In this chapter I focus on the discourse of teachers as role models to highlight the conceptual limits of such an explanatory framework for making sense of teachers' lives and their impact on student learning in schools. I stress that the issues sur rounding the call for role models in terms of recruiting more minority and male teachers in schools cannot be treated solely as a representational problem which can be addressed simply by striking the appropriate gender and ethnic balance in the teaching profession (see Latham, 1999). In fact, my argument is that the role model discourse is particularly seductive because it recycles familiar stereotypes about gen der and minorities with the effect of eliding complex issues of identity management and conflict in teachers' lives (see Britzman, 1993; Button, 2007; Griffin, 1991; Martino, in press). Moreover, claims about the potential influence of teachers, on the basis of their gender and/or ethnicity, have not been substantiated in the empiri cal literature. By reviewing significant research in the field, I demonstrate that the familiar tendency to establish a necessary correlation between improved learning and pedagogical outcomes, as a consequence of matching teachers and students on the basis of their gender and/or ethnic backgrounds, cannot be empirically substantiated.

In this sense, my aim is to provide a more informed research based knowledge and analytic framework capable of interrogating the conceptual limits of the role model discourse, particularly as it relates to establishing the potential influence of teachers on students' lives in schools. In addition, in the second part of the chapter I draw attention to the persistence of the role model discourse as a particular gendered phenomenon within the context of the call for male teachers in elementary schools to address the educational and social needs of boys. This discussion is used as a further basis for interrogating the fallacious assumptions informing the teacher role model discourse which has been invoked in response to a moral panic surrounding the crisis of masculinity vis-à-vis the perceived threat of the increasing feminization of elementary schooling (see Lingard & Douglas, 1999; Martino, 2008). In this way, I foreground the extent to which the role model argument has been used to sup port the need for both a gender balanced and a more ethnically and racially diverse teaching profession, while eschewing important political issues pertaining to: (1) the devalued status of doing women's work (Williams, 1993); (2) the significance of teaching for men's sense of their own masculinity and sexuality (Francis & Skelton, 2001; Martino & Kehler, 2006) and; (3) the impact of the social dynamics of racism and sexism on minority teachers' lives (Carrington, 2002; Ehrenberg, Goldhaber, & Brewer, 1995; Pole, 1999).


Role Model Minority Student Hegemonic Masculinity Moral Panic Absent Father 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wayne Martino
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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