Only 25 percent of public school teachers are male, a 40-year low
Josh Lucas has always wanted to work with children to make a difference in their lives the same way people have made a difference in his.
“I want to draw out their potential,” the education senior said. “It took mentors a lot of time to pull the potential out of me, and I know what that takes. I want to do that for as many kids as possible.”
For four hours a week, Lucas is in a third-grade classroom taught by third grade teacher Robert Stephenson at Wardcliff Elementary School in Okemos as part of a class requirement.
Lucas is part of a small group of males who go into the teaching profession.
According to a recent National Education Association survey, the number of male public school teachers is at a 40-year low. In the nation there are 3 million public school teachers, and male teachers make up 25 percent of those instructors. In elementary schools, males represent 9 percent of instructors.
Michigan ranks first in percentage of male teachers at 37 percent
Nationally, Michigan ranks in the top five in teacher pay
Mississippi is ranked 50th in percentage of male teachers
Males represent 18 percent of teachers in Mississippi
Source: National Education Association
Robert Stephenson, third grade teacher at Wardcliff Elementary School in Okemos, answers questions during Thursday's class.
Angela Calabrese Barton, an associate professor in teaching education, said the education profession hasn’t been known for being an elite and highly educated profession, unlike medicine and law, and that is not attractive to some men.
“There is a saying those who can’t do teach — what does that say about how our society values teachers?” she said.
Mary Lundeberg, a professor in educational psychology, technology and teacher education, said if this society valued teachers more, there would be more males entering because there would be higher salaries.
In some Asian countries, it is not uncommon for a class to clap after the end of a lesson — that doesn’t happen too often here, she said.
Lundeberg has researched gender roles and patterns in the classroom especially in regard to the confidence levels of males and females.
“When you look at who has the power in the educational system, there are more males who are superintendents and more male principals at secondary level,” she said.
“Also, at colleges there are more men who are the deans and chairs of departments.”
There is no question that gender is part of culture and culture influences expectations, norms and behaviors, Lundeberg said.
“Especially at the elementary level, people view teaching as more caring and mothering and historically society has given that role to women,” Calabrese Barton said.
But, you do find more males in elementary schools teaching physical education and teaching the upper grade levels because that is more accepted in our society, she said.
“There is this gender stereotype that (men) have to be the bread winners,” Calabrese Barton said. “We need to break down those stereotypes.”
The role of gender
Lucas’ dad was a business owner, and he experienced firsthand the headaches that occurred and realized that wasn’t for him.
Teaching is not a flashy job that comes with a lot of recognition, and that is not appealing to some men, he said.
“The states that have the highest salary for teachers also have the highest portion of males,” Lundeberg said.
“If a field has a higher status and a higher pay, there will be more males.”
Liz Trexler, a mathematics senior, said in many cases if men are passionate about math and science, they are more likely to go into fields such as engineering than to become math teachers because of a higher social status and paycheck.
With the struggling economy in Michigan, teaching isn’t the best career to go into if you want to support a family, Trexler said.
But money isn’t everything, Lucas said.
“If you want to become a teacher, you care about kids, their lives and future,” Lucas said.
“Sometimes doing the good things in society doesn’t correlate with money — it can’t be the driving factor.”
There needs to be positive male role model for children of all ages, Calabrese Barton said.
In an elementary school you not only have to prepare them educationally, but you also need to be a good nurturer — the roles go together, she said.
A person to emulate
Lucas said his eighth grade social studies teacher impacted him because of his authentic teaching style and engaging class activities.
The class built a life-size model representing a mining town during the California Gold Rush.
“We actually built all structures and buildings in a six-month period,” Lucas said.
“He was one of my favorite teachers and now I’m also going into teaching social studies.”
Jake Jewett, an education senior, said teaching and working with children has always been a passion of his.
“I could never picture myself working behind a desk all day,” he said.
“Working at a YMCA camp during the summer for three years solidified my choice to go into teaching — I love interacting with kids.”
But Jewett said in most of his classes in MSU’s College of Education, there is an average of three males in a class of 30.
Also, in the fields of physics, chemistry and computer science, there are few women, Lundeberg said.
This happens because of the way subjects are taught and the way they are viewed.
“If you are the only woman in an environment with 100 males, it can be very difficult,” Lundeberg said.
It’s good for children when they are growing up to get a variation of both male and female teaches different perspectives on issues, Trexler said.
“If all boys see in their elementary school are female teachers, they may get the impression and continue on the stereotype of teaching as a female profession,” Trexler said.