In a 2006 study, the NEA reported that men make up less than ¼ of the elementary school teachers in the United States. An article from the StarTribune in Minneapolis went so far to say that male teachers were “going the way of the spotted owl.” There are three general reasons men stay away from teaching positions: low pay, gender stereotypes, and the fear of being wrongfully accused of sexual misconduct.
Teaching Jobs Still Don’t Pay Much
According to the AFT (American Federation of Teachers)
, the average public school teacher’s salary from 2006-07 was $51,009. That may seem like quite a bit, but for a profession that requires four years of college and, in many states, post-graduate work, the salary may not seem worth the time, the effort, and the school loans! (And starting salary and pay at private and charter schools is significantly lower.) Since most men are the breadwinners in their family, choosing a job that has a low starting-salary, long hours, and not a lot of room for advancement isn’t appealing.
Teaching is a Women’s Work
Male teachers tend to gravitate toward middle and high-school jobs. Teaching in an elementary school is still seen as a “woman’s job.” Elementary school teaching jobs are viewed as positions where teachers must nurture and care for children in addition to teaching. Teachers are seen as “mothers” of the class. Historically, teaching was one of the only jobs a woman could get. These deep-rooted ideologies and stereotypes have driven males away from the teaching-field.
Fear of Being Accused of Sexual Misconduct
When I typed “male teacher” into Google, the first suggestion that popped up was “male teacher sex offenders.” How unfortunate! Teacher’s lives can be ruined by false accusations made by jealous, irate, or even bored female (and in rare cases, male) students. One look can be misinterpreted; one friendly hug can be called sexual abuse; one benign comment can be misconstrued or twisted. If a teacher is accused of a crime, he is usually suspended from work with pay while the police perform an investigation. If the police find the defendant innocent, the school will then perform their own investigation. In the meantime, if the media gets hold of the story, forget it. The teacher’s career is over. Even if he is completely innocent, his reputation is forever tarnished. Those who know him will always carry doubts about him. His life is ruined. Men see may not want to take the risk of placing themselves in a job where this could easily happen. The blogger from the website AVoiceFromtheMiddle.com
provides further insight into this prevalent problem.
Why Boys Need Male Teachers
The simple truth is that men better understand boys because they once were boys. Female teachers are more likely to view boys as disruptive and rambunctious. Females are also more likely to institute girl-centric
activities in their classrooms, forgetting to aid boys in learning by providing activities that cater to their learning needs. Women’s teaching styles can be off-putting to boys (see this hysterical article from the UK: Shut up! Women teachers told their constant talking puts boys off school.)
Men have a greater ability to garner boys’ respect. Men have a commanding presence, but can nurture and guide students the same as a female-teacher. In fact, one male teacher complains that having only women in the classroom perpetuates the stereotype that only women can be gentle. Erik Owens
, a third-grade teacher, says he wants to give his students ‘the mother image as well as the father.”
(This blogger, having once been a teacher herself, does not mean to suggest that women don’t make excellent teachers and can’t have a profound influence in a male-student’s life! She just wants to suggest that variety is the spice of life and both male and female students would benefit from teachers of both genders!)
Solutions for Getting Men Back into Classrooms
There are a plethora of ideas out there:
- Heavy recruitment at the university level- See www.menteach.org about recruiting ideas
- Separate schools for boys and girls
- Stronger dress codes/ uniforms in schools
- Creating male-friendly school environments
- Contributing to the creation of new perceptions of societal norms
What are your ideas? How do we get men back into our classrooms?