Listening to the Silences: A Teacher’s First Year
in Words and Music
Charles Vanover1
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Listening to the Silences is an ethnodrama - an example of verbatim theatre that evokes a
teacher’s first year in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) based on the words voiced during a
series of four interviews sessions conducted by the author. The protagonist, Indiana Ingelside,
spent her first year in CPS in an African American school in one of Chicago’s poorest
neighborhoods. The show is intended to help the audience reflect on the beginning teacher’s
experiences of working in that setting. The script evokes the challenges of teaching within
environments shaped by social policies that do not address, and frequently exacerbate, the
poverty, racism, and other forms of injustice that shape the lives of children and families of color.
The article begins with the complete playscript and then concludes with an afterword that
describes what the author learned from developing and producing the show. Photos from the
Philadelphia workshops are included.
Key words: beginning teachers, interviews, personal narratives, ethnodrama, teacher induction,
Chicago Public Schools
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1 Biographical statement: Charles Vanover worked in the Chicago Public Schools for eight
years before he received a fellowship to the University of Michigan’s program in Educational
Administration and Social Policy. Charles uses ethnodrama in his educational research; his
ethnodramas have been performed more 40 times at various venues. Listening to the Silences is
the first of Charles’ four inquiry theatre plays to be published. Articles on the arts-based research
practices used to develop these four shows are published by Qualitative Inquiry and in press from
The Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Current updates on Charles’ plays and qualitative
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Listening to Silences: A Teacher’s First Year in Words and Music
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Listening to Silences: A Teacher’s First Year in Words and Music