A gendered study of men elementary educators through Collective Memory Work
Hansen, Christopher Michael
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This qualitative, gendered study’s purpose was to explore, critique, and disrupt the discourses surrounding men elementary teachers and to use our new knowledge to better understand the lives of men and women educators. Starting from a critical, feminist framework, this study was guided by the overarching question how might engaging in collective memory work with men elementary school teachers assist us in better understanding our identity at the intersection of gender and profession? Following Collective Memory Work methodology (Haug, 1983/1987), ten study participants from the southeastern U.S. met in facilitated, collective discussion in order to identify avenues for inquiry. A writing focus was identified by the researcher through discussion analysis, and narrative writing was undertaken individually by study participants. Once written, these anonymous, identity narratives were analyzed in collective meetings using a narrative analysis format similar to that used by Kivel and Johnson (2009). Narratives and discussion transcripts were used to create an analysis narrative of each of the participants’ stories. These analysis narratives (the original story texts, quotes from the discussions, and researcher analysis) were shared with participants, and then participants engaged in voluntary, one-on-one reflective interviews. Interview excerpts were then integrated into the analysis narrative stories to elaborate on primary findings. The study concluded that in the female-populated space of elementary schools men continue to be privileged in hiring and promotion, while at the same time these privileges position many men in unsustainable roles of hegemonic masculinity. Men’s presence in elementary schools also is disconcerting because of the established discourse that men and women cross gender boundaries only for reproductive purposes or possibly because they are deviant. While elementary teachers live within the context of masculine privilege, the discourses responsible for these unequal conditions are constructed at an early age and reconstructed by the men who enjoy those privileges and the women who suffer the de-privileging effects. Telling and analyzing our stories helped the participants become more aware of these conditions and also brought a collective conscious to considering ways in which men contribute to these conditions, and possible pro-feminist ways to confront them.