Self-surveillance and the male teaching body

Year: 2000

Author: JONES, A

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

How do young male teachers negotiate the newly risky territory of the classroom? Governance of teacher-pupil touching has become a preoccupation not only of the education policy-makers who write the now-myriad guidelines for teacher professionalism and 'child safety'. It has also become part of the practice of being a 'good teacher'.

This research reports on the first segment of data collected in a larger research programme on 'men in teaching'. First-year male primary school teachers talk about the strategies they use to avoid physical contact 'not to touch the teacher'. The teachers' talk serves to illustrate some of the key features of a significant and widespread cultural change in teaching practice in the West. The paper argues that what counts as the caring teacher and good teaching practice with small children is being shaped in particular by the preoccupations and assumptions of current social anxiety about child sexual vulnerability. We suggest that this anxiety is located in wider expressions of risk and vulnerability, and concerns about safety, from 'safe sex' to 'cultural safety' to 'safe food' (Giddens,1991, Beck, 1992). How this anxiety might be understood in education, and how it might be played out in embodied classroom practice is the focus of this paper.