Masculinity and foundation phase teaching : exploring the identities of male teachers in Mpumalanga schools.
The phenomenon of male teachers teaching in foundation phase classrooms in South Africa remains an under-researched area of work. Men who choose to be foundation phase teachers are often criticised and ridiculed (Petersen, 2014). This is because foundation phase teaching is considered by society to be women’s work. Using Connell (2005) theory of masculinities and the intersectionality theory (Crenshaw, 1991) as frameworks, this study seeks to explore how male teachers, who are already in the field teaching in the foundation phase, construct and negotiate their gender and professional identities. A case study methodology was used in the study, with Mpumalanga province being the case under exploration. Nine participants were observed and each interviewed twice. The study found that male teachers in the foundation phase are constructing their identities by positioning themselves as parents, mainly ‘fathers’, to the learners in the classroom. Also, the study found that an appeal to traditional gender roles was made, with male teachers in the phase taking senior grades within the foundation phase (such as Grades 3 and 2), with the lower grades like Grade R and 1 being seen as suitable for females. Another finding of the study was that the male teachers negotiated their identities by constructing themselves as pioneers, powerful, better physical education teachers and knowledgeable compared to their female counterparts. The study concludes by suggesting that more research focusing on masculinity in relation to foundation phase teaching in the South African context is needed. The Department of Education is called upon to re-visit their recruitment policies and programmes in order to attract more male teachers into the foundation phase, in order to ‘normalise’ the male presence in this phase.