University of Tasmania

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A paradox of being both highly valued and highly scrutinized: the Australian male primary teacher experience

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 17:49 authored by Vaughan CruickshankVaughan Cruickshank, Abbey MacDonaldAbbey MacDonald
Male primary teachers’ identity construction incorporates difficult decisions about resisting or conforming to gender stereotyping in relation to appropriate masculine behaviours. These men are expected to teach and nurture young children, while also displaying what has been described as a “reassuringly conventional masculinity”. A substantive body of international research indicates that men who choose to teach in the younger grades often find themselves feeling positioned as abnormal or deviant, and consequently at risk of being seen as potentially dangerous to children. Parallel to this, calls for more men in primary schools continue to emerge across both scholarly literature and main-stream media. We attest these conflicting narratives, where males are being positioned as both highly valuable and highly suspicious, contribute to the low and declining numbers of male primary teachers. Within this paper, the researchers unravel the implications of, and for, male primary teachers as they negotiate the challenge of embodying a reassuringly conventional masculinity. Adopting Relational Art Inquiry Tools (RAIT), the researchers articulate the ‘tightrope walk’ male primary teachers must engage in to display this reassuringly conventional masculinity, and the unsustainable and problematic reality of working in this liminal space. The a/r/tographic inquiry unfolds from an experienced Arts-based researcher perspective and an expert in the gender related challenges experienced by male primary teachers. This paper adopts modes of inquiry that visually articulate complexity, conflict and paradoxical unseens inherent to the male primary teacher experience. In doing so, we illustrate how RAIT tools can be used within a/r/tographic inquiry to expose and render the challenge male primary teachers face in navigating this paradox. In doing so, the outcomes of this collaboration capture the paradox of simultaneously being both highly sought after and highly scrutinized because of gender.

This paper shares findings from the HREC Research Project - H0012257: Challenges faced by male primary teacher.


Publication title

2018 ATEA & TEFANZ Conference: Teacher Education in and for Uncertain Times - Conference Handbook & Abstracts




Faculty of Education


Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA)

Place of publication


Event title

2018 ATEA & TEFANZ Conference: Teacher Education in and for Uncertain Times

Event Venue

Melbourne, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Gender aspects in education; Other education and training not elsewhere classified; Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies

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