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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
(more on the Journal)

Vol. 30 No. 2  Fall 2003

The Sense of Spiritual Calling Among Teacher Education Program Students

Clifford Mayes, Pamela Blackwell Mayes, and Kay Sagmiller

Introduction

A salutary development in teacher education over the last two decades has been the growth of teacher reflectivity.1 This refers to a wide range of processes which enable the teacher to reflect on the biographical, political and existential bases of her sense of calling as a teacher as well as her actual practice in the classroom. Teacher reflectivity brings the texts, paradigms, and images that inform the teacherís implicit, often unconscious pedagogy to critical awareness.

In most cases, teacher reflectivity focuses on either the biographical2 or political3 forces at play in a personís decision to become a teacher and her manner of teaching. As we have suggested elsewhere, it is also useful and important to look at the spiritual aspects of the teacherís sense of calling4óa topic that until recently has been largely ignored.5 This lacuna in teacher education is surprising if for no other reason than that spiritual commitment has historically been an integral part of many U.S. teachersí sense of purpose.6 And today, with fully 90% of Americans believing in God and life after death, and nearly 50% engaging in some form of worship on their Sabbath days, it is probable that spiritual commitments continue to be of moment to various American teachers.7

We developed a questionnaire and interview protocol based upon Cornettís8 rubrics regarding the basic issues which spiritual systems typically confront: 1) the meaning of life, 2) morality, 3) mortality, 4) the organization and guidance of the universe, 5) suffering, and 6) transcendence. Our two-fold goal was: 1) to provide a model that can serve as a qualitative exemplar for future research about the psycho-spiritual dimension of the teacherís sense of calling, and 2) to begin to assemble and contribute to an empirical data base regarding how certain teachers understand and characterize the spiritual dimension of their sense of calling as well as their classroom practices.

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