Friday, January 20, 2012

Three Men in a Classroom

With apologies to Jerome K. Jerome.

For the first time in my professional life, at least since I started supervising student teachers in 1977, I am supervising a male student teacher in a classroom with a male cooperating teacher. Since less than 10% of elementary school teachers are male the likelihood of this happening again is pretty slim. At least three of the elementary schools where we place student teachers have only one male teacher and I have a sense that most of the elementary schools in Chittenden County where we place most of our students for classroom experiences have fewer than the national average of 9%. I have one male student in my two teacher education classes this semester. Why are there so few men in the nation's elementary schools and teacher education programs?

My first teaching job was as a 4th grade teacher in a Primary (Elementary) school in my native England. I was part of about 40%
of all primary teachers in England in the  1970s who were male. During the past twenty or so years there has been a similar decline in the percentage of male teachers in UK primary schools as in the US elementary schools  as this Daily Telegraph article illustrates.

One of the reasons for the original difference in male teacher percentage between the two nations can, perhaps be traced  to the origin of public education in the two nations. In the UK public education, part of which was primary education grew out of the "Public" schools such as Harrow and Eton, Sunday Schools and the industrial revolution. At this time all teachers in all types of schools were men. In the US, public education developed, especially at the elementary level from the one-room school house where the teacher was always a young lady, unmarried and of great virtue (or so history tells us). So there could be a cultural reason for this original imbalance.

The topic is a popular one for the national press and a quick Google search will bring up many newspaper articles with associated blogs through which writers share a myriad of reasons as to why elementary school teaching does not appeal to men. Women are more nurturing, men cannot cope with the demands, children only really play in the elementary school, it's just like babysitting - not a "man's" job and so on..

More serious research projects and articles, however, begin to highlight some of the real reasons why men do not choose to become elementary school teachers. Here's an interesting perspective about male teachers in early childhood education : an Austrlian perspective and a research proposal with a great list of references.
It would appear that the issue is far more complex than one might expect but one that should probably be addressed. The question is how?

1 comment:

  1. Male primary teachers are desperately needed in primary schools. The job however, can be perceived as one not suitable for men. This perception is outdated and inaccurate and puts a lot of potentially great Male Primary Teachers off from joining the profession.