Occupational Erasure and the Work of Invisible Teaching

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:24
Oral Presentation
Jan NESPOR, Ohio State University, USA
Mari HANEDA, Pennsylvania State University, USA
The contractualization of citizenship in the US is reshaping social membership structures and producing new institutional categories of people (Somers, 2008: 2; Walzer, 1983: 31; Hacking, 2007; Newman & Clarke, 2009). In schools, the “student” has been splintered into variants such as “gifted,” “learning disabled,” and our focus here, the immigrant or transnational “English Learner” (EL). Instead of ‘citizen’ or ‘student’ as an encompassing category attached to rights shared by all, the state attaches such fractured institutional identities to category-specific rights. More significantly for our purposes, contractualization generates new categories of workers – in the case of ELs, the English-as-a-Second Language or ESL teacher.

In this paper we examine how the work of ESL teachers is being assembled in one of the new immigration sites of the American Midwest, where the EL population has grown dramatically over the past 20 years from a tiny base. The paper is based on an institutional ethnography (Smith, 1987; 2005; DeVault & McCoy, 2005) -- interviews with 38 elementary-school ESL teachers and 5 ESL administrators in five contiguous but socio-economically contrasting school districts in a Midwestern US metropolitan area. Our theoretical aim is to show how the processes that articulate the teachers’ work with extralocal relations of control make that work visible at a distance but simultaneously place it under erasure at home through structurings of classroom time and space, and mobility regimes that decouple the work from specific school locations -- in some cases rendering the work “invisible” (DeVault, 2014; Star & Strauss, 1998). To do this we integrate IE with concepts from political geography, in particular ideas of scale and mobility (e.g., Herod, 2012; Cresswell, 2010). We conclude by considering the implications of these processes for teachers and students.