Genders and sexualities: the texts that coordinate the work of primary school teachers

Year: 2019

Author: van, Leent, Lisa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A range of texts co-ordinate the work of teachers in how they represent sexualities as a part of their everyday work in Australia. Institutional ethnography is described by Smith (2005) as ‘a sociology for people’ revealing how things are constructed in everyday life. By mapping the connections between professional practice, policy and the everyday lives of teachers it is possible to create a ‘picture’ of how sexualities are represented. As teachers are searching for an authoritative voice to support their pedagogies, some refer to non-existing policies, and a range of social and institutional texts. Education authorities must be aware that teachers are ‘looking’ for policy and curriculum support.

In the context of national agreement by government education Ministers that equitable education be provided including diverse sexualities (Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs, 2008), the educational experiences for young people in Australia continue to be less than equitable (Hillier, Jones, Monagle, Overton, Gahan, Blackman, & Mitchell, 2010). The aim of this research is to understand how texts influence the work of teachers as they represent genders and or sexualities as part of their everyday work. The term ‘texts’ is used to describe a broad understanding of the concept of text to include: books, policy, procedures, posters, newsletters, curriculum, teacher and whole school planning documents and others as they arise (Smith, 2014). In a previous study by the author, teachers revealed that they referred to non-existing policy to support their pedagogical responses or they hoped for curriculum support. This prompted further investigation into the texts that shape the work of teachers and how they, imagined or not, interact with and between the teachers and the institutions in which they are employed. The significance of this research highlights to policy and curriculum makers, and political and institutional shakers and movers, that teachers are unsure about what to do when LGBTIQ+[1] themes and issues arise, and that they are ‘inventing’ their own, and or looking for clear, accessible policy and curriculum to provide support and guidance in their decision making.

[1] LGBTIQ+ is an acronym used to describe a range of genders and sexualities. The plus acknowledges there is a diverse range and fluidity of genders and sexualities within individuals, but also the plus acknowledges the shifting cultural definitions of genders and sexualities.