The Importance of Male Teachers in Elementary Education

Gender disproportions in teaching have affected the United States education system for more than a century. While about 39% of all secondary and elementary school teachers in public schools were men in the 1860s (Johnson, 2010), the figure dropped to 29% by the beginning of the 20th century and to merely 24% by the turn of the 21st century. The number of male teachers in elementary schools has even declined further. A study done between 2017 and 2018 showed that approximately 76% of public school teachers comprise females and 24% male, with a significantly lower percentage of male teachers in elementary schools at 11% (Ingersol et al., 2018). Several studies have tried to understand why men do not consider a career in elementary education and teaching in general, while others have devoted attention to potential solutions to the shortages of male teachers in elementary schools, such as reevaluating recruitment initiatives. The following essay explores the possible reasons for the lack of male teachers in elementary education, the benefits of male elementary school teachers, and how the education sector can address the challenge of the scarcity of males in the teaching profession.

Factors Driving the Scarcity of Male Teachers in Elementary Education

            While the reasons for the scarcity of male teachers in elementary schools and the decline of males taking up education as a career are complex and multidimensional, four factors have been established to contribute to the phenomena. Such include the experience and attitude concerning the status, working in a largely female environment, physical contact with younger children.

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            Experience and perspective concerning status have been cited in the literature as among the factors contributing to male teachers’ shortage, particularly in elementary education. The status of elementary school teachers seems to be pedantically affiliated to the alleged intellectual requirements fundamental for a particular teachers’ roles and responsibilities, perceived job requirement, the specific section of the society making the judgment, and the duration taken to acquire the experience (Lavy & Sand, 2015). Historical evidence suggests that the factors along with the social class of the teachers and gender issues have significantly impacted the teaching career’s status since the early 20th century. For instance, the English government’s report on primary school teachers’ training dated as early as 1925 described teaching as a “field of effort for the girl of average intellectual capacity and normal maternal instincts.” The report further cautioned that “for a man to spend his life teaching children of school age is to waste it in doing easy and not very valuable work he would not do if he were fit to do anything else” (Skelton, 2001, p. 121, cited in McGrath, 2020). Compared with other professions in Western nations, elementary school teachers’ low status has continuously been mentioned in literature as a critical factor for the shortage of male teachers in primary schools (Lavy & Sand, 2015; McGrath, 2020). It seems that one’s status is dependent on the level of the school one teaches.

            The stereotype and fear of working in a predominantly female work setup is another factor contributing to the fewer males enrolling for an elementary teaching career. For many years, women have significantly taken up careers in teaching. In precise, the field of elementary and early childhood education, the foundation of formal education. As a result, children’s formal education, which begins at age zero to ten, is predominantly conquered by female teachers. Early childhood experts argue that female teachers are naturally inclined towards caring for young learners than their male counterparts. Besides, relational skills are of primary importance than technical skills when teaching in an early childhood education environment (Dos-Santos & Avila, 2018). The findings justify why the workforce in elementary schools is predominantly male, making it a challenge for the male teachers’ cope.

Johnson (2010), in a study, for instance, noted that the reality of being the minority gender was a career concern to the male teachers in early childhood and elementary education systems. The standard preference from associates to their minority status was disparaging and unsettling. For instance, the factor that their gender could have aided their appointment as males to bridge the gender disparity in the elementary teaching profession was a consideration that some participants anticipated and did not welcome. “Hating that feeling” was a phrase used by the participant to show their discouragement after being aware that even though they had worked diligently to qualify as a teacher, they perhaps had been awarded their teaching job to bridge the gender gap (Johnson 2010), a reason that had nothing to do with their teaching abilities and skills.

Issues surrounding physical contact with children are another reason why fewer men consider taking up a career in early childhood or elementary teaching. Male teachers find it uncomfortable to interact with younger children, particularly in the western society where touching children is given a genitive connotation in their media reports, where adults, particularly men, are increasingly being accused of physical or sexual abuse of children (Tu, Wang, & Yao, 2019). Bullough (2015), in a study, noted that notwithstanding the reality actual accusations and convictions are low, the assumption of made of male teaching staff concerning children abuse, sexual harassments, and several other negative facets of being in a career dealing with young children is were prominent in all focus groups in the study. The study participants all submitted that being in close physical contact with the young children is an issue that regularly infused their thoughts and actions (Bullough 2015).

Finally, salary is another significant factor making men not consider a career as an elementary school teacher. Teachers do not certainly fall in the categories of highest-paid groups in the cautery. Since men are mostly the primary providers for their families, having such low-paying jobs discourages them. Compared to their female counterparts, men do want to work for low wages. However, from the studies, teacher pay has not increased significantly since the 1970s (Lavy & Sand, 2015; McGrath, 2020), hence discouraging men from joining the career.


The Importance of Male Teachers in Elementary Education

There are several benefits attributed to having male figures in elementary education. First, both female and male teachers contribute significantly to the child’s gender knowledge and understand. The presence of male teachers in elementary education can be of particular significance for some children, helping them observe non-violent men whose relationships and everyday interactions with women are positive. Teachers occupy a significant role as role models and play an essential role in shaping societies’ norms and values. Many male learners do not have role models at home or in their learning institutions. As such, male teachers are critical for boys in elementary schools since they become role models in the school setting. It is, therefore, unfortunate the gender disproportion prevails since it leaves boys in elementary schools without a model within the institution. The modeling is critical since some teaching attributes such as empathy and patient are not concomitant in men, and therefore for young boys, they must be shaped through example by male teachers (Cruickshank, Pedersen, Cooley & Hill, 2019). Even though young men admire sports figures, artists, and other professionals outside the teaching profession, a male teacher’s presence in the classroom can impact their emotional development.

The presence of both female and male teachers in elementary schools also gives the learners the chance to learn from teachers they consider similar. This promotes a feeling of school belonging, which is essential in reducing disruptive behaviors in children. Besides, male teachers’ presence in the classroom can be an important ground for some children to learn how to associate and interact with adults who are not of their gender, promoting a positive coexistence between men and young children in society. Most male teachers often share the same interests with their male learners, which can be an essential pipeline for meaningful connection (Cruickshank, Pedersen, Cooley & Hill, 2019). For instance, some male teachers use their love for particular sports to develop sport-themed activities that foster students’ interaction.

Thirdly, the presence of male teachers in elementary schools helps to foster a diverse workforce. Workforce diversity in the teaching environment can improve the decision-making process, hence driving positive outcomes, including enhanced performance. Individuals from diverse backgrounds may perceive a similar problem in different ways, translating to innovative solutions. Diversity in the workplace has also been associated with job satisfaction and improved performance. The gender diversity in the workforce in elementary education has received significant pressure as few male students consider a position as an elementary school teacher. The phenomenon has created feminism in the elementary education system, a common problem in western countries, including the United States and Western Europe. The feminism phenomenon in elementary education generates a heated social debate attributed to the discomfort and decreased performance among male students (Geerdink, Bergen & Dekkers, 2011).  Therefore, increasing male teachers in elementary education are considered to balance and restore boys’ performance, which has deteriorated for the past years.

Attracting More Male Teachers to the Elementary Education

The first approach to attracting more male students to take up a career in elementary education is to counter the belief that male teachers are less capable of caring for and teaching young children compared to women. The belief is a barrier to men becoming early childhood education teachers. It significantly impacts hiring decisions, career counseling, and teacher education programs (Lavy & Sand, 2015). Countering this belief and attracting more male teachers into the elementary education system requires a systematic and comprehensive effort. Many players, including teacher educators, administrators, career counselors, and elementary school teachers themselves, must take part in this effort. The program directors and elementary school principals must create expectations and set a tone that male teachers are welcomed and will be supported in the primary school environments. Hiring male staff for entry-level positions such as paraprofessionals and teachers assistant can also set a welcoming tone. Teacher educators can also contribute to men’s active recruitment into teacher education programs that promote career working with children. Such may entail providing necessary information to career counselors concerning early childhood education to pass to the student seeking a career to pursue (Park, & Byun, 2015). Young men may not have an interest in elementary or early childhood education careers unless they are informed.

The second technique to attract more men into the elementary education career is by first challenging the gender stereotype that male teachers face while teaching young children. Stereotype is common in American life, and people use them to make a quick judgment, despite such stereotypes being wrong. There is a belief that teaching career, particularly in elementary schools, is not for men as it offers low-wages and low status (Lavy & Sand, 2015).  Eliminating such stereotypes by teaching the public the importance of male educators in elementary schools can attract more young men into the profession. The public should also be taught about positive physical contact between the teachers of either gender with students to remove the stigma of physical and sexual harassment often labeled against teachers who physically interact with young children (Park & Byun, 2015).  Increasing wages can also help remove the stereotype that teaching is for women comfortable with low-wages because of their lesser responsibilities in the family.

The scarcity of male teachers in various categories of the public education system is not a new marvel. The country has experienced gender disproportion in the education system for more than a century. This paper has explored the reasons for the scarcity of male teachers in elementary education, the benefits students get by having male elementary school teachers, and how the education sector can address the scarcity of male teachers in primary education. Every element is tackled adequately and supports empirical literature on the issue.


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