Ataturk, Baby! The Cynicism of Teacher Self-Annihilation

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American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2021 Annual Meeting

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This paper builds from an exorbitant, anecdotal moment—the invocation of an inspirational quote on the eve of a new school year—to critically explore the larger conceptual frame that the best teachers give all of themselves to their students, to the point of self-erasure, as it has become manifest across various scholarly and popular discourses in education, research, and policy. In particular, we find significant intellectual and ethical problems emerging from this rhetoric that compromise the efficacy and humanizing potential of pedagogical practice. We conclude by offering ways forward for teachers that do not romanticize teacher martyrdom, focusing on approaches which instead affirm the relational complexities of work in classrooms, ones we argue to be more life-giving and sustaining.


English and Comparative Literature