One group puts the percentage of male teachers in the U.S. at a 40-year low, with Oregon doing better than most states. Some say the disparity hurts students
BEAVERTON — No matter how unruly a class gets, when P.J. Hanson walks into the room all the kids sit up straight. “It’s so weird,” the second-grade teacher at Chehalem Elementary School says. “There are women who are tougher and more firm, but kids sometimes still won’t listen. But because I’m a man, they really respond.”
No matter the impact, Hanson is a rarity.
Chehalem has one other male teacher. Fewer than 15 percent of classrooms in the Beaverton School District are run by men. And although Oregon has the nation’s second-highest percentage of male teachers — at 31.3 percent — it also has 300 fewer than it did five years ago. Across the U.S., the story is the same: The National Education Association recently declared the percentage of male teachers to be at a 40-year low.
Experts say the decline of men in the classroom has consequences not only on how students behave in school, but also on how much they learn.
Despite that, many districts — including those in Portland and Beaverton — do not specifically recruit men, although they do push for racial diversity.
“There is a critical need to diversify,” says Samuel Henry, an associate professor of education at Portland State University, which graduates the state’s largest number of teachers each year.
Experts have many theories about why the number is down nationally and why Oregon is above average: They involve salary, prestige and differing expectations of masculinity. But without much research on the subject, no one has a definitive answer. The issue of gender has not been framed well, Henry says.
“No one is talking about it,” he says.