The student-teacher axis: idiosyncratic credit and cutting the slack

McGinty, Sue (2004) The student-teacher axis: idiosyncratic credit and cutting the slack. In: Waxman, Hersh C., Padrón, Yolanda N., and Gray, Jon P., (eds.) Educational Resiliency: student, teacher and school perspectives. Research in Educational Diversity and Excellence . Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, USA, pp. 157-173.

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Abstract

In the 1990s I conducted a 2-year project in a Midwestern high school in Illinois. The aim of the research was to uncover some of the patterns of behavior of resilient young women who had stayed in school rather than dropped out. What made these young women different from their peers? This question of resilient behavior had always fascinated me. In the 1980s I taught in remote areas of Australia where I saw young people with many talents and possibilities turn away from education and drop out of school, creating shattered lives often affected by teen pregnancy, drugs. and alcohol. What interested me most were the students who did not do this. They came from similar backgrounds, had similar talents, and yet they persisted with their education and wcnt to live lives that were productive for themselves and others.

The opportunity to examine this issue in a systematic way came about when I was offered a scholarship to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Under the expert tutelage of Alan Peshkin, I began my apprenticeship as a researcher in-training in a Midwestern high school. Here, I was expected to become immersed in the daily life of the school for a whole year before actually commencing data collection for the project. By the time I was ready for that phase I was familiar with the school in a way that made acquiring permission to do the research and access to staff and students a natural progression.

After interviewing over 40 young women, five were chosen for in-depth study. They agreed to be part of the project, which was conducted in their senior year of schooling. Each of these young women had lived with stressors such as poverty, family disruption, substance abuse, and antisocial behaviors for the greater part of their young lives-stressors that are usually regarded as nonconducive to school success. Before this research was begun, two of the young women had attempted or threatened suicide; all five were troubled by substance abuse in their immediate families; three were victims of physical abuse; and one was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Only one described herself as middle class, whereas the others, in their own words, were "on welfare," "very poor," "poor," or "average." Despite these commonly accepted barriers to academic success, these young women excelled in school.

This chapter examines the schooling behavior of the five young women. It begins with a brief outline of each student's school experience, examining the nature of their relationships with teachers. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the student-teacher relationships that enabled students to establish "idiosyncratic credit" and teachers to "cut the slack." (For the full study, see McGinty, 1999.)

Item ID: 1688
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
Keywords: resilience, gender, educational success, idiosyncratic credit
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ISBN: 978-1-931576-08-6
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2007
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939902 Education and Training Theory and Methodology @ 100%
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