The first thing you need to know is that at some point I may offend you. I genuinely don’t mean to, but after thirteen years of working in education I have realised when it comes to discussing gender issues in teaching, you’re going to upset someone.
Oh God, he’s doing a gender piece.
I believe it also important to know that as a straight, white, middle class male, I know I already have a huge advantage in life. Truth be told, when it comes to social advantage I know I am in the luckiest category. This piece isn’t about whinging or complaining about my experience as a male teacher, it is about continuing to push the discussion of the state of education in Australia today.
The second thing you need to know is that teaching is incredibly awesome, creative and rewarding. Being a part of kids learning how to do, or discover, something that they have never considered before is truly amazing.
But, there is also a fundamental issue with how we view teaching and education today. Particularly with our view of men who venture into this world of wonder.
My negative experiences as a male teacher started the day I heard I had been accepted into my university course. Upon opening up my envelope with an offer in it and heading out to celebrate with friends something unexpected happened: I was ridiculed for wanting to work with young kids.
I don’t get it. Help kids achieve their potential or…do something else?
Which became something of the norm for the next few years.
Cue jokes about finger painting, babysitting, touching kids, not being able to “do” so instead I “teach” and missing out on my “real” career.
It’s safe to say the jokes were no longer funny the moment I first started hearing them. (And those friends have not been seen in a long, long time).
Since I first started moving into the world of teaching I have discovered that many, many men and women hold really strong perspectives of me as a male teacher.
I should definitely teach PE.
I should definitely be teaching older kids (because blokes can’t really relate to little Preps…it’s more of a ‘mothering’ thing).
I should definitely know more about science than the women on staff.
I should definitely be aspiring to be a principal.
The third thing you need to know is that teachers are teachers. We aren’t our gender. Every single teacher has the potential and capability to engage, inspire and bring out the talents in any kid with the support of their colleagues.
Nearly every teacher goes into education because there is some sort of need or core principle within them to help, nurture and develop others as thinkers, learners and people. That last sentence right there is one of the greatest problems facing education right now – the fact that every teacher isn’t in it for those reasons.
Pie in the sky ambitions, but when we are talking about the future of our society, why wouldn’t we aspire for excellence?
Seriously, how can we not aspire for excellence with kids like this?
One of the greatest problems facing education is that we still don’t fully value and appreciate the learning and work involved in educating others. If we did, men and women studying to be teachers wouldn’t have to worry about being called ‘glorified babysitters’ or ‘masters of finger painting’.
If we are serious about not only raising the number of men within the workforce, but also improving the state of education right now, we need to stop making jokes about teaching and start speaking about it respectfully. It shouldn’t actually be about building up men into the workforce, it should be about celebrating and valuing the power of all teacher to educate, inspire and support kids.
If we don’t start changing how we think about education, we will never change how we speak about it. If we don’t change how we speak about education, we will never see the difference we really could make to those kids sitting there in front of us now and in the future.
Let’s start building up, valuing and retaining our teachers – they’re our greatest asset if we truly want to make a change.
This piece was originally published on Mamamia.
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