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Posted at 11:46 AM ET, 12/29/2009

Do we need more male teachers?

By Valerie Strauss

Ronald Maggiano is somewhat unusual in the teaching profession. That is because he is male.

Maggiano is an award-winning teacher in the Social Studies Department at West Springfield High School in Virginia. He has taught in public and private schools for 25 years.

In a piece on his blog called “The Classroom Post,” he calls for more males to enter the profession.

Here's why:

Men Teach, a non-profit organization that encourages men to enter teaching, reports that in 2008, 18.8% of all elementary and middle school teachers were men.

At the high school level during the same year, men comprised 44% of the work force.

Why are there so few men in teaching? Men Teach cites low pay and lack of prestige, as well as a perception in our culture that teaching is for women. As a result, there is no organized effort across the country to recruit men into the teaching profession.

A study in 2008 by the National Education Association showed that the number of male teachers hit a record 40-year low. Males comprised 24.5 percent of public schoolteachers.
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States with high percentages: Kansas (33.6 percent), Oregon (31.6 percent), Alaska (30.9 percent) and Indiana (30.5 percent).

States with the lowest percentage of male faculty: Arkansas (16.2 percent), Virginia (17.4 percent), Mississippi (17.5 percent), Louisiana (18 percent), South Carolina (18.5 percent) and Georgia (19.7 percent).

And get this:

Men account for only about 2% of all teachers of children from birth to age 8.

There is no definitive research that male students--or female students, for that matter-- learn better from a particular gender.

We know, of course, that educational research is, at best, spotty. But there are important reasons why more males must enter the profession at the pre-K-12 level.

If you believe, as I do, that teaching (and teaching well) is as important a job as any, then it is equally important that young people see both men and women actively involved.

For children who live only with a mother, a male teacher may be the only positive male role model in their lives. That matters.

Here’s Maggiano’s take:

“Kids today, both boys and girls, deserve to have the same opportunity to learn from strong, dedicated men that I did. Unfortunately, I have heard little discussion about this problem coming from our national leaders.

“Hopefully, the Race to the Top initiative now being pushed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will at some point address this critical shortage of male teachers in America’s schools.

“After all, the Race to the Top cannot be won by women alone.”


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By Valerie Strauss  | December 29, 2009; 11:46 AM ET
Categories:  Race to the Top, Teachers  | Tags:  male teachers, teaching profession  
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Comments

It does appear that there is a stigma attached to being a male teacher unless the man is teaching at the college level. What a shame! If nothing else, as the article pointed out, it would be nice for children to be exposed to both men and women as teachers.

I know this is a stretch, but perhaps exposure to more male teachers would inspire children, especially boys, who do not have strong male role models to complete school and even pursue education beyond the high school level.

Although men anre not inherently more inspiring than women, I know that as a girl, seeing women do things that I dreamt of doing kept me inspired to pursue my dreams. Perhaps the same would be true for boys.

Posted by: misc1997 | December 29, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

The problem of finding great teachers of either sex would be so easy to solve if teachers were paid well and had the same good working conditions as the countries to which we are often unfavorably compared. These are the things that demonstrate respect in our society.

Low pay and being treated like a bad dog does not attract too many good men or women.

Posted by: aed3 | December 29, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the gender of a teacher matters one bit. At least for me it didn't. What we need is good teachers who speak and write English fluently and care about what they are doing. In PG. Co., the teachers I have encountered speak ghetto, not English. Also, cut the magnet and special schools. Every kid attending a public school should be entitled to the same quality of education as long as he/she is at or above grade level, does his/her work and behaves. Their parents should also behave. All constant misfits (kids and parents) should be permanently expelled.

Posted by: neil64 | December 30, 2009 3:17 AM | Report abuse

I know this isn't germane to the column's topic, but I do feel an education writer should be an exemplar of good diction.

"...men comprised 44% of the work force."

The correct word here is "composed." (If one wished to use "comprised," one would write, "Forty-four percent of the workforce comprised men.")

Posted by: vote | December 30, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, the teaching profession is also being over-run (in addition to IT) by H1-B visa holders. School districts are filling their slots with the cheapest labor they can find. Google "teacher +h1b". At least the H1-B visa workers can find inexpensive homes to buy...thanks to all the Americans who are being forced out of their homes!

Posted by: Sadler | December 30, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Of course we need more male teacher, starting in 4th grade.
In some school districts where many single mothers(kudos) are raising their kids, the male figure/role is a plus to try to reach children. I have witnessed the difference it makes to have a male or female teacher in the classroom. Even though some of us don't care about gender in the classroom, many others do.

Posted by: Esteban1 | December 30, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

More male teachers in the classroom would be a plus, particularly when dealing with behavior problems. Some of these young men, need a strong male figure in their lives to set them straight (at home and school). Many think women are weak, because some mothers make excuses for their behavior. It's a shame young men are falling behind, because no one holds them accountable.

Posted by: doll80 | December 30, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Yes, yes, low pay, low prestige are both big reasons why teachers are mostly women, not men as men expect more pay than women and men still have the leading role in financing the family. But there is another issue that no one really talks about as to why, especially in grades below middle school, there are so few men. It is the same reason that there are very few male nannies, people think there is something "hinky" about a man wanting to hang out with and care for little kids. He must be gay or, now wait for it . . . a pedophile. While it is probably better now than it was 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, people don't want to see a man teaching their 6 year old kids. Is that wrong? Yep, but that's how people think.

Posted by: Wiggs1 | December 30, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I think it's sad that when young children go off to kindergarten they often see a male principle, a male gym teacher, and a whole lot of women. It sends the message that women aren't good at physical fitness or leading, and that men aren't good at child development. I'm not sure if it says more about how society devalues teachers or women. I think mainly, since women are a minority in other areas seen as important (ceos, doctors, congress), the message kids get is that teaching young children must not be important work. Not only would that make them not want to be a teacher, male or female, I also wonder how it makes them feel about themselves.

Posted by: jackaroe | December 30, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to read any studies or research on this topic, but based on my observations good teaching has nothing to do with gender. As a matter of fact, my experience has been that there are more incompetent male teachers than female. Many are men from other professions who think they are going to "straighten out the public schools."

In order to decrease the gender gap in the teaching profession, pay and working conditions will drastically need to improve. As long as teachers are treated like Peace Corps volunteers and not trained professionals, the teaching pool will continue to include many that should have been counseled out of the profession.

Among my sons' friends and my friends' children, I can count on 1 hand the number who entered teaching and still have a finger or two left-over.

One of my son's friends wanted to go into teaching but didn't. It wasn't the starting pay, it was the pay he'd make after just a few years. It is hard to support a family, pay a mortgage, send a kid to college, etc. on an top-of-the-scale annual salary of $65,000...even if both parents are teachers, much less on a lesser combined salary. Especially if your college loans amount to $80,000 or more. He became an accountant.

In my Virginia school district there is less $30,000 between the starting salary and the salary of a 30 year teacher. Not much for 30 years of teaching. In Va there are about a 9 school districts where teachers retire @ 30 years making less than $50,000. That won't attract too many people, period, especially when graduating with an exorbatant college loan.

Posted by: ilcn | December 30, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

BTW...the starting pay in my school district: $38,000.

Posted by: ilcn | December 30, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Seven Reasons Why Few Men Teach
1. Male teachers must always be cautious and avoid being alone in a classroom with a student.
2. Male teachers must avoid intentional and accidental physical contact with students.
3. Many if not most male teachers find difficulty working and communicating in an all female staff school/office setting.
4. Male teachers are tired of being volunteered to do the "Man Jobs" around the school.
5. Male teachers are unintentionally excluded from informal conversations, dialogue, meetings, planning, and exchange of information between female colleagues and staff. (think Mars and Venus)
6. Lack of male teacher restrooms and consequently knowing way too much about female sanitation.
7. NO BRAINER – Just as no self respecting woman would walk inside a football locker room after the game, no sane man would spend the day shopping in the mall.

Posted by: motherseton | December 30, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

As a male I'd like to pile-on to this argument knowing it'd benefit my pursuit of a teaching job ...

On the other hand, it's important that we hire the best people for the job, and throwing the game based on ethnicity, or gender is just that ...

In reality, the best teachers are those with many years of experience; turn-over in the occupation is the real problem. The idea that someone of color, or of a particular gender, would somehow better relate culturally or genderly with his or her students is complete nonsense and self-serving "diversity" crap intended to shift the purpose of schools from teaching specific content and on towards some dreamy liberal idea about social engineering. We've suffered enough from this syndrome and so have students' performance as we've blurred the focus of education.

Posted by: socks2 | December 30, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The worst teacher I had in my K-12 experience was a man, a sixth-grade teacher who had us "learn" by hand-copying the glossary in the back of our textbooks while he read the sports page. For "enrichment," he brought in a portable TV and we watched the World Series. The best teachers that I had, other than male band and choir directors, were women who were making a lifetime career of it and actually cared about making a difference. So I don't think you can generalize that male teachers would automatically improve the classroom experience.

Posted by: swmuva | December 30, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Two comments: 1) The risk of being accused of sexual deviancy is high. A male teacher must always be on-guard to avoid any appearance of questionable contact but more significantly, there is always doubt in the minds of some people about any male involved with kids. The blame for that can be laid directly on the media, who exploit the sensationalism of alleged misbehavior and don't make any effort to correct the impression made when a accusation is retracted or is otherwise dismissed. Just as guilty are the "sheep" that believe everything they read or hear reported as "news" and disregard the basis of our legal system. Remember, innocent until proven guilty? Any man considering the career of teaching should be worried about this. Accidentally touch a child? Your teaching career may be over and your reputation is in the crapper.
2) Having to belong to a teacher's union (NEA/AFT and the various state/local chapters) sucks. There's just no way to justify the out-of-pocket expenses just to support the inflated salaries and operating expenses of those ego-inflated windbags. Belonging to the most bloated PAC (allegedly the most powerful) and having to subscribe to its misguided agenda is just too much for the normal male to tolerate.
I'm expecting some heated responses to this comment!

Posted by: kjhill1 | December 30, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Teaching is becoming increasingly feminized to the detriment of discipline and learning. The presence of a male teacher has an effect on students that women cannot achieve. I taught for 41 years and when I walked into a class, whether at the middle school or high school or college levels, the effect was immediate. The class quieted down. In my entire career I had no serious problems of discipline so that we could all concentrate together on the teaching and learning process. I realize that liberals believe that men and women are absolutely equal but that is nonsense. My students often openly thanked me for the energy with which I taught. My 41 years of teaching were well spent.

Posted by: mhr614 | December 30, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

At a recent family gathering including a new teacher at the elementary level, I raised this question. I think it is important because though men are frequently considered more biased, women do the early education when fundamental cultural traditions are instilled. I was surprised to learn that in education schools, male education students are discouraged from showing physical affection to their future wards because men are considered to be more predatory sexually, whereas female ed students are not. I don't know if the premise is true or not, but the sexual divide seems to be self perpetuating/fulfilling on a long term basis. And is it surprising men avoid such a biased career environment?

Posted by: thothh | December 30, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

The main reason we need more male teachers is we must de-feminize our schools. That means teaching practical and marketable skills, not goof-off flowery window dressing skills.

Posted by: fudador | December 30, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I've been teaching for 15 years, am male, and looking to leave the profession. NCLB has turned an enjoyable, rewarding profession into a thankless, rigged game. Teachers are the only ones being held accountable in a undertaking in which there are at least 2 other stakeholders (student and parent). The idea used to be to take each student and try to move him/her along a developmental continuum. Now the game is to drive everyone across the same finish line, a ludicrously one-size-fits-all strategy given 60 years of sound developmental psychology that would indicate otherwise. Oh, and my post-bacc teacher prep program had about 12 students in it, and I'm the only one left teaching. So, yeah, attrition is an issue. Most don't last the first five years. And it isn't because it's "hard", or they aren't any good at teaching. Most of the best teachers from my class left after only a few years. The system is just terribly, terribly broken. One of many reasons I voted for Obama was his campaign pledge to revamp or do away with NCLB; he rewarded my vote by hiring Arne Duncan to be his Secretary of Education, a wholesale supporter of, and believer in, NCLB. If I actually thought change was coming, I'd wait it out, but my thinking is it will take ten or twenty years for things to turn around.

Posted by: velkykanec | December 30, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

*It was over 20 years ago that the Pulitizer-Prize winning Gazette did a similar article. Talked with all ten of the MCPS males teaching in regular elementary classrooms back then. Including my brother Mark (now at Dr. Ride ES in Germantown) and me (a 4th grade teacher in Silver Spring). In the article, I predicted that the decline of males in the elem schools would continue. "Man is supposed to be the bread winner. If he goes into teaching, he is the bread crumb winner!" I only wish my football picks had been that accurate over those years. Fewer and fewer men are indeed going into elementary education. Avoiding the college major likes its a cross between swine flu and hepatitis (both of which I've had in my classroom in recent years). And even though it doesn't seem possible, it's only going to get worse. Back-to-back years without COLAs for veteran teachers. Ridiculous time demands and senseless data-gathering/entering tools (see OARS). Constant pressure to teach to a test that will soon determine our financial worth. Autocratic administrators who on their best day in front of the classroom couldn't teach their way out of a wet paper bag. A pension plan that ranks in the bottom third of the nation. Cafe burgers that contain no meat.

But it's a new decade. And cause for optimism. Pass the bread crumbs and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Posted by: sportsgod1 | December 30, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

mhr614- I've seen plenty of male teachers with no ability to control children. I've also seen male teachers who control through some form of intimidation, and their children were well behaved, but quietly afraid. Good teachers, whether male or female, control their classes firmly, but with trust and fairness.

fudador- Your comments are ridiculous for more reasons than there is room to address. Just for one, you are not a teacher, or you would know that teachers have no control over what they are required to teach. Whatever it is you consider "goof-off flowery window dressing" is mandated by mostly MALE administrators.

Posted by: aed3 | December 31, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

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