[MenTeach: We receive many letters from men writing about their job searches. Has this been your experience looking for a teaching job? Are older men being hired?]
Thank you for taking an interest in my story. I am convinced, though, that my story is far from unique. I suspect that it is commonplace and I urge you to seek out others who have the same story to tell. The more information we can get and the more widely we can disseminate this information the better. People, especially women, need to know about this. There is widespread, institutionalized anti-male discrimination in the teaching profession.
The feedback that I generally receive when I tell of my experience in seeking a K-5 teaching job is that the fault lies with us – the men. I am told over and over (always by women and usually by women who are teachers) that schools want men; that they seek men and, (incredibly), even favor men when hiring – they then complain that there just are no men out there (it is our fault, you see, because we do not apply for these jobs). The implication is that women are hired because they are the only choices (or at least, the only qualified choices). My story, as you well know, is a direct contradiction to this. I am male and I do apply for these jobs – all of them. Usually I hear nothing back when I file an application. When I point this fact out to these women who tell me that there are no male candidates and that schoos desparately want to hire male teahcers, they are dumbfounded to the point of speechlessness. It is as though I have pulled the rug out from beneath them. Their standard and pat replies simply cannot contend with what I have related to them about my experiences in seeking a K-5 teaching job. Thus, there is nothing left to say. The conversation ends at this point.
I do not believe that it is possible that there could be a female candidate for any teaching position I apply for whose credentials and work experience would even be in the same ballpark as mine. It simply cannot be. You have pointed out to me that I may need to dumb down my resume, in fact, as my background and experience looks too good. I wonder, would I need to dumb it down if I were female? I’ve had but three interviews in three years (around 200 job applications). All three jobs went to women whose qualifications and age were substantially less than mine. Most of the women in my credential program have found teaching jobs even in this difficult environment. Not one of the men from my credential program is working as a teacher (except for occasional substitute teaching, which I also do).
When I am given the line that schools want to hire male teachers, I always mention the fact that if it were true, then there would be quite a few men teaching in K-5 schools as there are tens of thousands of us out there dying for the opportunity to teach. The facts, of course, are precisely the opposite. There are almost no men in K-5 schools. I suspect that the number is declining even further now that the education field is so financially squeezed. This pressure insures that at most schools, only the most senior teachers are retained. Those teachers are overwhelmingly female. The major obstacle to bringing men into the K-5 classroom, in my opinion, is the fear by women that all men are potential predators. This they can never admit for obvious reasons. This is the elephant in the room. This is what keeps us from being hired and this is what needs to be conquered.
As to my status: I am still practicing accounting and plan to continue to do so as this is how I earn my living. While I have not given up completely on teaching, I have taken what I consider to be a more realistic view of what is possible for me. It is clear to me that I am never going to be able to realize my dream of becoming a K-5 teacher. I am the antithesis of what schools want to hire. They have a very strong preference for candidates who are young and female, and I am older and male. I represent the opposite of the status quo and the status quo is what anyone who is in charge seeks to maintain. I may be bitter, even angry, but I am, as always, a realist. It is simply not in the cards for me to teach in elementary school. I have accepted this.
I am considering several options, among them:
1) Coaching – I have coached for many years and am well known and respected in my field by both adults and children. With absolutely no solicitation on my part, I am constantly asked to give private lessons to both adults and children. I am considering expanding my coaching role into something like a school.
2) Starting my own school, either a private or charter school. I may not be able to get my foot into the door of an existing K-5 school, but I believe that I can muster the resources (money and people) to start my own K-5 school. That is one of the benefits resulting from my many years of experience in the business world. I am not terribly interested in becoming a school administrator, though.
3) Teaching something else. I have taught accounting at the college level and have enjoyed that. I have taught fellow professionals in continuing education courses, too. I think it could be very satisfying to teach about my profession to other professionals or to those who seek entry into my profession.
4) I could teach something altogether different to an altogether different group of people. I have some contacts in the state prison system through my work on the board of a local non-profit organization which runs programs for prisoners at several state prisons. I have been told by our executive director that I would be a perfect fit as a teacher in one of the prison programs. This idea intrigues me. Or, I could teach cooking (something I am quite adept at) to children or anyone who may be interested in the subject. I could also teach accounting to other businesses (like the legal or medical professions) who need this knowledge but lack it. There are many good and rewarding possibilities.
5) I could become an advocate for men in teaching. I have some potentially valuable connections in the political and legal world. Perhaps I could use these to start a movement. This would be something totally new to me, so there would be a good deal of planning and learning in order for me to successfully pursue this option. It is interesting to me, though.
So, while I am and will always be angry about the discrimination against men which exists in the K-5 school system, I am undeterred. While K-5 options for me are just about nil because I am the wrong sex (and age), I feel that I have expanded my options elsewhere. I will continue to explore these options and, someday, one of them will deliver for me. I know that.