Who is the doctor: enhancing teacher professional identity and exploring ethical dilemmas in Doctor Who.

Year: 2019

Author: Harris, Ann

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Doctor in the British television series Doctor Who is regenerative and a shape shifter. Gender, age, attitude, expertise and inclination have changed over series and been continually modified according to circumstances, space and time. They fight monsters, old and new, and offer a reassuring presence in the unknown and to the unfamiliar. They save world(s) and defend those less able to fight for themselves. They are inclusive: being alien does not deny one social justice or abrogate survival. They act as a mentor and a guide to a succession of companions who demonstrate capability, courage and incompetence in varying degrees.

This paper examines how teachers’ professional identity is constructed, and in what ways student teachers are required to be adaptive and responsive at the same time as coping creatively and pragmatically in challenging and often unpredictable circumstances. It discerns, with the Doctor, how collaboration and guidance through teacher education can make a difference, address uncertainty: ‘Fear makes companions of us all’, and create a more inclusive and socially just educational environment. It explores how professional education can encourage student teachers to face their demons, establish priorities, address issues, resolve ethical dilemmas, and still appear plausible: ‘Are you my mummy?’ How, by being compassionate and resilient, they can accept both the limitations and the significance of their role: ‘able to take responsibility for themselves as beings capable of knowing: of knowing that they know and knowing that they don’t’ (Freire, 2004).

The Doctor has manifest on occasion as a teacher: ‘I’m here for a reason. I’m in disguise. I have promises to keep’, but authority and power are mutable and, as Foucault (1971) argues, can shift and be shared. This paper explores how student teachers might, through the lens of popular culture and of Doctor Who, find a way, within their incipient professional identity, to keep those promises, while also determining how both to behave ethical and to enhance social justice through education: ‘What you are standing in is a gateway to everything there ever was, and ever can be’.