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Emasculation Blues: Black Male Teachers’ Perspectives on Gender and Power in the Teaching Profession


by Ed Brockenbrough — 2012

Background/Context: Over the past decade, a growing chorus of educational stakeholders has called for the recruitment of more Black men into the American teaching profession, casting these men as ideal surrogate father figures for Black youth who may lack adult male role models in their families or communities. Although a small body of scholarly work has begun to examine the gendered forms of culturally relevant pedagogies enacted by Black male teachers, critical analyses have yet to emerge on how these men negotiate the gendered power dynamics and professional culture of a traditionally female workplace.

Focus: This article presents several sets of findings from a more broadly framed study on the identities, pedagogies, and experiences of Black male teachers. Using Black masculinity studies as a conceptual framework, this article focuses specifically on Black male teachers’ negotiations of workplace gender politics with women colleagues and administrators.

Participants: The 11 Black male teachers whose narratives are explored in this article were middle or high school teachers in a predominantly Black urban school district on the East Coast of the United States.

Research Design: The study described in this article was grounded in life history narrative inquiry and employed a three-interview regimen for in-depth interviewing to enable participants to construct rich and nuanced narratives of their lived experiences as Black men and as Black male teachers. Focus groups also allowed participants to co-construct understandings of the challenges and opportunities they faced as Black men in the teaching profession. Transcriptions were coded and analyzed for recurrent themes within each participant’s narrative as well as across participant narratives.

Findings: Participants’ life narratives revealed patriarchal gender ideologies that produced an inattention to male privilege, fueled conflictual encounters with women colleagues and administrators, and informed a desire for more male-centered spaces and interactions within the profession.

Conclusions and Recommendations: Patriarchal gender ideologies contributed to contentious gender politics in the workplace for the men in this study. Future research should attempt to develop deeper understandings of how these ideologies may influence the experiences of Black men throughout the American teaching profession. Additionally, inquiry efforts should explore strategies for engaging Black male teachers in examinations of their complicated relationships to patriarchy and for applying a critical awareness of gender to their negotiations of gender politics in the workplace.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 5, 2012, p. 1-43
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16417, Date Accessed: 12/17/2017 1:16:41 AM

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About the Author
  • Ed Brockenbrough
    University of Rochester
    E-mail Author
    ED BROCKENBROUGH is an assistant professor of teaching and curriculum and the director of the Urban Teaching and Leadership Program at the University of Rochester’s Warner Graduate School of Education. His research focuses on negotiations of identity, pedagogy, and power in urban educational spaces, with particular attention to Black, masculinity, and queer issues in education. His current research projects include a study of masculinity politics in the lives of male teachers in urban K–12 schools and an examination of the educational experiences of LGBT youth of color.
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