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Susan Neal

My Voice History

Indiana University

 


My "voice" represents all that I am.
 
My voice is my 
mind, body, soul and heart.

My voice is biological in origin yet
built through experiences.

My voice has
 been sculpted through education and carved by the environment.

My voice is fragile yet strong and continually changing.

My voice is like a pearl unformed...
            but it is beginning...
            and it will become.  

 

 

 

 


                          Bronfenbrenner Model

Password: private

Sorry about the password but I am also hosting another video on this site that everyone can view and I wanted this one to be private.

 

 

 

Seminal Events 

 

My voice has significantly been slowly affected
by the liberating aspects of education throughout
my life.  The dynamics in my family involved
that my older sister and brother were perceived
as the “smartest” members of my family.  I assumed the role of the happy go lucky tomboy and was
really under no illusions that my voice was
important.  Certainly, it wasn’t perceived in the
family dynamics that I was smart or that my opinions mattered.  In school, I always put forth an effort to learn and although my grades were always good, they weren’t exceptional.  I had no confidence in my academic abilities that consequently oppressed my voice.


In addition to the intelligence inferiority I felt,
I was also marginalized by my sex as well.  I

will never forget not being allowed to play in  

the neighborhood baseball games because I was 

a girl even though I was really good at hitting 

and catching and could run really fast.  

 

 



 

 

                                  Seminal Events


Things began to change for me around 5th grade
when it was announced in class by the teacher

to everyone’s surprise that I had the highest score
on some sort of intelligence evaluation.  No
one was more surprised than me!  

It did; however, begin a process that very slowly
and sporadically began to change my
self-efficiacy that eventually was dramatically
altered by my mid-twenties.  It was then that I
went back to IU to finish my undergraduate degree
in education.  I transformed into a person that was satisfied with nothing less than a grade of A. This began a process where grades became a cornerstone
of self-efficiacy validation 
that continues to day.
I wish that I could get 
past this part of my voice formation through education, but I am confident
that the overall 
transformational aspects of education for my voice far outweigh this negative.

 

 

 

 

                     Seminal Events 

 
Although a test score initially began the process
for building 
the confidence to exercise my
voice, there have been many people that have

played an important role in fine tuning it.  

My mother and I have built an incredibly close relationship since my teens that has nutured my
voice.  My sister and I began to spend more time

together and she introduced me to voice

expression through art, poetry, and music.  She

also inspired my curiosity to see the world and

explore other cultures.

 

I have been fortunate in my life to always have
friends.  I still am close with my best friend since

kindergarten.  With friends, I find comfort in

sharing our voices in joy as well as confronting

our deepest hopes and fears.  In middle school, I began to develop closer relationships with teachers and to be more involved in school, club and sport activities.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Seminal Events 

 

I found expression of my voice through music

at an early age and it remains a passion.  I have
played piano since I was ten and have sung in

choruses and was in a band.  


I also found a voice that spoke for me in songs, movies, books and art.  The voices in songs
evoked 
emotions deep inside me and

fundamentally changed my voice.  Admirable characters and memorable experiences in movies
and books influenced and impacted my voice.
Art 
opened my eyes to the incredible beauty that voice could translate.


Experiences 
gained through travel enriched my
voice as well.  Through a concerted purposeful effort, I explored different cultures to gain a

better understanding of their voices that in turn

has enriched my own.  I now look at the world
through a different 
lens.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Seminal Events 

 
I have been fortunate in that my university and
career experiences have brought numerous
supportive people forward that have helped my

voice to soar.  These experiences usually 

involved learning that inspired me to dig deep

within myself, apply critical analysis and produce

a creative solution.


I have also experienced challenges 
and disappointments for expression of voice.  I have experienced blatant sexism in my career experience.
I have also experienced oppression due to power

struggles.  I have had teachers and worked with teachers that demonstrated some form of bias, racism and/or sexism.  

Through these good and bad experiences, I

believe I have persevered in maintaining an innocence in spirit.  I have not chosen to form relationships for prestige or material gain or
allowed my 
voice to be silenced for long by oppression.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Seminal Events

 

When I was fourteen, I became involved in the political process and found that I possessed a voice that began to enable me to express, formulate and
act on the deep conviction that a major purpose in one's life was defined by their contribution to
society.


Along with the development of this voice, my involvement with politics developed an infinity
to explore issues involving democracy as well
as enhanced my critical thinking skills to
process the information resulting from this transformation. 


Through the years, this has not been an easy
journey to undertake.  I have experienced d
isappointment at lack of change despite my best efforts and intentions.  There has been 
great disappointment in the dishonesty and man's inhumanity to their fellow man that has threatened my faith in the integrity of the political process.

 

 

 

 



 

 

                                   Seminal Events


I'm not exactly sure what age I was when I decided 
that I wanted to be a teacher.  I do know
that 
I played for hours in my "schoolroom" that

was set up in my basement with my little dog

sitting patiently on the chair as my lone

student that I tutored for hours.  This wasn't

a random event -- it lasted continually for

many of my childhood years.   Was this a way

to compensate for the deep feelings of insecurity

I felt?  Did assuming the role of a teacher

validate the importance of my voice?  

 

Interestingly, I can now reflect on this event

in comparison to my "real" teaching career.  

I am happy to say that my voice had developed
along the way and no longer had this need for 
self-centered voice validation through a teaching career.  I had grown tremendously prior
to this and was ready at this point in my life to focus on giving voice to my students.

 

 

 

                                    Seminal Events


During my eleven years as a technology teacher,

I recognized the importance of giving all my students opportunities for expressing their voice.

 

As I was fortunate enough to be able to design my

own curriculum, I began by focusing on creating activities that increased my understanding of their lives and experiences.  This allowed me to progressively build instruction that provided meaning as well as opportunities to express their voices through the use of technology and group interactions.   

 

I had a special empathy for the quiet, unassuming student given my own experiences.  I basically tried to be the teacher I never had when I was young for them -- the one that empowered them with opportunities that despite their shyness or insecurities provided a safe environment that allowed them to gain confidence as well as explore and express their voice.

 

 

 

 
 
                         
Giving Voice to Others

 

Burton Blatt (1981) wrote, "A person is defined by the stories he tells about himself as well as by the stories that are told about him. Too often, stories are told about people with disabilities and the emphasis is on the voice of the professional, not the voice of the person."  

A memorable experience of giving voice to others involved a student with minimal speech capabilities that was placed in my technology class.  He was unable to communicate with other students due to

this disability.  After investigation, I learned he had been in classes with these students for years but they had never heard his voice.  I created a class activity where they typed in speech that was spoken through
an avatar.  It was a truly heartwarming experience

to not only observe his joy in the opportunity to communicate as part of a group but the other students' joy in hearing his voice.  I was overwhelmed as I had not anticipated this emotional outpouring that reflected a profound sense of loss felt by all. 

 

 

 

 

                        Losing your Voice

 

I have been witnessing first hand on a daily
basis the stark realities of losing 
your voice.
My mother has Alzheimers 
and although she
has a physical voice, 
her "real" voice has
disappeared.

I see the frustration and confusion as she
desperately seeks 
to regain her voice in

a losing battle.  I see her tears when the

reality of her situation and the loss of her voice occasionally breaks through in the occasional,

yet rare burst of sudden memory.  


She depends on me to be her voice now and
there exists an 
overwhelming feeling of despair
for me in the knowledge
 that voice is all that you
are and 
my mother has to struggle with this loss.

 

 



 

 

 

             

                  Voice and Relationships

 

My relationship with my husband is similar to my mothers's in terms of the freedom I feel
to speak my mind.  Over the years, we have developed and share an innate understanding of
each others' values, beliefs and emotions that in turn has established a deep respect that allows trust for voicing any differences.  This trust allows each of
us our individuality and enables our voices to have an equality in importance through a concertive and continually active effort in listening to each other.

It seems an added benefit that we share similar 
views on most issues.

We support each others' very different dreams and goals.  We also have very different individual

strengths that unite us.  I would unequivocally say that my husband has most influenced my exercising my voice through the many years of positive
support and the powerful example I find in his character.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

                    Voice and Relationships

 

When my sons were born, my voice changed in

ways that I never could have imagined.   I now had responsibility for ensuring that their voice would

be allowed to grow to their full potential with the

realization that my voice would provide the navigation.  I have always maintained that kindness and a commitment to service to others would

provide the foundation for that growth.

Through 
my educational background, I believe
I was able to encourage and 
stimulate a love for learning as well as provide the path for early

critical thinking skills.   In addition, I introduced them to all the experiences, as well as other areas that I saw interests in, that I felt had enhanced my voice or could potentially enhance theirs.

 

Most of my hopes for them have been realized but
there now exists a delicate balance for my voice.

I still want my voice to be heard by them but
am cognizant that it could be interpreted as

oppression.  

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             
                  Voice and Relationships

 
At this time in my life, I realize that I have few relationships where I feel a complete freedom
to speak my mind.
 For example, friend
of over forty years recently came to visit

in the fall for a few days. We have always stayed
close over the years and I have always felt the
freedom to confide in her on an intimate level.  In
fact, we both suffered devastating losses two years
ago when she lost her granddaughter and my sister passed away unexpectedly.  We were each others' major support systems through this time.  


During this recent stay, however; a discussion of politics ensued that had not entered our many conversations the past few years.  Unfortunately,

her position on some issues were so conflicting with my own that I had to oppress my voice.  I realized there now existed a definitive framework of
difference between us.

 

 

             
                         Voice and Relationships

 

I believe this experience in some ways reflects the similar frustration one feels when they perceive
their voice 
is not being heard.  In fact, in my early professional career, I learned to approach these differences through an awareness of my subjectivities and determined active listening to
find a common ground.  I have 
always found once common ground is established, the focus can then turn to the building of trust.

 

I'm not sure why I stubbornly refused to apply

this script in that experience.  Perhaps it was

the realization that I had one less person that I

could be completely open and share my voice
with.  Perhaps I was disappointed that our values

were so different now.  I know that I have heard

similar stories that have occurred throughout

this election.  I do believe it remains a great

challenge for our nation to surpass these

framework of differences.  



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                              Voice and Education


In a recent TedTalk I watched, Jane Fonda’s, Life’s Third Act (2011), where she introduced a quote by Viktor Frankl.  She stated,  “Viktor Frankl was a German psychiatrist who'd spent five years in a Nazi concentration camp. And he wrote that, while he was in the camp, he could tell, should they ever be released, which of the people would be OK, and
which would not.  And he wrote this: "Everything
you have in life can be taken from you except one thing:  your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation."  Although this quote is impactful, I believe it involves much more than just a choice of response to a situation that cannot be taken away.  


As George Washington Carver noted, “education
is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom,” (Bagley, 2013).  I have always felt that education as

an entirety is the one thing in life than cannot be taken away.  For me, education encompasses your
ability to think critically that determines your
response choice. 

 

 

 

 

                               Voice and Education

  

This project emphasized to me how important our environment is for fostering our learning development. The experiences I recalled in this project reinforced to me how we as educators should proceed in developing learning opportunities.  It begins with a critical evaluation of our own experiences to build on those understandings for others.  It continues with recognition that we must make every effort to be aware of our learners' past experiences as well to provide meaningful learning for them.

 

The completion of my voice history also emphasized to me that all students need an authentic safe environment that provides opportunities for expression of voice.  We must always be aware that too often students have been silenced or marganilized in their lives.  We must be able to recognize practices of bias, racism, sexism, mysogomy, and hegemony in order to eliminate it in our practice.  

 

 

 

This project also reinforced that we must remain aware that communication with others is a critical factor in the building of voice.  Brookfield notes that "teachers can foster true communicative action through the creation of learning opportunities that honor ways of speaking and by demonstrating their commitment through their actions."  Those actions include actively listen to our students, awareness of oppressive practices and facilitating group and learning opportunities for mastery of experiences as I believe they provide optimal learning.  

 

Finally, we must continue to endeavor to provide critical thinking opportunities to enrich their voices as well.  As an educator, I feel an obvious need for this can be found in current events that emphasize the importance of promoting critical thinking skills to provide citizens the ability to analyze information for truth.  I believe a great challenge in this process however,  will be how we ensure the information and the "voices" they are exposed to for analysis are truthful. 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Voice and Education 

 

This project also reinforced that we must remain aware that communication with others is a critical factor in the building of voice.  Brookfield (2005) notes that "teachers can foster true communicative action through the creation of learning opportunities that honor ways of speaking and by demonstrating their commitment through their actions."  Those actions include actively listen to our students, awareness of oppressive practices and facilitating group and learning opportunities for mastery of experiences as I believe they provide optimal learning.   

 

Finally, we must continue to endeavor to provide critical thinking opportunities to enrich their voices as well.  As bell hooks (2010) notes, "critical thinking empowers us."  As an educator, I feel that current events emphasize the important role we have

in promoting critical thinking skills to provide citizens the ability to analyze information for truth.
I believe a great challenge in this process however,  will be how we ensure the information and the "voices" they are exposed to for analysis are truthful. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                            Conclusion

I found that completing this Voice History was a unique experience for me as well as difficult.  I believe this is due to the emotional aspects of confronting our past experiences, as well as revealing our innermost selves, that I conceive of
as layers of a pearl when I think of "inside out".
It is 
much easier for me to articulate my beliefs on 
learning for others.  It has been an entirely different experience to articulate my own voice development.   Given this, it has been a very valuable experience in increasing my understandings of my voice.  How can I provide truly beneficial voice learning opportunities for others if I haven't taken the time to reflect on my own learning journey in developing my voice?


This project also reinforced the necessity of taking care of my voice.  I believe this project was a

beginning step towards that care.  I see a great

value in these reflections and hope to continually
progress towards being able to reveal deeper layers

of my "pearl" in order to become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      References

 

Bagley, M. (2013, Dec. 6).  George Washington Carver:
           Biography, inventions & quotes. LiveScience.
           Retrieved from:  http://www.livescience.com/41780-
           george-washington-carver.html.

Blatt, B. (1981). How to destroy lives by telling stories.
           Journal of Psychiatric Treatment and Evaluation,
           3, 183-191.

Brookfield, S.D. (2005). The power of critical theory.
           San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fonda, J. (2011). Life’s Third Act. In TED Talk.
           Retrieved from: 
http://www.ted.com/talks/
           jane_fonda_life_s_third_act
.

        Hooks, B. (2010). Teaching Critical Thinking. New York, NY: 
                 Routledge

 

Lemme, B., (2006). Development in Adulthood (4th Ed.),
           Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.