Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

Spring 12-1-2014


December 1, 2014


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Karl D. Hostetler. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Colette M. Polite


Who exactly is a teacher without soul? The answer is complex. First, this study will explore the concept of soul in education. There are varying cultural, religious and spiritual ways to examine soul. This inquiry does not seek to prove the existence of soul. Its existence is considered to be complex, and even abstract, but exists nonetheless. Soul is explored from a cross-cultural approach, which includes an emphasis on a Native American philosophical worldview and discourse. My approach involves teacher autobiography and auto-narrative to provide insights to teacher identity and the presence of soul in education. This project utilizes métissage to provide a portrait into my classroom teaching and life experiences. An additional supplemental section of influential scholars on my practice and theoretical underpinnings in education is provided.

The remaining chapters present the métissage themes for this project and present an analysis of my college classroom and teaching practices. This inquiry does not pretend to be able to “measure” soul; rather, this inquiry will interrogate the ways in which I bring soul forward into the classroom. There are four key lessons that emerged: (a). the indomitable and incredible tenacity of the human spirit. I encourage educators can use our stories to reflect and re-visit past experiences to inform our practice, grow our understanding and honor the human spirit; (b). It is with sincerity and humility that I offer my narratives to others; (c). There are many layers to identity. The various life experiences that teacher educators go through are meaningful and can be useful when carefully integrated into teaching experience; and (d). Finally, our stories heal one another. The cathartic effect of searching our souls for strength, courage and hope can transcend our thinking into new ways of knowing, meaningful dialogues with others. I do not consider my stories as the only way to arrive at an understanding. Rather, all of our stories can afford us the opportunity to grow and learn from one another.

Adviser: Karl D. Hostetler