Over the past decade, the lament that 'we need more male primary school teachers' has flourished in media and populist discourse, within education systems and in government inquiries in both Australia and the rest of the Western world. Whilst this discourse commonly assumes that more male primary teachers will benefit both boys in schools and society in general, other important considerations are silenced and overlooked and attention is seldom paid to the experience of male primary school teachers. This study explores the experience of male primary school teachers and the prevailing societal discourses about them. It focuses on their experience of crossing over into a career that is commonly regarded by society as 'women's work, and charts the advantages and disadvantages they face as a result of their maleness. The understandings that are found within this study are informed by relevant literature and by data emanating from media discourse analysis, statistical analysis and life history interviews. As a result of examining the relevant literature and data, this study has found that the experience of male primary teachers is likely to be complex, contradictory and problematic. Whilst some of their experiences are similar to those of female primary teachers, this study only focuses on the part of their experience that differs from female teachers and is the direct result of their maleness. Their choice to cross-over into women's work such as primary teaching appears to yield a unique and complex mixture of experiences that are poorly understood by both themselves and others. In particular, it is apparent that they experience a vexing combination of advantages and disadvantages as a result of being a male in women's work. This study has identified eight categories of disadvantage and four categories of advantage that the males experience. The various sources of literature and data have differing constructions as to whether the males are advantaged and / or disadvantaged. Most commonly, the sources privilege either the disadvantages or the advantages and silence the other. More rarely, they acknowledge and accommodate both. On the whole, the disadvantages are better articulated, understood and documented than the advantages, which are often silenced and ignored. In order to fully explore the experience of male primary teachers, this study has also sought to identify the prevailing societal discourses and debates about them and to examine whether they are affecting the experience of the males. Information about societal discourses was found in the literature, media and life history interviews, with media discourse providing the most significant and comprehensive data. After examining these prevailing discourses about male primary teachers, this study has found that they have an enormous impact on the experience of male primary school teachers. However, in contrast, the study has shown that the experience of male primary school teachers is not contributing to, informing or shaping either societal or media discourses. As a result, these discourses can be seen to be largely inaccurate, unreflective and unproductive because they do not reflect the experience of male primary teachers. This examination into the experience of male primary teachers makes an important contribution to knowledge because there are so few Australian studies of males who cross over into women's work or on the sexual division of labour in contemporary Australian society. Whilst the study produces many more questions than it supplies answers, it nevertheless results in extremely important understandings about the experience of male primary school teachers and crossing-over into non-traditional work. In particular, the study reveals the problematic nature of their experience and the complex experiences, advantages and disadvantages that they face as a result of their maleness. It also charts the unhelpful ways that prevailing societal debates and discourses about them have been constructed. It points to the need for new and more sophisticated societal debates and discourses about male primary teachers that will accommodate the complexity of their experience. It is therefore anticipated that these findings will make an important contribution to understandings about the experience of male primary teachers and to the development of more informed societal discourses about them. Most importantly, the study will provide a language and framework to enable the issues that have been identified about the experience of male primary teachers to be adequately addressed within education policy, teaching practice and teacher education strategies.
|Date of Award||2004|
|Supervisor||Marie Brennan (Supervisor) & Barbara Pamphilon (Supervisor)|