gender, identity

The Paradox of Being a Woman Teacher

Maria Tamboukou (2000), The Paradox of Being a Woman Teacher examines a woman’s journey from a private(feminine) to a public (masculine)world via teaching. Tracing a genealogical line Tamboukou maps various practices and discourses that determine women’s experience in education today.

I was drawn the changing image of the ‘school teacher’, her quote from Charlotte Bronte, the notion of being imprisoned in the ‘schoolhouse’, the link of the teacher with the maternal and the ensuing frustrations that this role of nurturer and carer brings with it.

The Holding on Diaries (1994) offer some candid reflections of the juggle and exhaustion experienced by women who teach.

“Women feel obliged to conform to specific time arrangements, since time does not belong to them. They are expected to offer time rather than ‘have’ it. The giving of time relates to the female self to others’ lives. It is a symbol of caring.” (p. 473)

Women who educate others have come to feel a strong need to further educate themselves. This can be regarded to be a transition, an acceptable engagement to find the ‘self’.

“Is it a desire to become a better professional?Is it their ambition to climb the hierarchal pyramid of education? Is it what Walkerdine (2000) has defined as the schoolgirl’s fiction, this perforative part of femininity that always leaves women with a sense of incompetence and unfulfilled goals in life? Or is it a sign that women seeking to reinvent themselves find one education the transitional space that is essential for reflection upon themselves and their lives?” p475

bell hooks (1994) in Teaching to Transgress emphasises the pleasure of teaching as both an act of resistance and performance, ‘countering the overwhelming boredom, uninterested and apathy…. of the classroom experience….offering space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts.’ p. 10,11

I want to consider how the experience of being a woman teacher in a rural context may be subject to some of these trajectories of change, sites of conflict and challenge that Tamboukou articulates. And I wonder how the emerging ambivalence towards teaching as a career, as a profession that enacts so much erosion of the ‘self’, as women juggle their various roles, has impacted on women’s pursuit of leadership. There is a strong argument that women represent a strong presence in post grad study, but this is not for career ambition and development of leadership capacity for the classroom, department or instruction. Further study is an escape, a transition, an act of trying to find the ‘self.’ These ideas are rather challenging on a personal level. Here I am embarking on a PhD, creating my escape route, my transition to a period of reflection and change.


One thought on “The Paradox of Being a Woman Teacher

  1. Pingback: More Paradox from Ms Tamboukou | The Jester Flys

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