Yesterday I tweeted this link http://schoolsimprovement.net/head-calls-on-more-men-to-go-into-primary-school-teaching from @schoolsimprovent. The post was from a female primary head teacher calling for more men to go in to primary school teaching. ‘I don’t think teaching should be a female preserve’ said the author. The latest figures show that there are 3,680 primary schools without any male teachers which leaves many children without professional role models who are men.
I thought this to be a reasonable thing to say and it was well received on twitter. One tweeter @isright disagreed with me and gave me cause to reflect. This is a good thing as we should all consider our opinions from time to time. He was very polite and said that what primary schools need is good teachers being left to do their jobs. This is of course true but is not what I said. He then went on to clarify and said that male teachers should not be a ‘dad’ role. He said lack of males in a family isn’t down to teachers and that his input in after school clubs has a limited affect. The children revert back to their norm. He went on to say that as a female teacher I have as many good attributes as my male colleagues as he does with females. It was at this point that I decided we were probably talking at cross purposes.
Here’s what I think on the subject.
I will state from the outset that I truly believe there should be more men in primary schools. An article from The Telegraph in February last year stated that the primary workforce is still predominantly female and men fear they will be labelled as paedophiles if they enter primary teaching. Men make up just 12% of the primary workforce. Many homes now lack a male for whatever reason. I agree that as teachers it is not our job to replace men but surely we can help. An article entitled ‘The lack of male role models in the classroom, in the home and the gender education gap’ says that men are a crucial frame of reference that boys need to develop in to productive young men. I agree with this. I am not equipped to teach boys the qualities needed to develop in to a good man. I can do it from a female perspective but it needs balancing with male opinions. Having men in primary schools is good for boys as they understand boys and know where they are coming from. They understand their thought processes better than I as a female could ever do.
When teaching a literacy book I will inadvertently pull out the more feminine aspects of it no matter how hard I try. For example when teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet I linger on the romantic aspect of it. I’m quite sure that a male teacher would spend more time on the rivalry between the two families. It’s what makes males and females different. Similarly in the strand of PSHE which deals with personal care, although I can teach boys how to groom themselves I am clearly not equipped to do this topic justice. All of this may sound sexist but that isn’t my intention, I’m merely pointing out a couple of prime examples where men are required. The same can also be said for girls. They too are sometimes missing a male role model. They need to learn how to build good relationships with the opposite sex.
One tweeter @a_willal200 tweeted in her school they only have one male teacher and sometimes he’s the only one who can get through to the boys. Behaviour management forms part of a teacher’s statutory duty. I understand that. As a female I have no problems with this aspect of my role whatsoever. That said, I have visited schools where children have been incredibly violent, tables and chairs being thrown is not unheard of. Sometimes, the presence of a man can help with this. I am aware that is a very sexist statement but it is true that a large 11 year old boy will sometimes listen to a man where he may not listen to a woman.
I canvassed the opinions of a couple of my favourite male primary teachers today to see what they had to say on the subject. @FarrowMr told me that in his opinion primary teaching is a more important role. I agree with him on this. It is important to be an influence in the lives of very young children. Opinions and behaviour all start young and a male influence is helpful in this area. Richard also has young children and can relate to them. He also confirmed that his friends thought it was an odd decision for a male to choose primary.
The second person who gave his opinion was @Ideas_Factory. Julian had much to say on the subject. Julian said that he had a fairly bad time at secondary and also remembered how disrespectful the students were to their teachers. He didn’t want to be a part of that. He has a good rapport with younger children and favours the way that you develop a relationship with the children and help with a real personal touch. I agree with every word of this. Julian also said that he came from a single parent family, Mum only, as did many of his friends. He said he wanted to be a positive role model for the children, someone they could look to as aspirational. Someone from a similar background who had done alright for himself. I think he’s achieved that particular goal!
So there we have it. I haven’t changed my position on thinking we need more men in primary schools. I still think that. Thank you to Mike (@isright) for making me think about it.
Many thanks to Richard and Julian for their contributions :)