Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published as Chapter 5 in Doing Fieldwork at Home: The Ethnography of Education in Familiar Contexts, edited by Loukia K. Sarroub and Claire Nicholas. Pp. 67–77.


Copyright © 2021 by Loukia K. Sarroub and Claire Nicholas. Published by Rowman & Littlefield.


Relational identities in the classroom shape teachers and their students as well as the researchers who study them for the long term. Researchers whose fieldwork is located at “home” simultaneously embody with research participants the past, present, and future interactions on a shared continuum of experience. The collaborative enterprise of fieldwork is relived, retold, remade, and it is always present.

In this chapter, the shared, embodied experience that infused the ethnographic space in situ transformed one’s understanding of young people, their teacher, and the researcher. The study was focused on better understanding students’ experiences with literacy in high school. Within the context of ethnography and education, it is important to examine carefully teacher and student interaction relationally in connection to the reproduction of social class tropes and gendered identities as well as discourse norms.

Of particular interest was the exploration of literacy learning within the contexts of multiple texts, such as assigned novels and newspapers, standardized tests, school district Reading Graduation Demonstration Exam (RGDE), and students’ reading and writing interests. Questions that informed fieldwork included what does “a reading class” mean in high school? What practices constitute such a class, and how do students resist these practices? And, how do relational activities around texts and also between teacher and students create a sense of belonging in connection to reading as an academic home in the classroom?

Adolescents’ literacy practices, interaction with teachers and with texts are in part influenced by both their self-perceived and imposed identities (Beach and O’Brien, 2007). Male students, in particular, sometimes become less engaged with literacy as time passes in high school reading classes. How can reading play a more central role in young men’s lives such that it engages them rather than alienates them? The dynamics around literacy presented here, especially for young men, whether from the school or home literacy context, seem to defy the notion of a possible commonality.