I started the summer with grand plans to blog every week and focus more on "low-stakes," playful writing. I wish I could say I held myself to this public pronouncement, but well, I did not. So here I am writing on the eve of the end of my summer break. Instead of every week, I managed one post at the beginning of summer and one at the end. Bravo!
Most of my summer went to studying for comprehensive exams, but I also became increasingly engaged in a grassroots teacher organization in South Carolina called #ScforEd. It is amazing how much these two overlapped. In particular, I spent a lot of time reading about the construction of teacher subjectivity and identity. And while, yes, much of this reading is highly theoretical, it helped me understand the discussions and comments that run through the popular SCforEd facebook page/group. Why is it that teachers are posting deals, discounts, and "inspirational" memes to a group working on improving teaching pay and conditions?
As I read these posts, I couldn't help but to think deeper, like much deeper, about what it means to be a teacher? How is the subjectivity of teachers constructed? How do the material practices and realities of teaching interact with the discourses of policy-makers, policies, administrators, business, stakeholders, and other teachers to construct who we are? These processes that create the norms, boundaries, and common-sense of teaching, the space of a teacher one might say, is increasingly interesting to me. I also think it is something very few teachers think much about, how their being as a teacher is outlined and defined for them.
This does not mean teachers are without agency or intentionality, but it does challenge teachers to dissect the taken-for-granted qualities of a teacher. Some of these include how teachers are "selfless," or "servants," or "role models," or that teach because they "love kids" (like there are people that don't?). All of these seemingly inherent aspects of a teacher are social constructions that can be questioned and problematized. Additionally, teachers must come to realize that what it means to be a teacher is not an autonomous process of self-defintion, but rather a field of "acceptable" choices we must plant ourselves in. I have not yet talked about power relations, but one can only surmise how those "acceptable" choices are constructed.
In short, what I am thinking through is more than teacher identity, but rather the preconditions or underlying norms that structure our understanding of teacher selves. I hope this is a question I will return to and continue to deconstruct over the course of this year, perhaps even analyzing specific incidents or experiences.
Here are some texts that are helping me think through this:
Heller, K. J. (1996). Power, Subjectification and Resistance in Foucault. SubStance, 25(1), 78–110.
Foucault, M. 1982b. The Subject and Power. Critical Inquiry 8 (4): 777-795
Popkewitz, T. S. (1985). Ideology and social formation in teacher education.
Teaching and Teacher Education, 1(2), 91–107.Popkewitz, T. S. (1998). Struggling for the Soul: The Politics of Schooling and the Construction of the
Teacher. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.