I would imagine that the lack of male teachers has long standing, structural causes. Teaching is not, after all, the only historically female profession that remains so. But if that is the case it’s a shame, since elementary classrooms have a lot to offer in career opportunity for men.
Even when the tasks themselves are relatively simple, the act of helping a gloriously mixed group of kids is hard.
I wonder whether men don’t become teachers because they think the challenges mainly involve nurturing. While nurturing is essential to any pedagogical relationship, the practice of teaching is intellectually challenging. The content of a lesson may be simple — teaching children to spell, for example — but helping students master that content is bewilderingly complex.
How do you make children who don’t want to read pick up a book every day – regardless of whether the teacher is watching? How do you help the child who is terrified of multiplication learn to divide? And, most of all, how can you juggle these tasks equally and efficiently, applying them to a wide variety of learners?
Even when the tasks themselves are relatively simple, the act of helping a gloriously mixed group of kids is hard. Teaching is as complicated as are people, which is to say, endlessly complicated.
I wonder also whether the male desire for money and status inhibits men from choosing teaching, as this profession delivers relatively little money and less status. But the rewards, for those who are open to them, are prodigious. Guiding a classroom is like leading a small, benign religious cult, and there are very few opportunities in the workplace that offer that kind of moral weight.
Jeremy Greensmith is a fourth grade teacher at a public school in Brooklyn, N.Y.