9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Everyday Life and the Life Course II Building I, 2E2

School-staging and back-watching - teachers strategies in risk-conscious schools

In the twenty-first century, risk assessment has become a crucial part of our daily lives and the fact that people in todays society perform daily risk analyses also affects the school system. Should the class go on a school outing even if the bus lacks seat belts? May the female PE teacher enter the boys dressing room?
In the presentation we put forward questions, hypothesis and empirical examples of how this societal fear of nondescript risk-scenarios interact with an increasing emotional value of children and market-oriented forms of control and regulation, and how this, in its turn, affects the daily life and work of teachers. How do they cope?
When analysing data from focus interviews, home-pages of schools and parent-teacher meetings three distinct strategies that teachers develop in order to deal with risk and avoid blame can be discerned. The first strategy concerns risk as an objective phenomenon while the other two can be tied to more subjective risk assessments. They concern on one hand the mediation of promotive images (school-staging) that, in different ways, suggest that school life is characterized by security, and on the other preventive strategies (back-watching) in order to avoid future blame. In the presentation, we focus on the two latter strategies. We have chosen to depict them as strategies of assurance and insurance.
In the empirical material a risk practice with defensive characteristics can be discerned, where the focus is on what may go wrong and who, in such a case, may be named, blamed and shamed. In the presentation, we call attention to the fact that risk is not always something negative, that it also includes a positive potential. To be in the risk zone does not only mean that one is subjected to danger, but also that one is situated in a zone of possibility and development. Hence, we want to debate the possibility of introducing practices which reflect a more constructive and positive risk logic, a logic that is not just based on individual flaws but where it is possible to generalize separate events to the system as such.