Monday, December 11, 2006

Men in elementary school teaching

There is a nice article in today's Lawrence Journal World about the lack of male teachers at the elementary school level.

The article notes that the number of male elementary school teachers has actually fallen from 18% to 9% and that the over all percentage of teachers who are male at all levels of pre college teaching is at a 40 year low.

At the secondary level, men tend to go into science and math, fields where good female role models are needed as well. The article quotes Marc Mahlios, the chairman of the KU School of Ed's Department of Curriculum and Teaching (Tip of the antennae to j.d for correcting an earlier version of this post):

"Men gravitate toward teaching at the university and secondary levels because the environment is more academic, he said. In contrast, the environment is more nurturing at the elementary level...For many males, the environment is decidedly more feminine than masculine... And I think that'’s a very real issue."

Can't males be nuturing as well? One of the commenters observes:

"My suspicion is that even if there were more men graduating with a background in grade school teaching, they would be screened out when it came time to selection following interviewing. They may get the interview but in these days and times they're not going to be picked for the job. Now if they're the "girly men" Arnold referred to, there might be the rare exception or three."

...screened out by the way by a so called (in the commenter's mind) old gal network.

Other commenters noted that it may well be the low pay keeping males out of the field but I think this commenter makes an important point:

"My college experience turned me away from education. I started out wanting to teach secondary sciences like physics and chemistry. The School of Ed. routinely spoke of bringing more men into the teaching profession. However, their actions proved to be just the opposite. When it came to classroom observations and student teaching opportunities, I was assigned to physical education classes every time. It turns out that I was not alone, as many of the other guys I spoke with complained of the same situation."

Yup..Since I have no interest in sports that turned me off as well. I was very fortunate to have strong male and female role models: great science teachers in my home town of Pittsfield MA such as George Hamilton, Roger Brown and Anne Nesbit; a great history teacher Mr. Hebert; great art teachers such as Morris Bennett, Mrs. Flynn in English, non academic role models including a wonderful choral director George Nesbit; Thom Smith of the Berkshire museum; George Miller, my first boss.

These were strong role models, not because they were male or female, but because they cared about people and also had high expectations. They encouraged all of us to excel and gender just was not an issue with these folks. A person like me, could just as easily been lost in the cracks. The point is we need strong role models of all sorts so that no one regardless of gender or gender identity is lost.
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