Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Do our children need male primary school teachers?

Two of my clearest memories of my primary school teachers are of men -- Mr. Laney in 2nd grade and Mr. Carter in 4th grade. Seems to me that kids need male teachers at least as much as female teachers, and this may be more true for boys than for girls.

From the Times Online (UK):

Do our children need male primary school teachers?

Maleteacher Are male primary school teachers vital role models for young boys? According to a new survey from the Teacher Development Agency, they are.

The research finds that male primary school teachers have acted as "fundamental role models to one in two men" (48 per cent), that more than a third of men feel that having a male primary school teacher challenged them to work harder in school, while a fifth believe that male primary teachers helped build up their confidence. Interestingly, the men questioned also said that they were more likely to approach male teachers with issues of bullying (50 per cent), problems at home (29 per cent) and questions about puberty (24 per cent).

With the new school year underway, and applications for primary school teacher training courses soon closing, it seems a good time to discuss this subject. Just 13 per cent of registered primary school teachers are men, and new data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that just 23.8 percent of those qualifying to become teachers in 2006/7 were men.

The new report also comes on top of others along the same lines. Another one released by the TDA last year suggested that boys in primary school wanted men to teach them - there are so few male teachers, that many children have never been taught by one.

But before we just accept all this at face value, and once again rue the world we live in (all these poor boys, not enough male teachers. Woe is us), let's look at this all slightly differently.

For one thing, what about the girls? I'm pretty sure that it's good for boys and girls to be taught by both men and women. More family break-ups and single parent families means that many girls as well as boys are growing up without strong male role models. Surely it would benefit all children to have more male role models in their lives.

And if we are all agreed, then we need to look at why there aren't more male teachers - um, isn't it the fault of young men who don't want to see teaching as the "right" career for them? Is this really something the goverment needs to change? Perhaps there is some kind of cultural bias at play here (a thought that teaching is a job for "girls") or more worryingly, a fear of paedophilia (as the Telegraph reports). Do men want jobs where they will earn more money, or are we in a vicious circle whereby there are so few men in the classroom, few boys grow up thinking that it is a job for them?

Graham Holley, the TDA chief executive seems to be suggesting that more men would teach if only they really understood the effects they could have. It seems to me a little naive, but he says:

"It is telling that more than 1 in 10 men would consider a teaching career if they felt they could improve the life chances of young boys, or if they heard positive things about male teachers from friends, family or the media. Not everyone can be a sports star or TV star, but they can be a ‘star’ in the classroom and help inspire thousands of young minds. We need to celebrate the important roles both male and female teachers play in schools, and work to redress the gender balance to ensure the healthy development of children today.”

So men, come and tell us why you won't teach - and if you might consider it if only you knew how rewarding it could be.......And parents, do you care what the gender is of your child's teacher, as long as she or he can teach?

Just to throw a spanner in the works, there have been some suggestions that any plans to recruit more male teachers to act as positive role models for boys might be counterproductive. Alexandra Frean reported last year that research commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families found little evidence that this "simplistic" approach worked, and also suggested that male teachers could be too harsh on boys (although this was in secondary, not primary schools). It also said that two thirds of pupils felt that the gender of their teacher was not important.

UPDATE: Please read School Gate's latest post - by a male primary school teacher....

(There is a good video about this whole issue - including a section asking children why they think there aren't more male teachers - on teachers TV).

Here is the response from a male primary school teacher mentioned at the end of that post:

Why I went into education, by a male primary school teacher

Earlier today I asked whether children needed more male primary school teachers, and why men don't want to go into teaching. Now Dominic Martin, who teaches Year 2 at Beech Hill Primary School in West Denton, Newcastle Upon Tyne, explains why he did make this choice. Dominic, who's 34, qualified as a teacher three years ago.

"I was working in retail management, but as I approached 30, wondered if I actually wanted to be doing it forever. My parents were both teachers, so I had seen them work and was aware of the ups and downs. What really appealed was the idea of working with young children, the way they can throw everything at you, and how they are discovering things all the time. I wanted to help them make those discoveries.

I applied for a PGCE, and got my fees paid, as well as a grant. I have to say that people who apply for secondary education do get a higher grant, and that I'm convinced primary school teachers need a higher profile. This is particularly true of male primary school teachers. When has the TDA ever run an advert showing a male primary teacher engaged in some fantastic work with a young class? Only by seeing the job 'live' if you like, will people think, 'oh yes I could do that', or 'that looks like the job I want to
do.'

I am one of two male teachers out of about 30 staff. Perhaps being male helped me get the job, but I hope it was more that the head saw me as being a good teacher. The quality of teaching and learning must always come first and should always be secondary to the sex of the teacher.That's what really matters. However, I do think it's advisable to have a balance within a school, so that children can spend time with men and women. It's good for children and parents to see that men are capable of being carers too.

Some people were a bit surprised that I was going to be working with such young children, and there is sometimes the danger of a stereotype - those fears of paedophilia,which I can understand. However, I have always found parents to be very trusting and think that a lot of this depends on how the school is managed and the ethos of trust within it. I am happy to hold a child's hand and wouldn't pull away from a child who was upset or needed me. But I know the limits - I wouldn't have a child on my lap.

Sometimes I think that boys do respond to me in a different way - they want to impress me or behave better for me. But that's probably unconscious behaviour. What I do hope is that I am a positive role model for them, and that I teach all my pupils well."


1 comment:

RIAZ UDDIN said...

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.