Education Week had a fascinating story about the lack of men entering teaching, even at a time when the field should be more attractive because of its relative stability in an economic downturn.
But, according to Ed Week, this downturn “seems to have worsened an already-vast gap between the numbers of men and women teachers, particularly in the early grades.”
My four children have had very few male teachers, although my two seventh graders have two this year. Interestingly, that situation reverses in college where my two older children report having many more male professors and instructors.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 Current Population Survey, men make up only 18.3 percent of elementary and middle school teachers and 2.3 percent of preschool and kindergarten instructors — a dip from the 2007 prerecession proportions of 19.1 percent in grades 1 to 8 and 2.7 percent in preschool and kindergarten. The numbers of men and women on high school teaching staffs are more evenly divided but still off parity; 42 percent of high school teachers in 2011 were men, down from 43.1 percent in 2007.
A panel of researchers and former elementary teachers at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia last month argued that the diminishing status of teachers generally, coupled with continuing sexism against men working with children, is helping tamp down the number of men willing to enter the field.
In previous economic declines, such as from 1939 to 1942, more men entered K-12 teaching, according to Bryan G. Nelson, head of MenTeach, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that works to help men become educators. “Don’t get me wrong: If we started paying elementary teachers $150,000 a year, we’d see a massive influx of male teachers,” Mr. Nelson told Education Week in a separate interview, “but if it were just money, the proportion [of male teachers] would be the same in secondary and elementary schools, and that’s not the case.”
In spite of calls by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for more men—particularly black men—to become teachers, researchers said federal and state accountability measures have effectively lowered the prestige of teaching.
“The discussion around male teachers has gone pretty quiet recently; a lot of our discussion around diversity has taken a back seat to these other things, like the common core, state tests, high stakes, and all this stuff,” said Shaun P. Johnson, an assistant professor of elementary education at Towson University in Towson, Md., and a former District of Columbia teacher. He said: “The status of the teaching profession, I believe, weighs very heavily right now on men’s decision to go into teaching. Teacher bashing is a new national pastime … and [one] which you could argue is highly gendered. Its status as a profession isn’t going to improve in this climate; it’s only going to get worse.”
Researchers argued that though girls are increasingly encouraged throughout school to enter male-dominated fields such as engineering and mathematics, boys are given less incentive or opportunity to explore working with young children. For example, Robert M. Capuozzo, an assistant professor of early-childhood education at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, said many of the young men he teaches have never even held an infant, while the female preservice teachers have been baby-sitting and tutoring children for years.
“We don’t give boys the same opportunities that we give girls,” Mr. Capuozzo said. “It’s really important for the 6th graders to occasionally go down to read to the kindergartners or, if you are in an early-childhood setting, that the preschoolers get to go down and play with the infants, because it’s not an expectation that boys get to hold little babies.”
Male primary and preschool teachers are often accused of being gay, pedophiles, or simply “not masculine” for wanting to work with young children, according to Jeffrey M. Daitsman, a preschool teacher and early-education researcher at the Center for Practitioner Research at National-Louis University in Chicago.
Mr. Johnson and Mr. Capuozzo agreed, noting that male teachers are often seen primarily as disciplinarians and given students with more challenging behavior, even when a more experienced female teacher might be a better choice.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog