Troubling teachable moments: Initiating teacher discourse on classroom homophobic speech

Robert Alan McGarry, University of Pennsylvania


Research on the school experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students suggests that schools continually fail to meet their safety and healthy climate needs. Among other issues, this growing body of literature suggests that pejorative, homophobic speech is an epidemic in our schools. Much of this research depicts teachers as negligent or ineffective, or worse, adding to the problem. While teachers are clearly an important part of this story, their experiences, their perspectives and their voices have been absent in the discourse surrounding such issues. This paper introduces teachers' voices into that discourse. This qualitative study explores how teachers in one high school talk about classroom-based incidents of homophobic speech. Teachers' conceptions of such speech and it effects, and their perceptions and enactment of various responsive roles during such encounters are examined. These ideas and experiences are explicated according to their relationship with theoretical conceptions of teacher motivation and engagement in anti-oppressive educational practices. The results of this study, while further explicating these theories and expanding our understanding of teachers' experiences, also illustrate how an act of leadership can create a space for teachers to interrogate their own practices and the realities of their own classrooms.

Subject Area

School administration|Teacher education|Curriculum development|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

McGarry, Robert Alan, "Troubling teachable moments: Initiating teacher discourse on classroom homophobic speech" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310482.