The Scar Runs through the Pupil: An Autoethnographic Inquiry

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May, Amanda F.
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This study delves into the phenomenon of student learning within the context of adversity. Trauma can interfere with the healthy and normal development of academic and cognitive skills needed for students to succeed in school. My own school experience was characterized by ongoing adversity as a result of being in foster care due to a traumatic eye injury. Because there is much to learn from an in-depth exploration of these learning experiences during a lengthy period in foster care due to a traumatic eye injury, I took an autoethnographic approach to the study. In recognition of the diverse ways in which I make sense of the world, and to convey the many layers of hidden hardship that competed daily with my learning, I used the artistic practice of altered books. Using a discarded textbook donated from the Halifax Regional School Board, I embarked on an exploration of altering textbooks with evocative images that represent the intersection between my foster care experiences, a traumatic eye injury, and learning. I explored and represented my experiences visually through development of an art portfolio including other art forms such as book binding, mixed media, drawing, and painting. I situated this altered textbook in the context of a Human Library and Nocturne: Art at Night Festival. This individual exploration has significant relevance for the education system. It demonstrates how lived experience can be not only infused but welcomed in the classroom.
foster children, childhood trauma, learning, trauma-informed approaches, altered books, arts-informed research, human library, autoethnography