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The drive to diversify the teaching profession : narrow assumptions, hidden complexities

Santoro, Ninetta (2015) The drive to diversify the teaching profession : narrow assumptions, hidden complexities. Race Ethnicity and Education. ISSN 1361-3324

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Abstract

In response to increasing cultural diversity within student populations in Australia as well as Britain, Europe and North America, there have been ongoing calls to diversify the teaching profession. Such a strategy is based on assumptions that teachers who are of ethnic and racial minority are well placed to act as role models for minority students, will understand students' cultural practices and beliefs and how they shape them as learners, and will contribute diverse cultural perspectives to school curricula. In this article I draw on data from two separate studies that investigated the experiences of culturally diverse teachers working in Australian schools. I illustrate how the participants are constructed, first and foremost, as ethnic and racialised teacher subjects, a positioning that shapes the nature of their work and professional identities. I suggest that the work of racially and ethnically diverse teachers and the construction of their professional selves are underpinned by naive assumptions about them as a homogenous group, as educators who can address the education needs of all culturally diverse students and as cultural experts who can incorporate diverse cultural perspectives into school curricula. In light of these findings I critique the assumptions about culturally diverse teachers that underpin arguments to diversify the profession. I also make visible some of the tensions and complexities that shape their work in schools.