By CityTownInfo.com Staff
May 12, 2009
The percentage of male teachers is at its lowest point in 40 years, with men comprising only about one in five public school teachers nationwide.
New Hampshire's Foster's Daily Democrat reports that according to the National Education Association, the situation is even more dire in elementary schools, where men make up only one in nine teachers across the country. Experts note that stereotypes are to blame, with many men viewing early childhood education as a women's profession.
"When I look at a stack of applications," said George Shea, principal at New Franklin School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, "only one in 20 is a male."
Louis Berger, a kindergarten teacher at Center Street School in Horseheads, New York, knows he is a rare example, and understands why men shy away from the profession.
"As a male, you feel that personal contact is questioned more closely than if you were female," he told the Elmira Star-Gazette, referring to the times he hugs and dresses children and deals with bathroom accidents. "You do not feel as comfortable as female teachers do. You are always aware that the way you interact with the kids is scrutinized. Females have an easier time handling these situations because they are accepted as natural caregivers, whereas men aren't."
Patrick Raymond, who teaches first grade at Diamond Springs Elementary School in Virginia, remarked that he brings a "guy approach" and doesn't hug students as some female teachers might.
"I'll get arrested," he told The Virginian-Pilot. Instead, he said, "I'll give them a pat on the shoulder and say, 'Way to go.'"
Valora Washington, who authored an article about the trend in the New England Board of Higher Education's magazine, suggested that pay is also an issue. She was quoted in Foster's Daily Democrat as saying that "what discourages many potential teachers is the prospect of accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in loans and debt, only to make less than $30,000 a year as a preschool teacher."
Linda Pratt, executive director of teacher education at Elmira College, agreed. "For some time, if males could go into the field of business and make twice as much for a starting salary," she told the Star-Gazette, "then obviously they would do that."
She pointed out, however, that the lack of male teachers is no more alarming than the shortage of female principals at the middle and high school levels or the dearth of female district superintendants. Too often, she said, men are encouraged to teach at higher levels, to coach, or to move into administration.
Yet education specialists agree that students would benefit from having more male educators. "I don't stress about it having to happen at each grade level," said Shea, "but it is important for all children to see male figures as teachers and learners."
Valora Washington agreed, and suggested providing financial incentives for men to enter early education and encouraging male high school students to pursue careers in the classroom.