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Teaching Boys: A Relational Puzzle

by Miriam B. Raider-Roth, Marta K. Albert, Ingrid Bircann-Barkey, Eric Gidseg & Terry Murray - 2008

Focus of Study: This article investigates how teachers' relationships with boys can be central in bolstering boys' resilience and connection to their work in schools. Specifically, we examine how teachers understand the ways that their relationships with boys shape their teaching practice as well as their understandings of boys' learning in school. As school violence perpetrated by boys continues to make the headlines, and as many boys’ achievement continues to lag behind that of girls, especially boys of color and boys in the lower socio-economic classes, we must engage the question of whether and how teachers come to know the boys they teach.

Context: Recently, boys’ development and performance in school has taken center stage in educational research on gender and schooling. Building on a significant history of research on classroom relationships as well as current findings that reveal the centrality of relationships in children’s learning, this article seeks to investigate the ways that socio-cultural forces of gender both shape teachers' conceptions of relationships with boys as well as teachers' capacity to connect with the boys they teach.

Methodology: In order to examine the prevailing research questions, a Teaching Boys Study Group was formed, comprised of thirteen pre-K-12 teachers. Teachers presented detailed descriptions of individual boys to each other and then examined questions of pedagogy, gender and identity. The data was analyzed using a qualitative voice-centered relational method that required multiple listenings or readings of the data in order to surface the central tensions that the teachers confronted when considering their relationships with the boys they teach.

Findings: Our findings revealed two central tensions that teachers confront when considering the intersection of gender and the relational context of teaching and learning. The first tension encompasses teachers' efforts to locate, appreciate and preserve boys' individuality while at the same time confronting the pressures that teachers face to act as forces of enculturation. The second tension focuses on the complexity involved in locating teachers' teaching identities—especially the ways that gender shapes their teaching identities—while at the same time identifying the meanings that boyhood holds for their male students. This tension became particularly acute when examining issues of boys' resistance to school and to teachers.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the ways teachers come into relationships with boys shape and is shaped by the teachers' identity, the extent to which the boys express resistance to the school and classroom culture, and the forces of the school culture on both the teacher and the boy. When teachers can become aware of these forces, they have the capacity to investigate their own life histories, seek insight and support from colleagues, and revisit and hone their practice. Such awareness allows teachers to enter into relationship with the boys they teach, resist the forces of relational disconnection, and ultimately support their students' learning. The findings suggest the essential need for and careful planning of professional development contexts that can support teachers’ inquiry into issues of gender, identity, teaching and learning.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 2, 2008, p. 443-481
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14680, Date Accessed: 10/31/2020 10:05:52 PM

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About the Author
  • Miriam Raider-Roth
    University of Cincinnati
    E-mail Author
    MIRIAM RAIDER-ROTH is an associate professor of Educational Studies and Urban Educational Leadership at the University of Cincinnati. Her research interests center on the relational context of teaching and learning, children's and teachers' conceptions of school relationships, authentic assessment, and feminist qualitative research methods. Her current research focuses on teachers' understandings of their relationships with boys in school and how these connections shape the learning process. Dr. Raider-Roth is author of Trusting What You Know: The High Stakes of Classroom Relationships (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), Trusting what you know: Negotiating the relational context of classroom life (2005) in Teachers College Record, (107)4, 587–628, and Taking the time to think: A portrait of reflection (2005) in Teaching and Learning, A Journal of Natural Inquiry and Reflective Practice, 18 (3), 79–96.
  • Marta Albert
    SUNY Potsdam
    MARTA ALBERT is an instructor in the Department of Literacy at SUNY Potsdam. She is also a doctoral student in the Reading Department at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her research interests include vocational education, literacy, and social theory and policy about youth and work. Recent publications include: Douglas Waples: Crafting the well-read public, with G. Kamberelis (2007). In S. Israel & J. Monaghan (Eds.), Shaping the reading field: The impact of early reading pioneers, scientific research, and progressive ideas. . Newark, DE: International Reading Association; ‘That was then, this is now’: Place, time, and shifting experiences of rural literacy, with M. Jury (2005). In C. M. Fairbanks, J. Worthy, B. Maloch, J. V. Hoffman, & D. L. Schallert (Eds). Fifty-fourth yearbook of the National Reading Conference. Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference.
  • Ingrid Bircann-Barkey
    Virginia Union University
    INGRID BIRCANN-BARKEY is an Associate Professor of Spanish at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, she holds a B.A. in anthropology from Columbia University 1986, and a M.A. in Latin American, Caribbean and U. S. Latino Cultural Studies from SUNY Albany 2003. She is currently a doctoral student in Spanish with a specialty concentration in Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Cultural Studies also at SUNY Albany. Her research interests include race and class issues in Dominican women workers' lives, Hispanic Caribbean culture and society, and relational theory in teaching and learning.
  • Eric Gidseg
    University of Albany-SUNY
    ERIC GIDSEG is a doctoral student at the University of Albany in the Department of Theory and Practice, where he is engaged in research concerning kindergarten teachers' voices of resistance to the increasingly academic nature of kindergarten instruction. He currently teaches kindergarten in the Arlington Central School District in Dutchess County, NY. He is co-chair of the New York State Professional Standards and Practices Board for Teaching. His research interests include critical analyses of issues in early childhood education. He has previously published with Marc Osten, Teachers as learners: How peer mentoring can improve teaching, (1998) in Rethinking Schools, Vol. 12, No. 4.
  • Terry Murray
    SUNY, New Paltz
    TERRY MURRAY is an Assistant Professor in the Humanistic/Multicultural Education Program at SUNY New Paltz. His research interests include issues of power and relationship in teaching and learning, self knowledge development, and spirituality in education. His recently completed doctoral dissertation is entitled "Exploring the Psychological Landscape of the Virtual Classroom: Relationship and Power in Online Teaching and Learning." Dr. Murray is the co-author of Authentic assessment online: A practical and theoretical challenge (2005) in S. Howell and M. Hricko (Eds.). Online assessment, measurement, and evaluating: Emerging practices, volume III.(Hershey PA: Idea Group Publishing).
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