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Queering the teacher as a text in the English Language Arts classroom: beyond books, identity work and teacher preparation

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Classrooms reflect and contribute to normative sex, gender and sexuality categories in school culture, rules and rituals. Texts, materials, curriculum and the discourse we employ as educators perpetuate the pervasiveness of these categories. This paper explores some of the less visible ways in which sex and gender categories are constructed in US English Language Arts (ELA) classrooms, and how institutionalised heteronormativity positions students within normative categories of sex, gender and sexuality. These limiting conversations are difficult to identify and even more difficult to challenge. But it is precisely this dynamic – the subconscious reinforcing of sex and gender binaries – that upholds the dominance of the institution of heterosexuality. Merely addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) issues in the field of teaching reading, writing and literacy is an incomplete strategy. To disrupt normative narratives in the ELA classroom, educators must first identify the everyday practices occurring in school spaces, specifically recognising the teacher as a text. For sustained challenges to institutionalised norms, ELA teachers must engage in this work outside of LGBTQ-inclusive instructional materials and anti-homophobic education, and this paper offers specific methods for disrupting mainstream narratives in ELA classrooms.
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Keywords: English Language Arts; USA; gender; heteronormativity; queer; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Language, Literacy and Culture, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA

Publication date: July 4, 2015

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