It’s an email from a Temecula school librarian that gets me thinking about what a rare breed I am.
I’m a male elementary school teacher. While exact numbers are hard to come by in the state or nationally, in searching the web, men seem to represent about 10 percent of elementary school teachers.
Locally, in Lake Elsinore, we are 37 out of 375 elementary teachers. In Temecula, we are 52 out of 419. In Murrieta, where I work, we are 35 out of 356 teachers.
At Rail Ranch Elementary where I teach, Greg Lumsden and I are the only male teachers. I’ve worked with others in my 15-year career, including Brian Youens, Jack Mitchell, Tom Patane, Matthew Owens, Kevin Nickoloff, Neal Hall, Steve Savage and Gary Zajac. So we really do exist.
There are various explanations for the shortage of male teachers, according to MenTeach, a nonprofit that promotes us. There is the low status, the pay, the perception it’s a woman’s job and the elephant in the room — the allegations of sexual abuse of children.
And don’t think that isn’t on my mind. I’ve had a couple girls tell me they had crushes on me. I had another ask me twice to dance with her.
Each time my career flashed before my eyes. In the interest of job security, I immediately went to the principal each time, said what was up, and the girls were talked to by the administrator. I didn’t say a word.
Now I know those girls meant nothing by what they said. I had crushes on teachers in school and I bet you did, too. The difference is I kept it to myself and my friends. No way would I actually tell the teacher. But in today’s over-sexualized world, perhaps kids are more likely to just come out with it, innocent as it is with an elementary school kid.
As to the supposed low job status of male teachers, people tell me all the time they admire what I do. How much more ego gratification do I need?
Yes, the pay in the beginning was awful: $29,000 a year when I started. Now with my master’s degree and experience under my belt, I make more than $80,000 a year. That’s low pay?
As to the perception that it’s a woman’s job, who cares?
Then there are the reasons we need more male teachers for little kids. Many are raised in one-parent families where a mom is trying her best. These kids need more positive male role models and a teacher can be one.
I also know I have a big impact on boys who are troublemakers. I know this could come across as sexist, but I have a built-in advantage when it comes to dealing with these guys. My voice is louder than most women’s and I can relate to boys in a way women can’t.
Finally, because I’m so unusual on an elementary school campus, I stand out. Every day, many kids I don’t even know say hi and call me by name. I’m a celebrity.
To me, the question is this: What’s not to like about being a male elementary school teacher?
Reach Carl Love at firstname.lastname@example.org