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There is an undeniable cry for male teachers in the education system especially at the primary and secondary school level. Over the last two decades with the proliferation of the feminist movement and a paradigm shift in male/female roles, men have appeared to dwindle out of the teaching profession leaving it a female dominated arena. In fact, it appears that more and more men are not inclined to become teachers for numerous reasons, some of which are quite valid (Paton, 2010).
So where does that leave the education system and the future of our young boys? Well according to Gold and Reis (1982), it is not necessarily in a very bad state. It is argued that both boys and girls can develop into caring, intelligent, well disciplined adults regardless of the gender of their teachers, and that the most important thing is the attitude of the teachers toward the child and overall involvement in the child’s life.
This argument though, is refuted strongly by Mac Donald (2007) who suggests that young boys have been affected by the decline in male teachers in their developmental years (considered to be preschool age 2 to 12 years). A powerful argument that boys are able to gain more than just academic achievement from male teachers is made when he suggests that male teachers act as role models of manhood and masculinity which are very critical for young boys. In recounting his own experience and the expressions of others he interacted with, he notes how some of the male teachers and male principals he had were able to inspire masculine traits such as physical strength, vivacious health and a spirit of healthy competition.
Mac Donald (2007) elaborates further by pointing out how his male high school principal was able to command respect, and yet be a friend. He also stated that his male teachers were able to exemplify masculinity which engenders service and sacrifice, encouragement and affability. Male teachers by example teach fundamental qualities of masculinity which also includes self- discipline, resilience, ambition, leadership, the courage to confront adversity, as well as the ability to act decisively and forcefully when conditions warrant.
According to Collins (2009), a person regarded by others, especially younger people, as a good example to follow is a role model.
Based on feedback from teachers of other schools and what I have observed in my own school I have inferred that women generally are incapable of successfully influencing young males on their own. At first glance this might appear to be a sexist or even chauvinist statement but the primary authority figure for young boys that are now a menace in some of our schools are predominantly female teachers and/or single mothers, aunties or grandmothers. This could indicate that even with the best efforts and intentions, young boys are not responding positively to the influence of these dominant women in their lives.
Clark (2009) expresses that various studies concur that the presence of male teachers at the primary and secondary school level has significantly declined over the last twenty years. One reason for this is that men have the perception that the nurturing of young children is a ‘woman’s role’. There is also the belief that some men shun the teaching profession due to fears of false sexual abuse allegations (paedophile hysteria) and lack of male counterparts at especially the primary school level. Although there is division as to the exact benefits of male teachers, the research from the Training and Development Agency for Schools found that boys are less disruptive in lessons taught by men.
Clark (2009) also points out that a research conducted by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) claimed that boys taught by women are more likely to disrupt lessons and neglect their studies. Fifty-one per cent of boys in primary schools said they would be more obedient in class if taught by a man and 42 per cent said they would work harder.
An article by Staff (2008), summarizing the results of a survey on 800 plus men by the TDA revealed that they found that more than a third (35%) felt that having a male primary teacher challenged them to work harder at school. Those questioned also said that male teachers were more approachable. Half (50%) were more likely to approach a male teacher about bullying, a similar proportion (49%) were more likely to approach them about problems with school work, 29% went to them with problems at home and 24% were more likely to ask them questions about puberty. Even as this survey may infer that female teachers’ roles may have also been important, it emphasizes the need for male teachers in the school system which allow young boys to feel that it is good to do well in school.
In my experience as a secondary school teacher, I have noticed that boys respond more positively and expediently to correction given by male teachers as opposed to female teachers. One might argue that this might be purely incidental. However, unless a female teacher exhibits masculine authority styles or excessive force as far as possible, they appear to achieve minimal or short-lived results when dealing with especially disruptive and difficult boys. Because of this, boys are generally disengaged in academic activities because most of the female teachers just do not have the capacity, desire or energy to deal with them.
Staff (2008) quoted Dr Tanya Byron, a clinical psychologist and broadcaster, by saying: “Male primary school teachers can often be stable and reliable figures in the lives of the children that they teach. They inspire children to feel more confident, to work harder and to behave better.” Simply put boys learn more when they are instructed by male teachers. Not only do men have a positive impact on academic achievement in boys but also they being essential in portraying and modeling masculinity and manhood is critical (MacDonald, 2007).
As made evident in assessment of many of these young boys, they come from homes where they have little or no male role models. The unfortunate trend in this present society is one that has left many families without a father and hence, confusion in the minds of these young children as to who to model or look up too, the male teacher therefore, might be that only positive male role model in their lives (MacDonald, 2007).
Thinking back on my own experience, I remembered that I saw my male teachers in primary school as superior authority figures. I believe that those male teachers allowed me to place a high value on my education and encouraged me to want to succeed. Hence, by the time I reached the secondary school level my form teacher; a male provided support and direction, as I was very focused on my school work at that point.
Should we then conclude that the male presence in education is more important than the female influence? Or does saying we need more male teachers mean that we do not need female teachers? Definitely not, it is not a question of male versus female, but there is a need for more positive male presence and equity in the gender variation of teachers at the primary and secondary level to close the gender gap or gender divide (MacDonald, 2007).
Pelletier (2004) through research findings noted that there was more prevalence of class repetition and academic delay in boys than girls. This delay was mostly attributed to gender variations in learning the language and instruction by female teachers. This weaker academic performance of boys appeared to have great influence in their career goals and willingness to stay in school. One of the
major contributors to improving academic achievement in boys was adapting educational approaches to the unique learning styles of boys. Male teachers tend to include games and competitive activities that boys respond to more positively. Another factor cited as influential was: the male teacher-student relationship (which requires the teacher to interact on a social level with the boys).
Holland (1996) suggests that one of the major issues surrounding academic failure in young boys is the fact that they are surrounded by predominantly female teachers, therefore it is ingrained in their psyche that school work is something for girls to do. They rarely see males in their environment engaging in academic activity and hence there is conflict with their masculinity.
What young boys need are men who are consistently there for them, who model good behavior and values, and who are consistent in their care for those that they love. They don’t need men who have checked out of building relationships and those who are nothing more than sperm donors (Heard, 2009). I believe that because young boys are at a critical stage in their development and not forgetting the lack of male presence in their lives the male teacher role model seems to be in the best position to exemplify those qualities.
Toysoldier (2010) notes, that the need for positive male role models for young boys is not a new scenario. In fact it is quite surprising that so much money is put into correction facilities that supposedly deal with disruptive male behavior when the funding and social focus should be prior to this outburst of negative and menacing behaviors. Much of the delinquent behavior is a result of not being able to fit into the academic system and hence turning to criminal behavior which is often mimicked in the bad male examples they have. Boys respond positively to consistent authority and direction. They need reinforcement when they exhibit good behaviors and need to be constantly encouraged to seek a healthy lifestyle and must take responsibility for all the choices they make. In the modern society they have been in a dilemma of having to use video games as their main source of masculine modeling and they are also being bombarded by this drive for men to be ‘more feminine’ or ‘in touch’ with their femininity which is not the solution to the problem of low academic achievement or being goal oriented.
Browne (2007) concedes that for most young boys the need to excel academically is not seen as the ‘male thing’. Browne suggests that at the secondary school level the most important influence in a boy’s life is peer influence. If the general thinking of his peers is that learning and academia is a waste of time then it is most likely that he would adopt the same attitude. Whilst some boys are able to develop coping strategies to excel academically, most seem to be unable to do this at a young age. The power of peer pressure can only possibly be pre-empted by assertive male role model teachers.
At the secondary school level most boys are having a surge of masculinity and would challenge both teachers and parents. Browne says that the teacher’s battle is then against testosterone, the peer group and the street where the culture is never to back down to authority no matter what. Without male teachers as an alternative role model, the influence of peers and street culture is all-powerful. Boys want to be part of a club or gang.
Browne (2007) notes the importance of teacher training to deal with the issues that boys have. It is important to relate to each boy one on one, to eliminate the strong group dynamic that exist in peers. Looking at intervention practices to deal with deviant behaviors is essential to addressing the academic interests of young boys. The first mode of operation should not be to send boys home (to watch television and other unreflective activities) when they engage in disruptive behaviors but a recommendation is to let them go into counseling sessions with male role models. Having more men in classroom shows young boys that there is an alternative option and that it can be cool to learn rather than be deviant.
According to Wright (2009) studies reveal that adolescent boys need to know that they are important to a man whom they respect in order to develop self confidence and a strong sense of identity. “To be a man you must see a man”, young boys need good men to help them become good men. Most boys are left to figure out manhood alone because of the predominance of females in their adolescent years. Essentially boys grow when they are surrounded by a strong male role model (Manfre, 2010).
Some studies even suggest that female teachers favor girls and actually present and enforce some of their biases with respect to what they consider ideal behaviour: quietness and obedience. Hence, masculine boys are seen as offensive and sometimes even treated with hostility (Gold and Reis, 1982). Gold and Reis continue by saying that in countries where there are a higher proportion of male teachers, studies reveal that the reading abilities of young boys are enhanced. It was also found that boys underachievement in reading in the US is linked to the current gender imbalance in the teaching system (Gorman, 2010). Here we may be able to identify the importance of the socio-linguistic factor, in that a boy is able to respond to male communication because it reflects similarities intrinsic to his own language.
The participation and involvement of men in the teaching profession at the primary and secondary level is in great demand. Many educators at the management level are assiduously working at recruiting competent males; strong role models that can transform the lives of children and more importantly young boys they interact with. One of the stereotypes is that men aren’t seen as being able to nurture and care for children as women do, however, this is not the reality. Many children are presently growing up without positive males in their lives and having male teachers are an opportunity to offer a great change and influence that gives a different perspective to the child (Terrell, 2009).
From a philosophical perspective, if it is desired that boys adopt behaviors that make them exceptional men they need to be exposed to corresponding philosophies from the same gender. It is undeniable that boys need men. Men play a vital role in the development of young boys and more so positive men. A sense of self respect, integrity, self confidence is fostered when a young boy has a man he looks up to model and interact with. It is impossible to provide all the existing young boys with a present, positive father-however; they can have a good male to emulate; a male teacher role model. Presently, some women in our society deliberately choose to raise children without fathers while some make no choice in the matter. However, based on all the findings and analysis of the reading and research, it is clear that young boys are in desperate need for male teacher role models in their lives.
I would want to suggest a few recommendations that are not necessarily unique, but might be able to somehow alleviate some of the problems young boys experience. Firstly, most intervention programs would require male teachers who are willing to volunteer their time and commit to the process. Some programs that can be developed include: 1. Mentoring initiative during or after school for which male teachers can use to impart positive masculine traits (honesty, integrity, determination, commitment to task etc.) 2. Allow some sporting activities which would involve male teachers playing with and against young boy(s) to foster strength, support and comradery. 3. Male teachers should even eat with their male students which would allow them opportunity in promoting a healthy eating lifestyle for young boys by example and discussion. 4. Religious instruction and prayer groups conducted by male teachers would provide a resource for young boys especially those who are in crisis and need spiritual encouragement and prayer.
There is a desperate need for young boys in our present society to have respect for themselves and others, to gain self confidence, to be strong morally and spiritually and to be comfortable with their identity as male. I think because there is a deficit in male role models at home and in the community where young boys live, male teachers are probably the best hope as role models for young boys “It is easier to build strong boys than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass.
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