Can Male Teachers Get Away With More Than Their Female Colleagues?

John Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.
Nolan: At these boys’ age? Not on your life! -Dead Poet’s Society

There is no doubt that elementary teaching is a female dominated profession and it has been for a long time. It is a great career for women but it seems that because there are so few men in the field, schools have a very strong desire to recruit more male teachers and keep them on staff. Based on our interviews with a number of female teachers, it seems that male teachers don’t have as much pressure on them as their female colleagues in terms of work performance and productivity and can get away with more.

Men are a minority in elementary through high school education. Women comprise 75% of the U.S. teaching force according to the U.S. Departmentof Education. In England in 2006-07, fewer than a quarter (23.8%) of teaching qualifications were obtained by men, according to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency – the lowest figure in five years. This was a fall of 1.5% from the previous year. Meanwhile, between 2005-06 and 006-07, the number of women qualifying as teachers from higher education rose by 2%, from 23,865 to 24,335, while the number of men fell 5.7%, from 8,065 to 7,610.

It is extremely important to have male teachers. It is essential for children to have male role models in their lives, especially for those who don’t have fathers (which is an estimated 34 million children in the U.S.) But currently it seems that they are not going to find these role models standing at the head of the classroom. This may be why when schools get a male teacher they do everything in their power to retain them. According to some female teachers we spoke to, it is not that these male teachers are bad but it is that they are not held to as higher standards as female teachers and do not have as much pressure on them.

One woman who works at a private school in New York state told The Grindstone:

“There are things that my male colleagues do that I could never get away with! They can seriously get away with murder. If I slacked off on lesson plans they way this one guy does, I would have been fired. They dress too casually, they constantly take breaks and just play on the computer. It is just not the same and I think the administration just looks the other way because they want more men. It is as simple as that.”

A charter school teacher in New Jersey told The Grindstone:

“In general, I think that male teachers are treated better than female teachers. I have noticed that what they say is usually taken very seriously and they never really have to explain themselves. They are usually well liked and get to take a more laid back approach to a profession that is feeling more and more high stakes and intense because they are male so they automatically get a certain amount of respect. Perhaps one of the reasons they might get preferential treatment is because they are so rare.

My male coteacher and I were observed last year. Coteachers are supposed to be treated as a team so I suggested we plan the lesson together. He said he was just going to “go by the book.” He asked me to write the plan and I spent a long time detailing how to meet the needs of each of our students and how to make the material more engaging. He never responded to any of my emails that asked what he thought about the lesson. For this particular lesson, my coteacher was supposed to lead the lesson and I was supposed to support through behavior and academic modifications. The administration praised the planning of the lesson, and liked my techniques for supporting the students. They pointed out that the way my male teacher strayed from my lesson wasn’t good and that he failed to get the students attention several times and I had to step in a lot to help him out. This was the only lesson the administration observed and yet he got a higher rating than me as well as higher pay!

This year I am at a different school and I again have a male coteacher. He comes in late almost every day and he sometimes does not write or turn in lesson plans always without consequences.”

K.M. Stokes has been a teacher for 13 years. She told The Grindstone:

“I believe that male teachers have it easier, particularly in Special Education or at-risk learning environment. In this population, I believe males are more favored because the amount of work required from the students is minimal and there is more discipline needed than academic support. Most male teachers  follow curriculum guides and build lesson plans more systematically, without differentiation or innovative teaching methods. This is said to be effective in this type of environment, as students who struggle academically need the least amount of stimulus and a more direct approach. Male teachers are said to gain a better respect from students in this environment and can take more resistance than female teachers. Personally, from the male teachers I have worked with, they use their gender as a scapegoat to these factors and have not been as successful in providing quality learning environments for children.