MenTeach receives e-mails and comments from readers expressing their frustration about not being able to find a teacher job. This can definitely be a very frustrating experience. There are several issues that feed this seemingly contradictory problem – few men teachers and many schools saying they want more male teachers but men are not being hired.
Some of the issues are: Where the men want to work (or unwillingness to move), the sexism or discrimination that they may face as a man; or perhaps (and this is one that no one really wants to look at) it is the entitlement that men feel they have around work.
Let’s start with the facts
There are shortages of qualified teachers – but – not in every city nor state nor in every subject. You can find the states and subject areas where there are shortages in this Department of Education website, download the Teacher Shortage Area published in March 2008.
There has been some research about where the shortage comes from. You can download the report (in PDF format) Unraveling the “Teacher Shortage” problem: Teacher Retention is the Key and read that turnover of new teachers is the greatest problem causing a teacher shortage. Turnover rates are higher in education than most other occupations. It can range from 1/3 of new teachers to even higher in low income school districts.
We receive e-mails from men who complete their teacher training program and want to remain in the city where their family lives, they’ve lived for many years or their children go to school. That is not always possible given the different numbers of teacher training universities in their region. If there is an excess of teachers or the local school districts have laid off a large number of teachers, a man is unlikely to be hired just because he is a man.
So a man looking for a teaching job may need to move – or be certain to enroll in a program that has a good placement program or for career changers, join the New Teachers Project if it is in your city.
The Challenges of Sexism
We have also received e-mails from men who have done all the right things but are not asked to interview. In some cases, principals will question why a man would want to work with young children. You can read several men’s comments about the challenges and discouragement they have faced trying to become teachers.
Despite these challenges, we know that men do get hired as teachers – we don’t always hear from the men who did find their job as a teacher but they are out there.
You can read some of their stories in Men’s Stories.
The last reason isn’t an easy one to discuss. I’ve heard it over the years and it’s been pointed out to me by women.
It sounds something like this: “I’m a man, of course they should hire me. What’s wrong with them?”
Yes, there is injustice in the world, but, sometimes we hear men express shock and rage that they could be discriminated against. That is a good thing – to accept it would allow it to continue. However, women, people of color and the poor have been discriminated against for generations around hiring. It’s not something new.
Don’t misunderstand, discrimination and injustice is wrong! No question. We’ve heard too many stories from men about their being falsely accused or someone won’t hire them because they are a man and how it destroyed their professional and personal lives. But it is naive for us to ignore what others have faced. And of course we should not accept the injustices – that’s why MenTeach needs to exist – to educate people about the wrong that men (and children) in our communities face when we don’t welcome men into teaching.
What’s most important
There is a bigger cultural shift happening in the United States and the world around men caring for children. It’s important not to forget the foremost quality necessary for a teacher is having a qualified person – male and female. At the same time, we know that children and communities need men in our schools and that we need to actively recruit them to teaching.