Happy Father’s Day! I am proud to know many nurturing fathers who are also teachers and who fight for public education. I have also known men who are not fathers, but who are marvelous teachers, who view their students like their own children.
Men are needed to teach in this country. There’s supposedly a teacher shortage, but there has always been a shortage of male teachers. There’s still a huge gender gap when it comes to teaching.
When men do teach, it’s usually high school. But good male teachers are needed at the early childhood and middle school levels. Male teachers who stand up for the profession and public schools, and who stand next to female teachers, show how important this profession and public schools are to this country. They are valuable role models for both girls and boys.
Men who teach early childhood education have a lot of moxie. It can’t be easy to walk into an elementary school of strong-willed women who know the craft of teaching. But their expertise is also needed!
In 2014, Motoko Rich authored an article in The New York Times titled “Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?” He gives excellent reasons why men avoid teaching. I also read through the reader comments and pulled other causes that might help all of us understand what’s required to turn this problem around.
Many of the reasons have to do with the negative school reforms that have been allowed to invade our public schools. Here are ways we could attract men to teaching and make it a more professional career for women too.
- Give teachers academic freedom. This would mean getting rid of curricular programs like Common Core State Standards. Teachers, with parental and administrative permission, should be able to do research aimed at improving instruction and helping students.
- Improve teaching stability. Teaching is not a stable career. Provide tenure after a few years, and insist on collective bargaining. Such negotiating should result in a reliable yearly contract.
- Create a demand for male teachers. Who’s recruiting male teachers or talking about this issue? Fewer male teachers mean fewer male teachers. It’s a vicious cycle. Enlist high school males to join after school career groups like Future Teachers. Make an all-out effort to find nurturing males who care about working with children. Make it a cool thing to do. Create a campaign!
- Men fear being accused of sexual abuse. Especially in the early years, men worry about this issue. All teachers need to be appropriately vetted before being employed. Schools need to openly address these concerns at the school level in an attempt to find solutions. Little children benefit from having both genders leading their classes.
- Raise pay. It goes without saying that men don’t want to work for low wages. As noted in the report, teacher pay has been stagnant since 1970. Male and female teachers deserve to be paid well and their degrees in education valued.
- Improve working conditions. No one wants to work in a crummy school building. Teachers also need time to plan and collaborate with other teachers. Isolation drives teachers out of the profession.
- Get rid of high-stakes testing. High-stakes testing and standards contribute to the micromanaging of the classroom. Everyone is tired of it. Constant online testing is not the solution either. Teachers should be given the freedom to professionally evaluate their students.
- Improve the profession for women. Improving the teaching profession in order to attract men can’t help but make women resentful. Women teachers who are offended by this will find it difficult to work well with the men teachers in their schools. Improve the profession for women first!
Essentially, improving the teaching profession, in general, could have the added advantage of attracting more men to teaching. And employing more male teachers would make teaching a better profession. But until the corporate drive to dismantle public education is ended, it is hard to see men looking to teaching as a viable profession.
robert shaffer says
Unfortunately, public education has more than just a gender bias in hiring it also has an age bias. Just try to get an interview once they find out you are over the age of 65.
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely! Thank you, Robert, for reminding us of that. Many agree with you including me!
I remember a male teacher I had in 5th grade in PS 217 in Brooklyn. Not only was he a nurturing teacher but he was also the band/orchestra teacher. He instilled a love in me for music I will carry for my whole life. He taught me to read music and he even tried to get me to play the guitar. Now – 55 year later, I sing with my husband during worship. Yes – we need these wonderful men in our profession – but we also need to protect, preserve, and restore the profession. Thank you Nancy.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Jo! That’s nice!
Roy Turrentine says
The most important point here is academic independence. While my observation may not be a gender difference, it strikes me that the women I have worked with are largely more willing to do the bidding of their superiors than were the men. Obviously, all generalizations are fallacious, but men seems to prize their ability to select what should be taught and how it should be taught.
So if you want men to teach, you better give them their space. I had a student who tried teaching. He got sick of administrators who did not know math telling him how to teach it and went back to engineering school. He got a wage increase out of the affair as well.
We will never be able to compete with industry for the top minds with money. We can, however, appeal to the desire for intellectual respect and the joy one gets out of the conversation about intellectual matters that happens in a good class. This requires less administrative interference and more support. The lot of most new teachers is to teach those who do not particularly desire to learn. His creates a jaded group,of teachers who find themselves trapped in the profession if they do not have alternatives. Young teachers should have positive interaction with all sorts of students. We should not have a structure that means that good students are taught by veteran teachers, and the hard cases are taught by a revolving door of young people who try and then drop out of teaching. There must be a better way.
Of course there is a reason we do not do this. Look no farther than the budget.
Many school districts require a masters agree. While I think it’s great that those that wish to better their education & higher pay – there are those that just want to teach & mentor. My husband is retired law enforcement with BS in criminal justice. He has a lot to offer but can’t get hired because no masters. I think the schools are missing out on good people with this requirement.