Are your teen’s teachers male or female? Does that question ever come up for you? Do you consider whether your student is getting good role models from both sexes?
Nationally, the number of male teachers in classrooms is declining, especially in elementary schools. According to Scholastic, in 1980 about 17 percent of teachers in elementary school classrooms were male, compared with 14.2 percent today. In secondary schools, the number of men in classrooms has dropped from just over 50 percent in 1980 to less than 40 percent today.
The National Education Association (NEA) puts the percentage of male teachers nationwide at a 40 year low. And, according to NEA president Reg Weaver, the scarcity of male teachers is unfortunate, given the high divorce rate and men increasingly absent from the home. He says that male teachers are increasingly needed as role models for children.
“…one of the reasons colleges of education find it difficult to attract men into the profession (is) because of the outdated notion that teaching is a woman’s profession,” Weaver said. “And that could not be further from the truth.” The perception of teaching as a woman’s profession is still there, as is the reality of low pay and men needing to be breadwinners. However, more reasons than those are also part of the decline.
According to Steve Peha, president of Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., other factors are more important. Many male teachers go into administrative positions to be more upwardly mobile. Others may not like being one of the few male teachers in a school, where they experience loneliness. And many feel threatened in a society where parents are likely to bring sexual misconduct charges at the drop of a hat. “I’ve had plenty of principals admit to me in private that they just don’t want to deal with men in the primary grades at all,” Peha says. “It’s not prejudice, it’s politics. They know that women in those positions will be more readily accepted by parents.”
It’s our children who lose because of these attitudes, most especially, perhaps, the boys. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006, 12.9 million households were headed by single parents, with 10.4 million of those headed by single mothers. Boys need role models in a society where men may increasingly be absent from the household on a full-time basis.
As a single mother who raised a daughter alone for several years, I can also attest to the fact that girls need good male role models. My daughter had the best in my father and my brother, but I also appreciated the male teachers that she did have in her elementary school years, and I continue to be grateful to the positive male role models in her high school.
This is an issue to think about, as well as to encourage young men who have an interest in teaching to pursue that interest. Male teachers are in high demand, and there is a very real service that they provide-not just by being teachers, but by being role models for those who need them.