I have worked in education full time now for 33 years. Prior to that while training to be an archaeologist, I often helped out in my wife’s preschool. Also during down times in the field I would go back to work with the little ones. I enjoyed it; they enjoyed it; it was the proverbial “win-win”. They only thing that bothered me was that preschool didn’t pay much – minimum wage was common, no matter what your educational background. Of course at that time in the 70s archaeology didn’t pay that well either so I wasn’t losing much.
When I left the profession of archaeology, my experience in early childhood education and some classes helped me get a job working with 0-5 year olds in preschool mainstreaming programs and as a home-bound child developmental specialist. I wrote IEPs, worked with identified children in preschools and made home visits to assist parents with developmentally delayed or disabled children. It was a complex and tiring job that demanded I learn a great deal of information and skills very quickly.
After seven years as a case manager and resource teacher I could see that I was rapidly approaching burn-out and so I left to go work in the public school sector in a regular classroom. Even then I stayed in my comfort area and focused primarily on kindergarten. Between my on-the-job-training, a strong early childhood principal and my wife’s masters in early childhood I was able to quickly assimilate what it takes to become a reasonably solid early childhood specialist. As I complete my 26th year in public education I can look back on eleven years as a kinder teacher, eight as a second grade teacher, as well as several summer school stints in first, second and third grades. More than two thirds of my public school career has been as a primary level elementary teacher.
I have taken the time to describe my background so that you will know that when I speak about men in education, I know what I am talking about. Sarah Sparks, writing in EdWeek says that despite a downturn in the economy, the number of male teachers is actually declining.1) There is especially a need for minority male teachers and yet the numbers continue to drop. She cites programs that are making a significant effort to recruit men into education and yet see little progress.
Chanté Chambers, the managing director of recruitment at historically black colleges and universities at the New York City-based Teach For America, sees the same trend playing out in her organization’s efforts to recruit teachers among high-achieving college students. She said education’s perceived low status is “definitely a major barrier” to bringing more men, and particularly black men, into the teaching field.
In my own school we are fortunate to have four male teachers, two in primary and two in intermediate levels. But I am also aware of many elementary schools where the only males in the school are not present in the classrooms, they may be custodians or social workers but their effect as a model for young children is minimal. What’s more, many male teachers in middle school and high school are leaving the field of education to work at other professions. My own belief is that we need many more men to choose education as a field and yet we are doing little to encourage them. In an article by Michelle Galley less than 5% of child care workers across the nation are male. 2) While I do not expect men to dominate the field I still feel that it is a tragedy that there is not more of a male presence in the lives of children in educational environments. So many families are fractured these days and many children are being raised solely by female parents with no significant male behavior role model.