Theses Doctoral

Bodies of Knowledge (and Knowledge of Bodies): Performing, Maintaining, and Troubling the Discursive Sites of the "Middle School Teacher"

Mitschele, Kyle Ralph

Middle school is discursively positioned as a problem to be solved, largely because middle school students are fixed with a gaze that produces them as at-risk, and in need of advice, guidance, and role models to ensure a healthy and productive adult future. Middle school students, as “early adolescents,” are positioned as youth at a particular stage of development that has fundamental needs, linked to assumptions about their bodily, cognitive, and emotional development.

Middle school teachers come to embody the hopes and fears positioned on and through middle school students, and are discursively produced themselves as “bodies of knowledge” who are said to know the bodily needs of middle school students—in turn, positioned to all be rooted in the “nature” of their development. This study seeks to trace and open up the “rhizomatic assemblage” of “middle school,” particularly as it makes certain practices, knowledges, and discourses (un)available or (im)possible to “middle school teachers.” It does so by exploring through a qualitative study of three independent school middle school teachers, along with the auto-biographical “sketches” of the author, ways in which particular bodies come to know and be known as “middle school teachers.”

As the bulk of the data was being collected in the 2019–2020 school year, the global COVID-19 pandemic and racial reckoning in the United States that emerged from the murder of George Floyd both provided important new contexts to explore in terms of implications for intersectional, embodied experiences of “middle school” after March 2020. Consequently, the study explores discursive shifts and (in)stabilities across pre-pandemic and “early” pandemic contexts, particularly in remote teaching and calls to embrace and embody anti-racist practice as middle school educators. It is hoped that the exploration of discourses, discursive practices, and embodiment of “middle school” open up space and possibility in middle schools, for middle school teachers and students alike.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Lesko, Nancy Louise
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2022