Auto/ethnography:A pathway to share story

Year: 2016

Author: McCarthy, Helen CD

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian Indigenous epistemologies are complex as well as accomplished and yet the contemporary mode of teaching Indigenous learners undertakes to assimilate emic knowledge into a curriculum-constructed predominately on non-Indigenous ideologies. As a result many Australian Aboriginal students disengage and become truant, their irregular attendance often resulting in them leaving school prematurely with underdeveloped literacy and numeracy skills, thereby diminishing future opportunities in the dominant culture.As a teacher for more than thirty years, I have learned from the Warnumamalya, Yolngu, Nyungar, and Wongi peoples of Australia, and observed Indigenous parents and teachers often express dissatisfaction with the way mainstream non-Indigenous education is delivered in their community schools. I understood as a non-Indigenous teacher I did not have a right to speak for Indigenous parents, but saying nothing about the anglo-centric educational emphasis made me feel culpable, leaving me suspended in the rancor of my own silence. How could I express their disparity without being another “know-it-all” non-Indigenous teacher writing about Indigenous students experiences? Respecting that it was not my place to write about or for the other, I elected to write my story, using the interpretive research design auto/ethnography as a referent within an interpretive paradigm. Auto/ethnography ensures the writing process and the writing product are deeply personal and political, delivering necessary multidimensionality to enmesh emerging personal/professional themes. This methodology provided a pathway to venerate my experiences as a white teacher living and learning in black communities, where I came to identify epistemological tensions between the two worlds. While the product of my research-the struggle to establish culturally sensitive educational pathways for students is vital, the focus of this paper relates specifically to the reflexive auto/ethnographic processes and particularly my role as narrator, using yarning and story telling as authentic data sources to best illuminate the study.