Children’s “Mis”behaviours: An Ethical Engagement with the Mystery of the Other

Melanie D. Janzen


Students’ non-conforming and “difficult” behaviours are often conceptualized through a pathologizing lens of “disability” (as informed by developmental psychology), medicalizing and, thus, legitimizing “mis”behaviour in a move that upholds the normal order of things. Using Sharon Todd’s theorizing (influenced by Levinas) on ethical relationships with the Other, alongside a snippet of teacher interview data from a research project, Janzen theorizes what it might mean for this ethical relationship between teachers and “mis”behaving students to be framed by the notion of mystery, arguing that a relationship with the Other enacted through a stance of mystery is necessary in maintaining the alterity (difference) of the Other, and is premised on openness and listening. Thus, rather than the dehumanizing and objectifying efforts of seeking to know the child through assessments and diagnoses, ethical relationships between teachers and students must be premised on an acknowledgment and curiosity of differences.


Behavior; disability; ethical relationships

Full Text:


JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

The journal is published by the Foundation for Curriculum Theory and is associated with the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held in the autumn of each year. JCT is indexed in The Education Index.

NOTICE: As of December 2008, the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (Volume 24, Issue 1) and all future issues
are available freely and exclusively online to all individuals and institutions. More Information...

Contributors to the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing retain copyright to their work.

All other content: Copyright © Foundation for Curriculum Theory. All rights reserved.

ISSN: 1942-2563