Race, sexual orientation, culture and male teacher role models: "Will any teacher do as long as they are good?".
Furthermore, there continues to be alarm over the dwindling numbers of males in undergraduate degrees, where men in Canada account for only about 40% of the student population, similar to the United States (Finley, 2007). In 2006, about 56 percent of Canadian undergraduates were women (Laucius, 2009), according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. In North America, the media has highlighted dwindling numbers of males in professional schools, such as education (Bennett, 2010; Bradley, 2011; Mitchell, 2004; Snyder, April 28, 2008), law, and medicine (Intini, 2010; Kent, 1998; Wente, 2003a). Scholarships designated for women only are at several times those designated for men, even in fields where men have been traditionally underrepresented, such as nursing and education, as well as in fields where women now dominate, such as medicine (Abrahams, 2010a). Furthermore, boys' high school drop out rates (Bouchard, St-Amant, & Gagnon, 2000; Hirschman, Pharris-Ciurej, & Willhoft, 2006), and literacy problems, are largely held to be greater than that of most girls (Abrahams, 2010c; Blom, 2007; Brown, 2003; Honey, 2001), even when factors such as socio-economic status are considered (Hoff Summers, 2000, 2007). This trend has resulted in increased debate around encouraging more men to become teachers, to ostensibly address such phenomena, and improve the sort of boys and men (Doyle, 2010; Drews, 2010; Gearson, 2010; Sleightholm, 2010; Staff, October 22, 2010; Todd, 2010).
In Ontario, and similarly in most areas of North America, men represent only one in ten primary/junior teachers, and fewer than one in three secondary teachers (Bernard, Hill, Falter, & Wilson, 2004). In Canada, according to Statistics Canada (Staff, 2008a), the total of full-time and part-time teachers stands at 108,267 male and 267,788 female; There is also a majority of female administrators in education nationwide with 29,015 total of whom 13,680 are male and 15,335 female. Likewise, reports from teacher organizations in British Columbia (Staff, 2007/08), Prince Edward Island (MacRae, 2008), and New Brunswick (Robichaud, 2008) confirm both a preponderance of female teachers and administrators. This is contrary to persistent yet erroneous popular beliefs and publications regarding male dominance in educational administration. Consult, for instance, Coulter and McNay (1995), who base their assertions about male patriarchal administrative dominance in education on research from the 1980s, including Women and men in education: A national survey of gender distribution in school systems (Rees, 1990), as does Martino (2008) citing Teachers: The culture and politics of work (Lawn & Grace, 1987), and an English context, thereby selectively ignoring current data that decries the implications of the lack of male teachers in England as role models for boys; In England, the number of male school teachers is running at a historic low of 13 percent in primary schools, and 41 percent in secondary schools, with more than a quarter of primary schools not having a single male teacher, and nearly 5000 staffrooms populated solely by women (Clark, July 13, 2009). Furthermore, research on men's experiences in teaching is often framed in a discourse of "backlash" against women's progress and equity (Martino, 2008), and encapsulated in a supposed "myth" of the boy crisis (von Drehle, July 26, 2007). Such rhetoric may be seen as an attempt to silence research on boys and men, and maintain problematic yet widespread theories of patriarchal hegemony, that permeate every aspect of society from media and popular culture to our educational, medical, and legal systems. Ultimately, there is passionate disagreement over the issue of engaging more male teachers.
The debate around male teachers tends to take two major camps: the first follows this line of reasoning, as related by a male teacher survey respondent, "Some boys could benefit from having male role models ... but I'm also a firm believer that any child can succeed in a classroom regardless of the teachers gender, ethnicity, etc. It's about getting your students interested and teaching to those interests." In this case, the belief is that good teachers should be equipped to teach all students, despite mitigating factors such as race, class, gender, etc., whether their own or that of their students. Similarly, Coulter and Creig (2008) quote Wells from the 194 century (1891), to support her thesis that a good teacher should be able to teach all students regardless of gender:
Wells argued that the "the whole question" of teaching was "one of character and ability, not of sex." The solution to the debate about the man and woman question in teaching was this: "Let the most competent teachers be appointed to all positions, whether men or women" (Wells, 1891, p. 508). In the nineteenth-century Wells recognized that a good education was the result of meaningful content, carefully selected and supported by the thoughtful pedagogy of a socially responsible and ethical teacher who might be male, could be female.
I contend that this belief downplays the considerable effects and limitations that intersectional identities, and exposure to and embracing of diversity, play in education, and in a pluralistic and diverse Ontarian and Canadian society. Correspondingly, the second camp is exemplified by the following survey respondent quotes, "All children benefit from a balance of male and female role models as leaders and professionals," and, "There are many students lacking a significant positive role model outside of school so having a good mixture of genders as well as other forms of diverse representation in the teaching staff is beneficial." In this case, male teacher role models emerge as important to create a gender balance, along with other identity markers, in order to better represent and reflect diversity in education, and broader Ontarian and Canadian society.
In this paper, I explain my theoretical and methodological approaches, and then delve into findings on male teacher role models according to (1) race, (2) sexual orientation, and (3) culture, in order to problematize the dualistic popular stances that generic good teachers should be able to teach everyone effectively, and what I view as a more counter-hegemonic, pluralistic, and academically sound view, that recruiting and retaining more male teachers would foster diversity, thereby reflecting broader social populations in Ontario, Canada, and beyond, and permitting alternate possibilities that challenge hegemonic gender and teacher stereotypes, in addition to fostering a more equitable, and secure workplace, for many male teachers.
Queer theory can be a novel approach for scholars, researchers, educators, and activists to critically think about how bodies negotiate themselves using their identifies in cultural spaces (Ruffolo, 2008). Queer as a verb is at the core of my poststructuralist theoretical approach, and entails a way of reading and interpreting with two major tenets: (1) examining what knowledge is being accepted and endorsed as "natural," normal," or "good" and, (2) reflexive inquiry through the lens of sexuality into social phenomena, interactions, and institutions (Gosse, 2006). That a generic good teacher of any gender, or race, class, sexual orientation, class, ability, geographical location, and language and culture, may be sufficiently equipped to effectively teach all students serves to reinstate the status quo, that is, the prevalence of able-bodied, white, middle-class women in education, both as teachers and administrators. In particular, the questioning and deconstructing of commonplace, widely accepted beliefs around male teacher role models are central to this paper.
A theoretical paradox I encounter is in my optimism for a society in which gender would play less, if any, significant role in the future, but for the time being, I must acknowledge the stringently gendered field of education, even as I attempt to show its cracks and shortcomings. According to Sondergaard (2002), poststructuralism offers the possibility for researchers to examine the constitution of social practices, cultural patterns, and subjectivation, which may lead to ruptures. Ruptures in my research are moments where interlocutors may feel disarmed, shocked, alienated, or even outraged at times, but ultimately this may lead them/us to rethink common practices, customs, and/or beliefs. I explore how widespread, accepted misandric knowledge and beliefs are constructed and upheld, and I ultimately solicit questionings, so that the status quo may be destabilized. Therefore, I examine how subordinate male primary/junior teachers navigate though a female-dominated field as role models and, in particular, the inter connectedness of race, sexual orientation, culture, and gender will emerge in this paper within the two camps of (1) a good teacher who is supposedly able to teach all equitably, regardless of identity markers, and the preponderance of white, middle-class, female teachers, and administrators, in education in Ontario, and (2) an approach embracing diversity among teacher role models, that would call for more males in the profession, and other minorities.
In the provincial study of which I am principal investigator, Tracing the Professional Journey of Male Primary-Junior Teachers in Ontario, I seek to explore the experiences of male primary teachers to add to understanding and awareness of some of the social, political, institutional, and structural variables that influence male teachers' decision to enter, remain in, and/or leave teaching. A position as a primary or junior educator is strongly associated with women, and maintained as a field privileging women in numerous explicit and implicit ways, one of the strongest being prevalent fears surrounding male sexualities (Gosse, 2011a). The initial phase of inquiry for this provincial study involved the collection of data from an online survey sent to several hundred male Elementary Federation of Ontario (ETFO) members, all of whom are certified Primary/Junior teachers, and 223 responded. Of the total number of respondents, 94 percent chose to respond in English, and 6 percent in French. While all are certified primary-junior teachers, 54.9 percent currently teach K-3, while 65.4 percent currently teach grades 4-6, since some teach multiple grades in visual arts, physical education, special education-resource teacher, literacy, information technology, rotary science, and behavioral classes, for instance. Regarding age, 9.7 percent are 20-29, 38.7 percent are 30-39, 29.5 percent are 40-49, 19.8 percent are 50-59, and 2.3 percent are over 60. Regarding how long respondents have been in the field of education, 20.3 percent have been teaching for 1-5 years, 28.6 percent for 6-10 years, 33.6 percent for 21-30 years, and 4.1 percent for more than 31 years. Vis-a-vis the highest level of education attained, the majority of respondents, 69 percent are at the bachelor level, with 22.2 percent having earned a master's degree, and 0.5 percent a doctorate. Another 8.3 percent indicate "other" in their educational credentials, such as Ontario specialist courses in drama, English as a second language, and special education, or principal qualification courses. In Ontario, the primary junior grades extend from K-6, or approximately ages 4-11. We also conducted a series of two interviews each with nine core participants at different stages in their careers--three beginning, three mid-career, and three senior, as well as in-class observations, and related document analysis from teacher organizations and school boards.
In a primary/junior context, survey respondents were asked to comment on their main reasons for becoming teachers, whether they felt that male and female teachers had any unique qualities, if there were any groups they felt benefited from have a male teacher, hiring practices, their understanding of public and media views of male teachers, and advantages and disadvantages of being male teachers. Participants were able to add comments in text boxes, and this is what I thematically analyze (Atkinson, Coffey, & Delamont, 2003; Ryan & Bernard, 2000, pp. 780-785), looking for patterns that emerge in discourse. For this paper, I choose to primarily analyze the several hundred quotes, filling thirty-five pages, which directly list the term "role model." While there are many others that implicitly make links to the concept of being a "role model," they are not the focus of this analysis, given the profusion of responses that do explicitly refer to the keyword "role model," thereby already providing rich commentary and description.
In the forthcoming comments from survey participants, I signal that these are careful selections that embody major themes. In other words, I could have used additional quotations to illustrate dominant themes, but have selected these as representative. As a primarily qualitative researcher, I attempt to capture glimpses into our participants' realities, and to respectfully capture their voices. My readings of their words and the conditional statements that follow are not generalizable, but do form a set of hypotheses and concepts that I, and other researchers, may analyze and interpret (Charmaz, 2000). I recognize the subjectivity in my approach, and indeed in all research. My intent is to tell a critical narrative about male primary teachers as role models, and their gendered interplay with race, sexual orientation, and culture, to generate further discussion. There was a mountain of comments regarding gender and teaching styles that explicitly use the keyword "role model" that will be alluded to here, as well, but has been more fully treated in a separate paper (Gosse, 2011a) and report (Gosse, et al., 2010). (2) In keeping with my queer theoretical perspective, and exploring knowledge that is frequently invisible or marginalized, I explore the three areas of (1) race, (2) sexual orientation, and (3) culture that were less present in the data, but nonetheless provocative.
The majority of English-speaking, first-wave feminists were not only ethnocentric but also racist (Valverde, 1992). This lingered into the 1980s, and led to an exclusion of women of color, Native women, and immigrant women from a movement claimed to be based on gender. While the majority of teachers in Ontario and Canada is white and female, among the male minority, I also remark that a majority appears to be white. It is interesting that there is a social cry for more male teachers, but less so for more visible minorities or disabled teachers, for example, to reflect better the popular ideology of diversity or diversification. Similarly, much academic literature in the field of male elementary teachers focuses on gender but unduly highlights negative possible experiences and effects on women, as opposed to men; as well, although race and class issues do sometimes emerge, men are misandrously treated as though they were a largely homogeneous and hegemonic group (see for example, Ashcraft & Sevier, 2006; Coulter & Grieg, 2008; and Martino, 2008).
Nathanson and Young (2001) assert that ideological feminism presents all issues from the point of view of women and, in the process, explicitly or implicitly attacks men as a class. They argue that ideological feminism is silently reshaping law, public policy, education, and journalism. While I acknowledge the positive impacts feminist activists have had, and continue to have, on social issues, as do many queer and black activists, ideological feminism, on the other hand, is reductionist and infused with essentialist dogma toward boys and men, even as paradoxically many ideological feminists challenge essentialist views of girls and women. This fits with an enduring ideological feminist propensity for attacking the malevolent, privileged, able bodied, white, middle-class, and protestant male, reputedly the root of many social ills. Segal (1990) refers to "the masculine myth"--the intrinsic virtue of women, and the apparent "vice" of men in social and academic trends. Since so many contemporary researchers in women's studies, and gender and equity departments, are progeny of ideological feminism, it is no surprise that a contemptuous, or at best--"unsympathetic" approach endures toward men and boys in much educational research. Therefore, I seek to challenge ideological feminism with a critical, open-minded, and intersectional analysis of identity, and power relations, regarding male teachers.
Interestingly, although race and sexual orientation (2) emerged in multiple contexts in our survey and participant interviews, there was but one comment for each that explicitly linked the two with the keyword role model, but they are nonetheless poignant. Regarding race, once respondent confided:
The students can relate to a teacher from a visible minority background. I am a good role model for English Language Learners. The most rewarding part of this job is watching young minds develop over the course of the school year and the impact I am going to have on my students. Role model = my grade 5, 6 teacher.
Here, the respondent insinuates that he is a good role model as a visible minority for other visible minorities and/or English Language Learners, in keeping with public discourse around diversity, and that his own former grade 5 and 6 teacher may have positively influenced him.
Indeed, many visible or ethnic minority children, including Black Canadians, may not identify with dominant history, past, culture, or lifestyle that is Eurocentric, white, and middle-class, thereby contributing to disenfranchisement with school and resulting in higher drop-out rates (Dei, 1993). In many United States (U.S.) school districts, 70 percent of African-American boys in 9th grade will not graduate four years later (Franklin, White, Koopmann, & Howard, 2010). Similarly, for Portuguese Canadians in Toronto, while not necessarily visible minorities, blue-collar social class, an identification with gangsta culture, and a cultural practice of getting jobs early on, rather than opting for university or college, may contribute to high school attrition rates. (3) The attrition rate of Black Canadians in Toronto has been such, at almost 50 percent, that an alternative Afrocentric school has been created (Brown, Popplewell, & Staff, 2008), with teachers specialized in Afrocentric curriculum, many of whom are Black, so that students may ostensibly have more role models, and curriculum, reflecting their own ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Similarly, some U.S. universities that are all Black and male, relate that in these settings, young Black men can find their own voice, while challenging negative socialization associated with manhood, such as shame (Armstrong, 2002), homophobia, and misogyny (Franklin, et al., 2010). Young Black university students can gain more critical sense of positive racial identity among other strong Black men who are positive role models, such as professors, staff, and older student mentors, and this positively correlates with academic achievement, and positive self-image (Morehouse College Panel, 2010).
Therefore, the importance of the presence of teachers who ethnically, visibly, or culturally reflect the student population emerges, to alleviate school underachievement, and attrition rates of minority groups, in which boys typically are more negatively represented. One can conclude that a diverse representation of genders in schools to counteract the dwindling numbers of male teachers is analogous, and the representation of more diverse male teachers in schools, might similarly alleviate the higher attrition and literacy problems of many boys. Booth (2002, p. 3) claims that, "We need to ensure that boys have male literacy models in their homes, in their schools, and in the community, so that they will associate reading and writing activities with other boys and male adults in their lives". More research is needed, and will unfold, as more and more schools boards in North America experiment with single-sex settings (Boesveld, 2009; Leslie, 2009; Staff, 2009), and hopefully, with the eventual hiring and retention, of more diverse male and female teachers, including those who are minorities.
Fears abound regarding male teachers' sexuality that transcend being labeled or self-identified as gay, straight, or any other variant, and are centered around men's supposed universal predatory and pedophiliac tendencies. When asked in what circumstances they experience prejudice, one respondent confides:
Just the classic assumptions about male "role-models" and that males need to avoid certain situations with students because of "historically bad decisions being made by males" giving male teachers a bad name, when it is not seen as an issue for a female colleague. A need to protect oneself and to be more prudent than female teachers is another way of saying it.
Additionally, another respondent reflects the widespread notion that male primary teachers, like figure skaters, designers, hair stylists, and flight attendants, are suspected of being gay:
Yes. Male primary teachers are assumed to be lacking in stereotypical male traits. Their sexual orientation may be questioned behind their backs. Teaching in the older grades, these types of assumptions are not made. Men in older elementary are generally considered to be exemplary people and good role models. Secondary teachers remain the most respected as they are considered to have superior knowledge, skills, expertise, and intelligence.
Being "gay" is commonly conflated with the erroneous expectation of potential or imminent pedophilia in educational circles and broader society (Gosse, 2010b). For centuries, dominant groups have used the "they're after your kids" myth to marginalize subdominant groups such as Jews and gays (Jennings, 2005), and now male teachers. Therefore, as good as a male teacher may be in effectively teaching, communicating, and differentiating learning for his pupils, he is nonetheless privy to a level of scrutiny, homophobia, androgenophobia, (i.e., the prevalent societal conviction that maleness, the male body, and male sexualities are somehow unclean, perverse, and menacing) and erastephobia, (i.e., a pervasive expectation and fear of impending pedophilia by males in general, and male teachers in the schools in particular), in ways, and to a degree, unlike female colleagues (Gosse, 2011 a).
While another respondent does not mention the keyword role model, nevertheless, he does implicate role modeling succinctly in his words, "Students who question their sexual orientation can see that a gay male teacher is strong, happy, successful and hopefully can reassure them that life's biggest challenges are manageable." Similarly, another teacher states, "There are many students lacking a significant positive role model outside of school so having a good mixture of genders as well as other forms of diverse representation in the teaching staff is beneficial." A further respondent minors the notion that diversity is beneficial to all students, boys and girls, including sexual orientation and cultural diversity, "I don't buy the whole 'boys who are lacking a male figure thing.' I think that everyone is better served by a diversity of cultures, genders, sexualities, etc. More exposure to more diversity benefits all students."
These teachers seem to propose that both boys and girls need diverse role models, and exposure to many cultures, genders, sexualities, etc. This common theme is evident in our interviews, too, and is in keeping with a notion of promoting diversity, and reflecting our multicultural society, rather than the idea that any teacher will do, as long as they are "good." Having diverse teacher role models along the lines of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, etc., may allow similarly diverse students to better imagine themselves not only as teachers, but in other careers, as well, and to be exposed to the benefits of diverse peoples' life experiences and perspectives, beyond the dominant white, middle-class, Anglophone female majority of school staff and administration. At the onset of the feminist movement, and to this day, similar arguments are used to provide diverse role models in schools resources for girls, such as pictures depicting girls and women in positions of power and non-traditional careers in text books (Abrahams, 2010b). Abrahams (2010c) quotes a consultant for an education publisher who says:
"If you had a picture of a person doing something positive, winning a race, performing an experiment successfully, etc., [you had to] make sure it was of a girl," said one of the consultants involved in the revisions. "If you had to have a picture of someone doing a bad thing--bullying, making a mistake, being unsure which course of action to take, etc.--the image was invariably of a boy.... The side effect was to show the boys that they are rarely winners and we expect less of them.... The unstated assumption was that boys did not need the same degree of encouragement.
Endeavors such as creating more inclusive texts, and showing women in non-traditional careers, appear to have been successful, since girls tend to dominate in so many aspects of education today, from cohort graduation rates to feeling safer at school, as compared to boys (Zheng, December 2009).
Moreover, one cannot separate the call for more diverse male teachers, and representative resources, from the omnipresent caveat of androgenophobia and erastephobia in policing the workplace of male primary-junior-teachers. Several hundred comments relate to the widespread association of colleagues, administrators, and broader public to assuming they are gay because they are male primary-junior teachers, also sometimes resulting in harassment, mocking, distrust, and an insinuation of pedophilia, even from pupils:
Many assume that as a male P/J teacher, you must be homosexual. A sibling of one of my students assumed this in a passing remark. Certain students at a Grade 6-8 school thought I was gay. I was openly mocked by students in the classroom. I was continually harassed verbally in my first year at an inner city school. I rely on public transit and older children in my school taunted me with homophobic insults as I was leaving school. The principal was inept at dealing with it. The harassment escalated and I was transferred to a more educated and sophisticated community. Once a principal questioned a superintendent when he placed me in his school teaching a grade 2 class. He was concerned because I was a male teacher teaching grade 2. [My] principal allowed a parent to switch a student out of my room as parent was concerned about me being gay ... principal and I had words ... in a nice way ... child was put back into my room. Young, junior-aged students think (and accuse) male teachers for "looking at them" the wrong way.
School boards, teacher unions and federations, faculties of education, and teacher certification agencies need to do more to address adequately the pivotal role of homophobia in policing the workplace of many male teachers, but sexual orientation remains more taboo than issues of sexism against women, or racism (Doyle, 2010).
Furthermore, while being a visible minority teacher may be more obvious, being gay requires outing, and is generally less straightforward. Teachers who identity, or are identified, as LGBTTIQQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, or two-spirit) continue to suffer from political and social sanctions (Gosse, 2004; King, 2004); this may include silencing, verbal and physical assault, exclusion, and invisibility in the workplace and in social spheres (Gosse, Parr, & Allison, 2007, 2008). In interviews with participants, I have found that most continue to be closeted with their pupils and pupils' parents/guardians, while some are out to varying degrees with certain colleagues and administrators.
Therefore, while some believe that a good teacher ought to be able to teach all students, prejudicial assumptions and actions surrounding subjugated sexual orientation, emerge as hugely mitigating factors influencing the capacity and ability of male teachers to act as role models in the workplace. The silencing of sexual orientation minorities, or those perceived as such, and the absence or ignoring of affirmative action and equity policies, and discussion, in the workplace that includes sexual orientation, contributes toward an oppressive work environment for many male teachers. This hinders their potential to challenge actively hegemonic stereotypes, and become the male role models they aspire to be, for they are forever under the watchful, and prejudicial, eye of others. This may be even more pronounced in Canadian Catholic schools (Callaghan, 2009), when overt doctrines further result in a precarious workplace for many LGBTTIQQ2S teachers, and in discriminatory learning environment for LGBTTIQQ2S students.
Furthermore, since men report being fearful of becoming a teacher due to widespread prejudices linked to policing of male sexualities, many boys are deprived of the potential benefits of the active, humorous, and tolerant teaching styles of some male teachers (Gosse, 2010a, 2011a):
I love teaching the little kids. I try to have fun in the classroom and they make me laugh. I am lucky to get paid to do something that I really enjoy. I have seen some really strong disciplinarians who are female teachers and I have seen some really positive, caring nurturing types who are males. Perhaps one characteristic that males do bring to teaching is a tendency to break the rules and therefore, perhaps, to let students push the limits. At first you can be seen as "the heavy," but I've found female teachers can often be tougher on students with discipline. Most have a different approach to teaching (less rigid in terms of structure of class). A qualified yes. I have seen some female teachers with the same traits, but most of the males I know seem to possess a more relaxed attitude, and include humor a lot more in their teaching styles. There is a sense of playfulness and excitement that I don't see in most of my female colleagues.
We have to confront contemporary prejudices that work to create a uncomfortable workplace for many male teachers rooted in homophobia, androgenophobia, and erastephobia, and a setting that treats many boys as defective and deviant (Hoff Summers, 2000; Wente, 2003a), an off-shoot of the disfavoring of boys and men in education.
Many of the comments linking culture to male teacher role models surround the idea of certain religious and/or cultural groups who still practice a perceived hegemonic masculinity and dominance over women and girls. One respondent states, "I am unsure how to answer this as I think that it is not fair to say that a particular group would be better in my class than in a female colleague's class, but some students, due to cultural backgrounds, interact and behave differently with males." This reflects the belief again in a good teacher being able to accommodate all students in his or her class, but also concedes that some cultural backgrounds do interact and behave differently with a male or female teacher. Several comments also allude to boys from certain cultural background "respecting" male teachers more, as embodied in the following, "Many of these students do not have fathers in the home and male teachers serve as good role models. In addition, some of these students respect male teachers and not female teachers because of their culture!" and also, "Example, a boy who has little respect for a female might have a better chance of working with a male teacher who can then model for this student how to respect females." Another respondent states, "Some Middle Eastern cultures do not readily respect the ideas and expectations or women," while another says, "Some boys relate well to a male teacher in elementary schools. Some cultural/religious groups seem to relate better to male teachers." Although in popular culture the frequently stereotypical assumption is that boys of Muslim culture and background may see girls and women as inferior, it must be noted that in the latter comments, we can infer that the lack of respect may extend to any misogynous background, where lack of respect for women is present.
Approximately 63 percent of African-American households are headed by a single parent, overwhelmingly a mother (Leverett, 2007). Women in Ontario and across Canada who are single-mothers, and the number has been steadily increasing since about 1972, have tended to have higher rates of poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental health problems (Lipman, Offord, & Boyle, 1997), with ongoing links made to single motherhood, poverty, lack of male role models, and aberrant behaviors in boys (Finlay & Keewatin, 2002; Simpson, 2002; Tyre, 2006). Correspondingly, a respondent writes, "Many of these students do not have fathers in the home and male teachers serve as good role models. In addition, some of these students respect male teachers and not female teachers because of their culture!" This echoes the widespread social belief on diversity that male teachers may become positive role models for boys who lack them in single-mothered homes, in addition to what is commonly held to be a more Western, and less chauvinistic, embodiment of manhood. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that male role models are also linked to endeavors to encourage boys' literacy in single-parent homes (Willoughby-Herb & Herb, 1993).
In keeping with this widespread cultural belief that male teachers may model more respectful, counter-hegemonic traits toward women, thus reflecting the wedded idea of diversity and equality, a respondent states the following common, analogous belief,
The male teacher provides a role model for appropriate male behavior ... not just between boys ... but also a model for appropriate behaviour around girls. It allows children to see and experience the differences (strengths and limitations) of both genders who are in an authoritarian role with others. It allows boys in particular to realize that males can be nurturing in a different way than female teachers.
In this case, the male teacher is supposed not only to show but also subsequently to reinforce dualistic concepts of gender as polarized entities. This respondent's idea of diversity is partially based on traditional concepts of gender, and hints at a chivalrous type of masculinity toward girls. However, he indicates modeling a type of nurturing by male teachers that is somehow different from that of women teachers that needs discussion.
Indeed, there is much anecdotal commentary in academic research that this project, "The Professional Journey of Male Primary/Junior Teachers," has elucidated. Androgenophobia and erastephobia abound (Gosse, 2011 a). Unlike many of their female colleagues who may physically nurture and console their pupils by hugging them, holding hands, or even having young pupils sit on their laps, male teachers find ingenious ways to nurture their pupils. This includes the assignment of special classroom duties, such as collecting books or handing out crayons, heaping on of verbal praise, having pupils sit next to them in closer proximity, and in lieu of physical contact that many women teachers engage in, such as sitting on one's lap, holding hands, or hugging, many male teacher give high fives (Gosse, 2010c).
These sanctions on men's workplace behaviors, originating from administrators and colleagues, all primarily female, as well as children/pupils, parent/guardians, and the public and media (Gosse, 2011 a), cause inequity in the workplace since women are not subject to such prejudice. They also serve to propagate widespread perceptions of male teacher role models as non-nurturing, or less nurturing, than female colleagues, and thus less equipped to work with children, despite male teachers' alternative strategies. Furthermore, these sanctions against physical nurturing also serve to constantly reinstate the privileged status of women in early education by reaffirming the so-called dualistic "nature" of the "two" commonly held genders--male and female, which results not only in maintaining women's privileged status in [early childhood] education, but also a heterosexist and rigidly gendered educational system that helps keep them in majority status, for many men report unwillingness to work with younger children, or constant unease and caution for those who do, due to the omnipresent potential for accusations of inappropriate conduct that for many women are simply accepted ways of nurturing their young pupils.
In addition, various respondents bemoan the common cultural practice in schools of placing behaviorally challenged children, particularly boys, with male teachers simply because of social expectations that they must somehow be able to better deal with them better than female colleagues, as reported by these respondents:
When I went through my practicum placement in a Catholic school I was given a harder assignment of 25 grade 2 behaviour children to work with without proper support. I find that it is difficult to change grades or assignments in my current school. Sensitize female staff about gender issues ... like ... the appropriateness of comments like "that student should be placed with MR_ next year, because he/she needs a male role model or because MR_ will be able to handle him/her." Treat males and females equally. Often, males are seen as a silver bullet to solve behaviour problems in students ("he just needs a strong male role model"). As a result, males usually have an overload of behaviour problems in their classes, without support. Year-after-year, it wears us down.
Indeed, it appears that male teachers may end up with a larger number of challenging students, and this, while arguably benefiting female teachers who may then partake of a more harmonious classroom atmosphere, has implications for workplace stress for men, male job retention, and long-term job satisfaction.
Moreover, some male teachers do concede that children from single-mothered homes may benefit from placement with them, as well as families from Muslim backgrounds, others make links to behavioral issues, and chauvinism toward women:
Where I have taught there have been several Muslim families where the boys and their parents have only shown respect to the male faculty members. There are certainly cultural biases at play with many of the families in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area]. I have also had rambunctious male students that respond more effectively to the males on staff perhaps from the tone of voice and demeanour of the staff members. Children without father figures I've noticed want to know you personally more so than other children. I've had some success with students with behavioural needs (all just so happened to have no father figures in their lives), because I think (unfortunately) that I receive more respect from them than do female teachers. All children need male and female teachers as they grow and learn.
This latter comment also mirrors the idea of diversity, that male teachers can and do provide something of a father figure that may help mitigate some children's emotive and social needs. Indeed, Marshall, English, and Stewart (2001) report lower levels of aggression and depression for children in protective services who had a father figure. More long range, multi-variable research is required regarding male teachers and similar declarations, broadly held to be common knowledge.
The call for a more diverse teacher population, and diversity policies and practices, is closely linked to the idea of a democratic society (Staff, October 2004), and part of our North American consciousness. The argument that any teacher will do as long as they are good is clearly not the opinion of the vast majority of the male primary/junior teachers in Tracing the Professional Journey of Male Primary Teachers in Ontario, with 91.3 percent of respondents affirming that more male primary/junior teachers should be hired. It is also clear that the respondents in our online survey, who specifically mention the keyword role model in their comments, overwhelmingly adhere to the notion of diversity rather than the ambivalent idea that a good teacher ought to be able to reach all students in his or her class. However, it must be noted that gender arises as the privileged identity marker, with numerous respondents alluding to their [male] gender as somehow germane to being a "good" or "positive" role model for children. Among those who elaborated in their comments, there are a few chief patterns or themes surrounding this common thought. Most significantly, there are cultural reasons that many male primary/junior teachers feel they can diversify, and perhaps be better equipped in some cases, to respond to certain groups in their teaching. However, the principal reason offered is colonialist, that of transforming (sub)cultures who maintain a non-Western patriarchal structure that "respects" men more, elevating them to a higher level, while demonstrating a lack of respect and negative attitudes toward women teachers, and this supposedly mostly from boys. This opinion is closely linked to religion, and one can assume from popular culture, media, and also interviews that we have conducted with multiple male teachers, to primarily reference Muslim and Black cultures. Whether this has prejudicial overtones requires further empirical inquiry, as boys (more so than girls), I contend, are unfairly targeted in our school system by teachers and educational assistants with negative expectations. This may then have an inverse Pygmalion Effect (Tauber, 2009), or result in negative self-fulfilling prophesies, such as boys becoming disengaged in school as they are branded "troublemakers," or "poor readers" due to the focus on girl-friendly fiction and intrapersonal assessments, such as reflective journal writing (Spence, 2006), or even erroneously diagnosed with ADHD (Tyre, 2008), due to their longing for active teaching and learning strategies and approaches.
Moreover, undeserved and seemingly malicious silencing and ignoring strategies, negative body language and tone, verbal reprimands, time outs, detentions, and punishments abound, especially when of certain ethnic and visible minority backgrounds, targeting many black, native, and Muslim boys in particular, according to my research (Gosse, 201 lb). This substantiates what has been referred to as a type of societal "war" against boys (Hoff Summers, 2000, 2007; Wente, 2003b), which includes education. Ultimately, all teachers, regardless of their genders or identities, should be more cautious role models in how they convey approval, encouragement, and nurturing toward all children [or withhold these strategies and do the opposite, showing disapproval, discouragement, and neglect], particularly for boys, who seem to bear the brunt of an inverse Pygmalion Effect, especially when members of a visible minority. Since most teachers are female, white, and middle-class, and the male teachers in the minority also appear to be mostly white and middle-class, similarly to the approximate 90 percent white teaching staff of the United States (Staff, October 2004), more affirmative action employment policies to reflect better the student population and broader society could mitigate such prejudice. Additionally, faculties of educations, school boards, and teacher federations should be far more vigilant regarding diversity instruction in their teacher education programs (McFalls & Cobb-Roberts, 2001; Parsons & Brown, 2001).
The notion that male teachers may act as role models for both boys and girls, who are lacking them at home and in their larger communities, also arises. There is scant research until now to prove such a claim, which nevertheless has mass common-sense appeal. However, only recently has research on boys' and men's experiences begun as it has for girls and women over recent decades, and this is a huge factor in the lack of trustworthy data. Indeed, current findings from the United Kingdom's Teacher Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) (Eaton, 2009; Staff, 2008b) indicate that male primary school teachers have acted as fundamental role models to one in two men (48%), 35 percent felt that having a male primary teacher challenged them to work harder at school, and 22 percent believed that male primary teachers helped build their confidence while they were young; From the 800 men surveyed, many also reported that they were more likely to approach male teachers with issues of bullying (50%), problems at home (29%) and questions about puberty (24%). These results are complimentary to my research findings thus far, and the idea that male teacher role models are indeed important, contrary to the notion that any good teacher will do, as numbers of male teachers dwindle.
That there was scant mention of sexual orientation, and also race, along with the keyword role model, and race tied in with English language learning, but none of disability, class, or geographical location, has several interpretations. In our survey, we ascertained the gender, geographical location in Ontario, number of years teaching upfront, and language of respondents at the start of the survey, but were reluctant to explicitly question respondents upfront on more touchy demographics of race, class, disability, and sexual orientation, for fear this might dissuade them from continuing the survey. However, many respondents did indeed divulge rampant prejudice and discrimination in later parts of the survey, and subsequent interviews, and in numerous areas of their professional and personal identities (Gosse, 2010c; Gosse & Parr, 2009). Indeed, when asked in the survey whether they had experienced prejudice as male primary/junior teachers, 106 of the 223 respondents indicated they had experienced prejudice with 10.4 percent indicating race, 6.6 percent class, 77.4 percent gender, 17.9 percent sexual orientation, 1.9 percent disability, 8.5 percent language and culture, and "other" at 20.8 percent, and most explained how this was lived. Therefore, while prejudice does indeed exist, and was commented upon by many respondents and interviewed participants in our study, it is interesting to note that within the confines of my methodology for this particular paper, responses were more limited. Moreover, just as Cummins and Sayers (1995) report that instruction that denies or ignores students' cultural or sexual identity is unlikely to result in improving academic achievement, I apply the same premise to gender, race, disability, geographical location, and class identification. These are jointly a significant force in literacy learning, curriculum content, and role modeling for male teachers and all teachers, as well as students, for they formulate our understandings of and identification with sundry identities, and are thereby wedded to the notion of diversity in education.
Indeed, responses specific to gender, teaching styles, and the keyword role model were numerous (in the hundreds) and sophisticated, and will be part of a lengthier, future publication; A significant part of this future analysis will involve participants' contentious beliefs about diverse teaching styles among male and female teachers. Overall, respondents were more apt to comment on their gender throughout all sections of the survey but this may be in part due to the title and focus of our study, which in implicit and explicit appears to privilege gender. However, it is equally my contention that while the majority of our teacher population is undeniably white, middle class, and female, it is similarly overwhelmingly white and middle-class in the male minority. Therefore, due to this phenomenon of white, and/or middle-class privilege in education, participants may downplay issues of race, disability, class, geographical location, and other marginalizing factors, including those that are queer, even if a visible minority. (4)
In conclusion, I propose a call to explore with increased vigor the lack of minorities in our school system and teaching personnel beyond the confines of "gender." Examination of the intersections of race and ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability, geographical location, language and culture, and among both men and women, and those whose gender identities do not correspond to either dualist notion, including transgender, transsexual, and two spirit, would be more fruitful. Only by examining those who do not necessarily fall within the norm of mainstream, accepted, categories of teachers, namely white, female, and middle class, can we fully appreciate the diversity, or lack thereof, in our teaching population. Only then may we begin to ascertain the effects on minority teachers, specifically men, the impediments to their sense of job security and job satisfaction, the constraints resulting from male gender policing, the absence of support services and networks for men, the ramifications of androgenophobia and erastephobia in their personal and professional lives (Gosse, 2011 a), and the implications on the teaching and learning of boys and girls in their care. These factors conspire to collectively inhibit a diverse work force and workplace equity, and to maintain the status quo, a workplace seeming to privilege many girls and women, that inversely impedes more inclusionary practices for all.
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1 Tracing the Professional Journey of Male Primary-Junior Teachers in Ontario is supported by the Northern Canadian Centre for Research in Education & the Arts (NORCCREA) at Nipissing University, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) with Douglas Gosse--principal investigator, co-investigator--Michael Parr, and research assistants Johanna Kristolaitis. Taralyn Parr, Ashley Parr, and Brendan Dillon.
(2) Likewise, although there were multiple areas in oar survey and complimentary research where ablebodiness, class, geographical location, and language arose as significant themes, they were not explicitly referred to along with the keyword of role model.
(3) There is even a Facebook group devoted to discussion of the 43 percent drop-out rate of Portuguese students in Toronto: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=27853691920&ref=share
(4) Queer may be used as an umbrella term for LGBTTIQQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, or two-spirit).
DOUGLAS GOSSE (a)
(a) Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada.
An earlier version of the paper was presented at the Edge Conference 2009, Inspiration and Innovation in Teaching and Teacher Education, St. John's, NL.
Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Douglas Gosse, PhD, Director, Northern Canadian Centre for Research in Education & the Arts (NORCCREA), Schulich School of Education, Office HI20, Nipissing University, 100 College Drive, Box 5002, North Bay, ON, Canada PIB 8L7. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Publication:||The Journal of Men's Studies|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2011|
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