They’re young and enthusiastic, brimming with the love of teaching.
They’re also men. And somewhat to their puzzlement, that makes Marc Hoare, Rakesh Patel and Adrian Hoyte hot commodities.
Hoare, 29, who teaches Grade 7 English and math at Kitchener’s Margaret Avenue Public School, says he’s mystified as to why there aren’t more male teachers. He loves his job and says it’s equally well-suited to men and women.
“I don’t bring anything different than any other teacher would except for personality,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female . . . it boils down to the personality of the human being.”
Hoare started thinking about teaching in Grade 8, when he had an inspirational teacher who just happened to be his first-ever male teacher.
But for Patel and Hoyte, the idea of teaching didn’t even cross their minds until they were adults.
Patel, 27, a Grade 5/6 teacher at Manchester Public School in Cambridge, did a degree in biopharmaceutical science. Then he had an opportunity to volunteer in a Grade 1 class.
“I went into the class and it was like an ah-ha moment,” he said. “Watching the kids and being part of their discovery in education, it was inspiring on almost a minute-to-minute basis.”
Hoyte, 33, who teaches French and a few other subjects at Manchester, came to teaching a bit later in life, after years of experience in business.
He was a father, coach and children’s program volunteer at church, but it took his wife, mother, mother-in-law and even his mechanic to tell him he’d make a good teacher.
Hoyte says he never thought of teaching as a feminine job, but stereotypes might keep some men away.
“Teaching is perceived as parenting in absentia . . . and typically that role is taken on by women,” he said.
Wayne Martino, a professor of education at the University of Western Ontario, agrees teaching is popularly considered women’s work — and women’s work has tended to be devalued with lower status and lower pay.
Patel could have earned more working for a pharmaceutical company. But pay wasn’t a big concern, he said.
The competition of the business world may appeal more to some men than teaching, theorized Hoyte.
As a teacher, “you work hard and you do your job well; you won’t make any more money. You . . . hang out with the principal; you’re still not going to make any more money.”
Martino said men may shy away from teaching because it’s not seen as macho to be nurturing and caring.
“There is a sense that if you want to go into elementary school teaching, and particularly if you want to teach younger kids, you have to be gay.”
Not only does homophobia colour some people’s perception of male teachers, there is often a worse suspicion.
“There is a real concern that male teachers or people interested in going into the profession have about being seen as pedophiles,” said Martino.
Hoare, Patel and Hoyte avoid touching students or being alone with them. But the idea of being accused of misconduct doesn’t worry them too much.
All say they’ve had nothing but positive reactions to their roles. They’ve had parents comment on how nice it is for boys to have male role models. Patel and Hoyte say their ethnic backgrounds have also helped at times.
Patel, whose parents are from India, has caught students swearing in Gujarati and called them on it. Hoyte, who is black, has been able to open students’ eyes by relating his childhood experiences as a victim of racialized bullying.
Still, they’re adamant that neither race nor gender has much to do with their effectiveness as teachers.
“It’s just about me and if (students) like my teaching style,” said Patel.
Hoare’s 12-year-old students have various points of view.
“I’m a boy so they have more in common (with me) than female teachers,” said Ryan Rotteveel.
“Mr. H is really athletic and I’m an athletic person, so he understands me in that way more,” said Duncan Quinn.
“I like male teachers because I find female teachers more strict, because students think they can get away with more,” said Maddy Mellick.
But Siarra Klee said she doesn’t care whether teachers are male or female.
“Are they good at teaching? Are they nice or are they mean? That’s what I care about.”