Theses Doctoral

Confronting the "Good" Teacher: Reimagining "Toddler Teacher" Through Feminist Poststructural Teacher Research

Fincham, Emmanuelle

Discursive power relations that enclose the field of early childhood have functioned to construct the idea of the “normal” child, a process of silencing that limits spaces of “being” for children in classrooms. Relatedly, constructions of the “good” early childhood teacher are shaped by dominant discourses of child development that define “best” and “appropriate” practices in accordance with children’s developmental “needs.” In this study, I take up feminist poststructural theories in self-reflexive examination of my teaching practice with toddlers to allow for alternate ways of seeing the “child,” and therefore, the “teacher.” In laying bare the child and teacher as discursively constructed, complexities of classroom subjects become visible and possibilities for new ways of doing “teacher” emerge when we work to destabilize the hegemonic “truths” of the field.

Using feminist poststructural theories to shape a narrative teacher research methodology, this study employs ethnographic and narrative methods in self-reflexive analysis of my own teaching practice. Working with data produced during one semester in the classroom, I interrogate my daily practices and understandings of “toddler,” teaching, learning, development, and research in order to displace dominant ways of understanding “toddler” and “toddler teacher.” The possibilities for teaching toddlers have been constrained by intersecting discourses of development, readiness, neoliberalism, and gender as development and progress are prioritized while the widespread assumption that early childhood is “women’s work” (Grumet, 1988) shapes the roles and statuses of teachers who work with our youngest children.

The discoveries and new knowledges I have constructed through this work have exposed, challenged, and reimagined positionings of the teacher. From the gendered “care” work assumed to come naturally to women, to the technical practice based on a foundation of developmental knowledge, to the policing of children in classrooms, this study offers examinations of relations of power that may enable teachers and children to position themselves differently in classrooms, within and beyond existing discourses.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Recchia, Susan
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2021