Teacher Shortage or Teacher Turnover

MenTeach receives e-mails and comments from readers expressing their frustration about not being able to find a teacher job. This can definitely be a very frustrating experience. There are several issues that feed this seemingly contradictory problem - few men teachers and many schools saying they want more male teachers but men are not being hired.

Some of the issues are: Where the men want to work (or unwillingness to move), the sexism or discrimination that they may face as a man; or perhaps (and this is one that no one really wants to look at) it is the entitlement that men feel they have around work.

Let's start with the facts
There are shortages of qualified teachers - but - not in every city nor state nor in every subject. You can find the states and subject areas where there are shortages in this Department of Education website, download the Teacher Shortage Area published in March 2008.

There has been some research about where the shortage comes from. You can download the report (in PDF format) Unraveling the “Teacher Shortage” problem: Teacher Retention is the Key and read that turnover of new teachers is the greatest problem causing a teacher shortage. Turnover rates are higher in education than most other occupations. It can range from 1/3 of new teachers to even higher in low income school districts.

We receive e-mails from men who complete their teacher training program and want to remain in the city where their family lives, they've lived for many years or their children go to school. That is not always possible given the different numbers of teacher training universities in their region. If there is an excess of teachers or the local school districts have laid off a large number of teachers, a man is unlikely to be hired just because he is a man.

So a man looking for a teaching job may need to move - or be certain to enroll in a program that has a good placement program or for career changers, join the New Teachers Project if it is in your city.

The Challenges of Sexism
We have also received e-mails from men who have done all the right things but are not asked to interview. In some cases, principals will question why a man would want to work with young children. You can read several men's comments about the challenges and discouragement they have faced trying to become teachers.

Despite these challenges, we know that men do get hired as teachers - we don't always hear from the men who did find their job as a teacher but they are out there.

You can read some of their stories in Men's Stories.

Men's Entitlement
The last reason isn't an easy one to discuss. I've heard it over the years and it's been pointed out to me by women.

It sounds something like this: "I'm a man, of course they should hire me. What's wrong with them?"

Yes, there is injustice in the world, but, sometimes we hear men express shock and rage that they could be discriminated against. That is a good thing - to accept it would allow it to continue. However, women, people of color and the poor have been discriminated against for generations around hiring. It's not something new.

Don't misunderstand, discrimination and injustice is wrong! No question. We've heard too many stories from men about their being falsely accused or someone won't hire them because they are a man and how it destroyed their professional and personal lives. But it is naive for us to ignore what others have faced. And of course we should not accept the injustices - that's why MenTeach needs to exist - to educate people about the wrong that men (and children) in our communities face when we don't welcome men into teaching.

What's most important
There is a bigger cultural shift happening in the United States and the world around men caring for children. It's important not to forget the foremost quality necessary for a teacher is having a qualified person - male and female. At the same time, we know that children and communities need men in our schools and that we need to actively recruit them to teaching.

Lip Service - Discrimination - Men's Liberation

As men, we need to face the fact that men's liberation has not progressed as far or as fast as women's liberation. Where men are concerned our society is still very much in the dark ages. Where it is now viewed as acceptable for women to be doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers and CEOs, men who choose to be nurturant - nurses or early childhood educators - are still looked at with suspicion or contempt. While many schools are saying they want more male teachers, they are just being politically correct and giving this lip service, When it comes to actually hiring a man, their suspicions of a man's true intention of wanting to work with young children will prevent him from being hired almost every time. They have an ideal image of a man they want to have in their school that few men who are interested in working with children can live up too. Don't get me wrong there are places and people truly open to hiring men who are passionate about a career in early childhood education, but one must be determined and persistent to find them as one is sure to encounter several close minded people on their journey. I know that I have.

Thomas W. Washburn
Full-Day Kindergarten Teacher
Early Childhood Professional Educator

Difficulty Getting an Interview.

I have had difficulty finding a regular teaching position. Received a Masters Degree in Education along with a Multiple Subject Credential. Currently working as a substitute. I love the teaching profession because no other job gives the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of students. My students respected me. As a sub, I observed many good teachers. However, there were many who where there just to get a paycheck and wait for the day until retirement. Their appearances where shabby. They didn't care less about their students. How can students or the general public take some of these teachers seriously if they don't look professional in appearance. Prior to becoming a credentialed teacher, I worked in a corporate environment for 15 years. I was successful in my corporate profession. We had a dress code that was enforced.

Part of the problem I noticed in the California school districts , is that it is who you know that will get you hired. The best whether man or woman are not being hired. How can they be hired if they are not even given a chance to interview. I taught in classrooms where many regular teachers didn't have lesson plans or cared about classroom management. I always come into the classroom prepared. I always act and dress in a professional manner.

In the private industry, all qualified people are at least given a chance to interview. A private company cannot be profitable without the very best. The reason why there are very few men teachers is simply discrimination. School districts should hire the best whether male or female. My apology if I sound like a whiner. I worked very hard to earn my degree and credential. I studied in the evenings while working an 8 hour job in the morning and supporting a family. It took me four years to earn my graduate degree and credential. Sometimes I feel all this hard work and the money spent for my education was a waste. It is frustrating situation. Despite all this, I continue to pursue a regular teaching position. It is very difficult to support a family on a substitute pay.

What happened to the term "Equal Opportunity Employer"? Does this apply only to the corporate world?


Sorry, but that seems to be the way things are. I taught in CA and experienced exactly what you are talking about.
Florida is stuck on 1950.......its actually worse here and the pay is insulting.

Hiring Male teachers

Bruce S. Sheppard, M.T.S
EI/ECSE Specialist
Oregon Department of Education

During my 27-year career as an ECE and EI/ECSE teacher, I encountered difficulty with being hired as a male preschool teacher one time, and that was my first job in ECE! Back in 1981, the sole father on the 4 person hiring committee was against me being hired, even though the other 3 people thought I was the best candidate. Their compromise was to have me and the female candidate he wanted, come to school and practice teach for an hour while the committeee members observed. I brought some puppets and my guitar along and that cinched the deal. In my 6 years at that center he became one of my staunchest allies.

Since that first position I changed jobs four more times before I stepped out of the classroom this past March to work at the Oregon Department of Education. I never had difficulty getting hired during all of those job changes and in thinking back there were three elements that were common to each move:

1. I never assumed that I was going to be hired, was entitled to the job, or had to have the particular job I was interviewing for. Yes, there certainly is discrimination and bias out there, but if I did not assume the job was mine, I was never disappointed if I did not get something I was interested in.

2. Only one time did I leave one job before looking for another, but in that instance I had already conducted a pre-application interview in the new community and had received very positive feedback. I approached each new change with the attitude that I could stay in the old job for many more years and be fulfilled and happy in my career.

3. As my wife and I approached the possibility of a job change we did so with the idea that we were willing to move to a new community, and in one instance across the country, if the right offer came along.

In some ways I have approached my career in early childhood education with "farsightedness". In each instance, as I began to identify career goals that were not being met, and my personal desire to do something about it, I was willing to make a positive move in order to achieve those goals. I like to say that I am my own greatest asset, not the organization I work for. My father, and even my older brothers, have approached their careers with the attitude that they should find the perfect job and stay there 30 or more years. Each one of them was able to do so. In contrast, the longest I have stayed at one job has been eight and a half years.

I know that many men cannot approach their career in ECE the same way I have done. Certainly family needs with mobility, income, assets, and so forth could make it difficult. I consider myself lucky that those issues never loomed large enough to prevent me from making positive career changes.