcompetency, and the fact that my Appalachian culture lays the foundation, I have been able tosee the intricate crossroads at which my self-identity collides. Although I have loved living in urban areas (Orlando, FL; Columbus, OH; Washington,DC) I am still drawn to the allure of the Appalachian mountainside. When I decided to become ateacher, I resolved to teach in either rural schools or urban schools. Poverty, lack of resources,and less than ideal living situations are just a few of the similarities between these twogeographical regions. In 2009, Brown, Copeland, Costello, Erkanli, and Worthman found that,“if rural areas actually share many of the characteristics that ‘translate’ community context toindividual outcomes in urban areas, then one would expect that area effects in rural regionsmight operate in a similar way to area effects in urban locales” (p.796). Their study concludedthat, “despite differences in population density and other parameters, it appears that area effects,originally demonstrated in urban areas, may work similarly in rural areas on diverse outcomesand behaviors” (Brown, Copeland, Costello, Erkanli, & Worthman, 2009, p.767). I take this
  8. 8. COUNTRY ROADS 8research into consideration when constructing my teaching identity. Also, I am reassured by theidea that Appalachian folk, “typically have the habit of offering help and trust in others when it isneeded” (Keefe 2009). Jesse Stuart writes in the preface of his memoir that, “Teaching is something above andbeyond teaching lessons and facts from books. It is this but more too. It is helping a youth to finda path of his own that will eventually lead him through fields of frustration and modern pitfallsof destruction until he finds himself” (1958). I heed the words of Mr. Stuart and amincorporating them into my teaching identity. My Appalachian culture and self-identity arehelping construct my teaching identity. Based on hard work, family, and tradition, I know that Iwill succeed as an educator with my fierce Appalachian cultural background.
  9. 9. COUNTRY ROADS 9 ReferencesBrown, R., Copeland, W.E., Costello, E.J., Erkanli, A., & Worthman, C.A. (2009). Family and community influences on educational outcomes among appalachian youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 37 (7), 795-808.Keefe, S.E. (Ed.). (2009). Participatory development in appalachia: Cultural identity, community, and sustainability. Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press.Spradlin, L.K. (2008). Diversity matters: Understanding diversity in schools. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.Straw, R.A., & Blethen, H.T. (Eds.). (2004). High mountain rising: Appalachia in time and place. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.Stuart, J. (1958).The thread that runs so true. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons.United States Census. (2000). Profile of general demographic characteristics.[Data file]. Retrieved from http://censtats.census.gov/data/WV/1605458684.pdf

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