One of my kids used to sit in that empty seat: Changes in personal and professional beliefs of classroom teachers after the death of a student
Hildreth, Lorie Ann
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The research for this study was based on the desire to find out how teachers change after they experience the death of a student. I focused on two research questions: "What changes in the personal beliefs about grief, death, and the afterlife, occurred after a teacher experiences the death of a student?" and "What changes in the professional beliefs about way of teaching, view of teaching, and relationships with students occurred after a teacher experiences the death of a student?" I guided this research from the interpretivist inquiry framework which is dedicated to the commitment that a researcher can come to understand an experience of participants by interpreting their stories, therefore personal profiles are presented. The interpretive biographer also believes that subjective knowledge is equally important to objective knowledge and that as a researcher he or she can interpret the meanings of his or her participants. The concept of harmonizing one's personal beliefs after the death of a student emerged through its components: asking questions, appreciating others, and crystallizing the experience. Harmonizing appeared to be the teachers' way of making sense of the death and integrating it into their personal belief systems by: asking questions about the death and trying to answer those questions; evaluating the reactions of others, especially those who did not react similarly; connecting with others through recognition or support; and crystallizing the memory of the experience either visually or emotionally. The concept of humanizing one's professional beliefs after the death of a student emerged through its components: discovering vulnerability, balancing professional philosophy, and fostering relationships. Humanizing appeared to be a way in which teachers tried to fit the experience of student death into their existing professional philosophy by: discovering the vulnerability of students and oneself, balancing one's professional philosophy by adding more social, intellectual, or spiritual content; and fostering relationships with students through appreciation and guidance.