School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Rebecca Stroud Stasel

PhD in Education

Rebecca Stroud Stasel

Rebecca Stroud Stasel

Merging passions and research 

by Natalia Mukhina, November 2017

Rebecca Stroud Stasel has been fortunate to be able to incorporate her lifelong passions into the world of academia. Her master's and current PhD research both have come from a love for arts, traveling, and teaching.

Stroud Stasel’s M.Ed. thesis was written as a full-length play. “I wrote a more traditional thesis first, and it was so boring to read,” says Stroud Stasel, a teacher with extended experience in working with teenagers. Inspired by arts-based pedagogy, Stroud Stasel explored an experimental theatre project in which high schoolers used drama as a sociocultural tool to express their views about the world. She co-created the project with an artist from India and was a director of the theatre troupe for 3 years.

How does Stroud Stasel manage to think creatively and academically at the same time? “It is a big secret for me as well,” she says smiling. What Stroud Stasel has learned from her master’s project is that there is space in the academy for academic thinking through artistic media. This is a legitimate and important avenue that some people can pursue in academia.

“While I am directing plays is probably when I feel the most alive,” says Stroud Stasel and adds that the theatre project has had a powerful transformative effect on her own teaching practices and values. For this work, she was awarded the state-wide “Ethics in Education” teaching award and also the Annual Thesis in Education Prize. 

Stroud Stasel notes that those awards emphasize the importance of experimental work in schools. “If you don’t take the chance, you won’t have that discovery. Encouraging teachers to follow their passions and link it to professional opportunities can result in promising teaching strategies.” 

Stroud Stasel’s PhD work has a different focus than her M.Ed. thesis, but one thing is constant—her current research is linked to her other passion, which is travel. As a K-12 teacher, she worked in rural, suburban, and urban Ontario, in Minnesota, and also in Malaysia and Hong Kong. Teaching overseas, she became curious about some of the obstacles that Canadian-trained teachers must navigate culturally and personally to thrive in international schools.

What is it to teach a child, be this craft or a skill,

unlock these imagination ciphers: guarded or just paucity?

To teach rather than give fish, to inspire, to invoke reciprocity,

To shift the classroom from a drill to a thrill.*

These lines from Stroud Stasel’s poem on her decision to enter teaching two decades ago perfectly introduce the type of thoughts every teacher reflects upon. Teaching is a rewarding but stressful occupation. Canadian K-12 teachers, who are the specific focus of Stroud Stasel’s research, are highly recruited throughout the world. Yet, how do you deal with the unexpected in a new country while still being a good teacher for your students?

For Stroud Stasel, there are some hurdles teachers will undoubtedly face if they take a job in another country. Besides cultural and practical ones, there are psychological hurdles such as living in isolation and as a minority. “In the past, those hurdles have been framed as a disease like culture shock,” explains she. “However, it can also be understood as a growth opportunity to build your own sense of self-advocacy and your capacity.”

While reading on culture shock or the terms she prefers to use such as sojourner adaptation or adjustment because of their more positive emphasis, Stroud Stasel has discovered the experiences of missionaries, nurses, development workers, and business and military people who go overseas to work. However, she has not uncovered a lot about her topic of interest.

“I am interested in seeing a body of literature emerge about teachers’ experiences. There are probably many similarities and at the same time there may be some unique things about teachers’ experiences. It is hard to make generalizations in this field.” On the bright side, this inspires her because more research is required in her area.

It is very hard to depict any one international school as indicative of what is seen throughout the globe, as there is such incredible diversity. Stroud Stasel has come across literature about teachers who broke their international contracts. “It can be very damaging professionally, and personally too. It seems that some adjustments are more difficult for teachers than others, and I’d like to learn more about that.”

Stroud Stasel hopes that her research will help the international school community inform their leaders about some aspects of organizational life that ought to be considered when hiring international teachers, as well as how to best support them once in their new environments. “We live in a globalized world where mobility is a key factor. Knowledge of how to thrive outside of our own comfort zone would be beneficial for both Canadian teachers and their international students.”

 

____________________________________________________

Stroud Stasel, R. (2017). New teacher’s calling. In B. Kutsyuruba & K. D. Walker (Eds.) The bliss and blisters of early career teaching: a pan-Canadian perspective (pp. 65-66). Burlington, ON: Word & Deed Publishing.

 

Tags: