[MenTeach: The opinions expressed in postings on the site do not necessarily reflect the opinions of MenTeach.]
There’s no doubt that more male teachers are needed in the United States, and your web site does an excellent job of pointing out many reasons for this. However, as a former teacher (and a male), I would like to shed some light
For one thing, the credentialing requirements in my home state of California are ridiculous. Instead of focusing on strategies to help students understand the curriculum better, much of the credentialing process in the Golden State revolves around arbitrary actvities more than educating kids. From what I’ve heard, this is a trend around the country.
At the end of the day though, one of the biggest obstacles which keeps men from pursuing jobs as teachers is the low social status which accompanies the profession. In Los Angeles, a male teacher has a diminshed chance of meeting women, even if he works in a school filled with female colleagues. Teachers are seen as mild-mannered, low-ranking slobs who don’t even deserve to make as much money as the local meter maid. (Meter maids start out earning around $45k in L.A., while a starting teacher with a master’s degree will earn around $38k.)
Being a teacher is hard enough. It entails low pay, long hours (without overtime compensation), having to deal with bureaucratic incompetence, insults from students, indifference from parents, guardians, and society, and low social status compared to big-shots like producers, lawyers, or meter maids.
However, compounding all of this is the social blockade being a teacher creates for most men. While some students might tend to think of their teachers as less than human, most adults know the truth: teachers are all too human, and this means wanting to get married (or at least be able to find a date). The sad truth is that many male teachers have real difficulty overcoming the stigma of their profession.
If I thought that this phenomenon was confined to L.A., I would just move to another part of the state or country and continue teaching. To be frank though, many of the male teachers with whom I’ve talked at conferences have said that the social scene is the same all over the United States. I’ve talked to male teachers from Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas, and they all report similar problems with meeting women.
Clearly, this is a problem society (or at least your organization) needs to address if they want more men entering the workforce as teachers. (It should be noted that after I left teaching and began attending law school, the number of women in my life increased dramatically. Apparently, telling a woman you’re a law student is more compelling to her than telling her you’re a teacher.)
One way to counteract the toxic perceptions about male teachers is to pay them (as well as their female counterparts) decent wages.
Starting police officers in L.A. make around $55k per year.
Starting firefighters in L.A. make over $60k per year.
As mentioned earlier though, in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a starting teacher WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE doesn’t even make $40k annually. Whether we like it or not, money is equated with prestige and status in our society, so why not make teachers at least as prestigious as police and firefighting professionals.
After all, while arresting suspects and putting out infernos are incredibly important jobs, many people would argue that they are not as important as educating young minds and building a better society for the future.