CUPE3908: Learn about Unit 1 Member Prof. Robert Teixeira

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CUPE3908

Meet Prof. Robert Teixeira

Life experience is learning experience

What enriches Prof. Teixeira’s academic career is his life experiences and his profound dedication to social justice activism and advocacy work in the community: 10 years as a sexual-health counsellor, his involvement and co-founding of the Anarchist Free University in Toronto, and many other pedagogical projects, including his current involvement with the LGBTQ social justice group, Queer Ontario.

His academic endeavours have often been concurrent with community involvement or full-time work. While an undergraduate (in English and Sociology at the University of Toronto), Prof. Teixeira volunteered with an organization offering sex education and counseling “to LGBTQ students with questions around coming out, HIV, and sexual health and safety.” This experience helped him get a full-time counseling position at Hassle Free Clinic, which has a mandate to provide non-judgmental health-care services to everyone. He worked there from 1994 till 2004, and during his last four years, he was also a master’s student in Sociology and Equity Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and U of T. This “was extremely challenging,” he says. “There was no time for anything else. But I had a really supportive committee. Living with a long-term boyfriend who was a high-school teacher at the time provided additional, crucial support and companionship.” 

Robert Teixeira

Then Prof. Teixeira quit his counseling job to pursue a PhD in Sociology at York University. His PhD research is a critical investigation into the contemporary discourses of child protection legislation. “As [Michel] Foucault would say, I’m diagnosing the contemporary, looking at the history of the present,” he explains. Titled Governing Children and Youth and the Socio-legal Regulation of Sexual Danger: Exploring Youthful Sexualities, Age Relations and Legislation in Canada, 2001-2008, his thesis “critically examines recent laws, such as the Omnibus Bill C-2, which increased the age of sexual consent in Canada from 14 to 16 and placed tighter restrictions on child pornography.” The research “investigates … governmental practices and legal regulation as they construct the child as a site of social regulation that draws on normative conceptions of bodies, sexualities, gender, desires, and families, and their connection to shifting relations between the law, the state, and criminal, psychiatric and medical expertise.” 

As he’s still working on revisions, his research hasn’t yet “been published in peer-reviewed journals,” he says. However, some excerpts have appeared in XTRA, an LGBT paper

Teaching critical thinking, thinking critically about teaching

While wrapping up his master’s degree, Prof. Teixeira helped found the Anarchist Free University, an “anti-authoritarian” community education collective that opened in September 2003. His experience teaching a collaboratively developed course Radical Perspectives on Sexuality “was one of the more interesting and engaged moments in my life,” he says, “and involved activating myself in opposition to some of the more usual and normative teaching methods.”

In 2010, Prof. Teixeira brought that experience to teaching in more traditional settings, and since then, he’s taught at Brock, York, Trent, and OCAD universities. At Trent, he taught a second-year sociology course, The Sociology of Family and Households, in winter 2016. Since the contract ended in April, he’s been at OCAD U, where for three years, he’s taught a third-year sociology course, Childhood, Families & Social Change.

 Similar to the Trent sociology course, the OCAD course “explores social, political and cultural dynamics of child, youth and family relations in contemporary contexts” and “provokes questions about the nature, status and social processes involved in the intimate and social reproduction of childhood and families.” Prof. Teixeira adds that it “investigates forms of inequality, in areas such as queer and trans parenting, the emergence of gender in childhood, and gender-variant children. There’s also a unit on Indigenous childhood and the legacy of residential schools.”

Because some of the content deals with potentially controversial or uncomfortable topics, he says, “I’m very mindful of how I talk about these things. For instance, domestic violence and child abuse are aspects of family life that cuts close to people’s real experiences. These topics can create discomfort, but it’s also important to analyze social phenomenon rigorously and dispassionately. We need to process strong emotions when uncovering oppression and violence, but our current university system hasn’t been structured with this need in mind.”

Trent University: “Laid-back but professional”

“I like Trent a lot,” he says. “I hope to teach there again at some point. There seems to be less distance between the students and the instructor, perhaps because of the college-based system. I found the students really engaged, serious, and aspirational. And I liked the atmosphere: it was laid back but professional. I liked working there – I had a good experience with the course I taught.”

Because Prof. Teixeira lives in Toronto, he made the commute to Peterborough and back twice a week – sometimes at night after giving his lecture. He notes that “the commute was extremely challenging, requiring dedication and strong mettle, typical of the gruelling schedule that contract instructors are forced to accept.”

He adds, “The demands of commuting are rough physically and emotionally, especially if you get sick, which is an inevitable hazard of the job.”

The “teaching precariat”

Contract instructors such as Prof. Teixeira are part of the growing “precariat” – workers who have no job security or benefits, and whose careers and lives are thus “precarious.” He points to the personal costs in terms of additional time and stress that result from commuting to two or more institutions, as detailed above.

He also describes his academic career so far as having a constant “performative” aspect – apart from the actual teaching: “I’m always under review, my performance is constantly being measured, so I have this fear of failure or mis-stepping,” he explains. “It’s a lot of pressure. Yet we don’t seem to notice, it becomes normalized as part contemporary middle-class labour. But it induces so much stress. I always scrutinize deadlines, make sure my grades are following the bell curve, and so on. But once, I submitted the grades two days late and sent a pitiful, groveling email to the chair. I read it later and thought, ‘Wow, that reeks of job insecurity.’”

“I was in a better situation in my 20s, when I had a publically funded job with good benefits. I worked in a collective atmosphere, with a good workplace culture – the collective was concerned with staff’s mental health needs. I’ve gone from that to one of the most precarious situations of my life.” 

“But I’m getting work,” he says. “My research does lend itself to teaching about the family and gender. It’s been encouraging.”

 

Last modified: 02-Nov-16

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