Tomorrow's Teachers: International and Critical Perspectives on Teacher Education

By Alan G. Scott; John G. Freeman-Moir | Go to book overview

Why Teacher Education Needs a Feminist Core

Elody Rathgen

I suspect that I am about to present a feminist argument, and that's not easy. A feminist argument is unavoidably convoluted . . . ( Grumet, 1988, p3)


Metamorphosis

The longer I spend working in teacher education the less sure I become about the specifics of what I think should happen in any classroom between a teacher and her or his students. Of course, after 30 years spent teaching in secondary schools, at a college of education and now in a university education department, I know about many different ways of working in classrooms that can be very effective. I am able to take into account a huge range of variables that inhabit our classrooms, including many almost intangible ones such as relationships and the multitude of emotional responses possible in classroom communities. But, even so, in many ways I am less sure now about 'telling' student teachers what should happen in their classrooms, and about how they might bring those happenings about, than I was when I first began to teach. I was very definite in 1970 about what a good English teacher did, and I set about doing my best to achieve it.

This doesn't mean I don't know what to do when I meet a new group of student teachers, or that I wouldn't know what to do if Year 9 students turned up at my classroom door expecting me to teach them English. My wealth of experience as a teacher is wonderfully useful and powerful. I have so many teaching strategies that I can draw on to engage both new student teachers and 13-year-olds in search of an exciting English lesson. I could also provide an account of which teaching discourses I was dipping into and locate my multiple positionings, for example as a feminist, as an English teacher committed to multi-literacies, and as an ex-working class, ex-heterosexual white woman.

What it does mean is that teacher education is becoming more and more complex, as is the profession of teaching itself. In this chapter, I want to argue that some of this complexity is to do with the way in which feminist theories have posed new questions of education. Some of it is a result of the crisis of modernity, with our realisation that the truth is a very complicated matter, and with our need to contextualise our attempts to explain and account for theories of learning and teaching. With post-modernism asking us to question more humbly the rightness of our own classroom habits (no matter how successfully

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