A paradox of being both highly valued and highly scrutinized: the Australian male primary teacher experience
Cruickshank, V and MacDonald, A, A paradox of being both highly valued and highly scrutinized: the Australian male primary teacher experience, 2018 ATEA & TEFANZ Conference: Teacher Education in and for Uncertain Times - Conference Handbook & Abstracts, 3-6 July 2018, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 20. (2018) [Conference Extract]
Male primary teachers’ identity construction incorporates difficult decisions about resisting or conforming to
gender stereotyping in relation to appropriate masculine behaviours. These men are expected to teach and
nurture young children, while also displaying what has been described as a "reassuringly conventional
masculinity". A substantive body of international research indicates that men who choose to teach in the younger
grades often find themselves feeling positioned as abnormal or deviant, and consequently at risk of being seen as
potentially dangerous to children. Parallel to this, calls for more men in primary schools continue to emerge across
both scholarly literature and main-stream media. We attest these conflicting narratives, where males are being
positioned as both highly valuable and highly suspicious, contribute to the low and declining numbers of male
Within this paper, the researchers unravel the implications of, and for, male primary teachers as they negotiate
the challenge of embodying a reassuringly conventional masculinity. Adopting Relational Art Inquiry Tools (RAIT),
the researchers articulate the ‘tightrope walk’ male primary teachers must engage in to display this reassuringly
conventional masculinity, and the unsustainable and problematic reality of working in this liminal space. The
a/r/tographic inquiry unfolds from an experienced Arts-based researcher perspective and an expert in the gender
related challenges experienced by male primary teachers.
This paper adopts modes of inquiry that visually articulate complexity, conflict and paradoxical unseens inherent to
the male primary teacher experience. In doing so, we illustrate how RAIT tools can be used within a/r/tographic
inquiry to expose and render the challenge male primary teachers face in navigating this paradox. In doing so, the
outcomes of this collaboration capture the paradox of simultaneously being both highly sought after and highly
scrutinized because of gender.
This paper shares findings from the HREC Research Project - H0012257: Challenges faced by male primary teacher.
male primary teachers, Arts-based research, gender politics