Male primary teachers' understandings of masculinities and their impact on their lives
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Ireland has a long history of heroic male teacher ranging from the 1916 revolutionist, Pádraig Pearse, to literary giants such as The Master, Bryan MacMahon and Teacher Man, Frank McCourt. The charismatic male teacher trend is globally replicated across culture and religion. Yet, we know little about the everyday realities of male teachers in contemporary Irish schools. As the number of female entrants to teacher education colleges continues to rise against a static number of male entrants, there is a cause for concern regarding the under-representation of men in primary schools. Furthermore, this gender trend comes at a time when the needs and interests of pupils have never been more diverse and challenging. Mindful of the changes that have taken place in Irish society in recent years, especially with regard to a more diverse pupil population, the lack of diversity within the teaching population must be considered in relation to male primary teachers. This research focuses on the lives of 11 male primary teachers. The aim of this study is to explore how issues of masculinities are navigated and negotiated on a daily basis. Inspired by feminism and poststructuralism, the research design consists of three interconnected yet distinct phases of interviews. J. Spradley’s (1979) ethnographic interview is used to guide informal interviews during Phase One. The Long Interview, as described by McCracken (1989), is used as a framework for formal interviews during Phase Two and Phase Three. A voice-centred relational method of data analysis is employed in this study. This research places strong emphasis on reciprocity and is designed to maximise collaboration, interaction and reflexivity. Most importantly, participants form an integral part of the editorial board of this study. This study is significant as it connects the voices of Irish male teachers to individual daily experiences. It provides for the first time a platform for male teachers’ voices to be heard. The study is unique as it identifies a niche in international research consumption for an Irish perspective on masculinities, as the majority of research undertaken in this area ‘is Anglo-centred’ (Haywood & Mac an Ghaill, 2013: 6). Ironically, this study is further enhanced as it is carried out by a female researcher. This study establishes male teachers’ understandings of masculinities and how they impact on their daily lives. It encourages new ways of thinking about men who teach young children and intends to serve as a catalyst to further explore masculinities in contemporary Irish primary schools.