Not Anything I Didn’t Already Know

2 09 2008

ABC News recently posted an online article about the lack of male elementary teachers in classroom and the various challenges male teachers face, including the low social status of teaching, parental bias (that whole women nurture, men enforce crap), and the whole sexualization of the male teacher. It’s an interesting read, although it does little to actually unearth the problem itself and if it was meant to be a recruitment tool to lure males into the profession, it fails on all counts. They interview Bryan G. Nelson, founder of MenTeach, and he relates a story about a parent who was “complaining and concerned” about his relationship with her daughter; ABC News later refers to the “mother’s suspicion of a perverted relationship.” Oh, that word: perverted. Why is it that perverted only comes out in reference to male teachers and their students. With women teachers, it is “inappropriate” rather than perverted, but I have to wonder what separates one descriptor from the other when they both reference similar behavior.

Also of note is the stereotypes section where they interview Mark Hedger, who now is a principal in Colorado, as he reflects on the reactions he got from a placement instructor when he said he wanted to be a teacher in the primary grades: “…she kind of laughed.” While I am sure Mr. Hedger is a great administrator, I wonder if ABC News is aware of the stereotype they reinforced with their inclusion of Mr. Hedger’s interview: that all male elementary teachers are in the classroom until they can enter into administration. As I was interviewing after graduating with my teacher credentials, I was consistently asked about my plans to move into admin. I was flummoxed as I had no desire to be an administrator. I simply wanted to teach but in order to do that I had to put up the front that I eventually wanted the corner office and my name on the school masthead.

The absence of male teachers in elementary classrooms is blamed for much: (seemingly) increasing rates of violence, poor scores on standardized tests, the general state of society, but there are very few things being done to address getting quality male candidates into classrooms. Screw just getting quality male candidates into classrooms – let’s attempt getting quality instructors, both male and female, in all classrooms. Raise pay for teachers, maintain their benefits, actually support schools with tax dollars; these are all simple ways in which society could lure quality candidates into classrooms. I can’t watch back-to-school Target commercials anymore – the ones where they talk about how money they give back to schools because you shop there. They are basically advertising the under-funding of our schools and twisting it to sell their product. It makes me want to yell at people: “Hey! You! Holding that Five Star notebook! Rather than buying a three dollar spiral bound notebook, approve a school bond so they can have a science lab!”

If there is a point to this rant, it is this: there are problems with our schools and we need to fix them. But we need to fix them holistically in order to make them more humane places for children to learn and adults to work. We cannot break our problems into smaller categories like “lack of male teachers” but need to look at the system as a whole and not just the schools but the society they serve. Schools are places of enculturation, passing on values of the communities they serve. What are those values and what are the foundations of those communities? Schools do not exist in a vacuum – to fully understand how and why one works, you have to understand the community it serves.

School starts for a large portion of the population – myself included. While I do not have a roster for my class in the morning – oh, lovely technological glitches – I know what to expect: a class of individuals who want to be good teachers. I will not give them any other alternative. Male, female, whatever; I will work hard to train them to be excellent instructors in the classroom, agents of change in the instructional system.




One response

4 09 2008

See, this is exactly what’s wrong with the system. Everyone wants to find these little problem/cause relationships and focus on them, rather than stepping back and looking at the larger picture. Oddly enough, the problem usually lies in the teacher when you zoom in on the picture close enough.

Isn’t it funny how nobody wants to maybe raise teacher salaries to bring in more/better teachers? It’s no wonder nobody wants to teach, anymore.

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