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Retelling herstory: to be a female Bedouin teacher differently

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The aim of this article is to contribute to the discussion on education in Palestinian/Bedouin society in the Negev in Israel and it proposes the narrative of female trainee teachers as the basis of an analysis of the changing status of Bedouin women and their community. The academic discourse on teaching in Bedouin society ignores the potential existence of an alternative discussion outside the dichotomous area of ‘traditional and modern' and/or ‘Jewish and Bedouin'. Bedouin society in the Negev constitutes a particularly interesting case for a meaningful study of the perception of teaching, chiefly because education has already become a significant practice in the life of a community that seeks integration into Israeli society. The teaching profession gives Bedouin women from the Negev a relatively new opportunity to integrate into education and employment and by so doing they reconstruct a new educational discourse. Il'il : When we were little, we used to laugh about me—hmm—a teacher. Me with pupils, and I'd teach them, like the teacher who used to teach us, with a little board, and I write for them and they are my pupils, as it were, and I give them tests and all sorts. And I love the profession very, very much because I love the pupils… Nura : I loved learning but this isn't the profession that I want to study—to be a teacher … You can help someone in this profession. I see myself going in that direction … First of all, you have to give, to impart something to the children in front of you, who have come to learn. You have to give to these children, to be conscientious. You don't just come. You haven't chosen the profession because you wanted to, but you have to cope with it. These quotations are from two female Bedouin students of education from the Negev in Israel who have a similar sociocultural background. They are speaking about the meaning of teaching during their professional training. Their views on the importance of teaching in their lives differ—Nura did not want to study education while Il'il expresses her love of the profession. Do these two perceptions shape their world as future teachers in Bedouin society at a time of sociocultural, structural, economic, and other transformations, and if so, how? The following discussion throws light on the absence of Bedouin women teachers and/or female students of education from the academic discourse on Bedouin education in the Negev in Israel. The starting point of such educational discourse is the women's personal and private experiences. A close view into how future female teachers perceive their profession is central to how society perceives teaching and education, more so in societies that have experienced major political and cultural transformations in recent years. This discussion puts forward the potential for an ethnographic approach within comparative education and highlights the importance of centring the field work on the interpretations women make of their educational development.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Ben‐Gurion University, Israel

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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