Most of us would agree that our elementary school years were led and taught by an almost exclusively female administration. Although there is nothing wrong with an all-woman teaching staff, it does beg the question – where are the male elementary school teachers? Due to social stigmas, generations of being taught solely by women at younger ages, and underwhelming income, the presence of men in grade school is unsurprisingly absent.
The lack of male teachers in elementary school hasn't led to dire consequences, but it has had an affect on our growth and perception. We live in a world that is challenging gender roles, and challenging gender roles doesn't stop with more women in C-level positions. It includes more men in traditionally female-exclusive positions such as nurses, assistants, and grade school teachers. If more male teachers teach 1st through 5th grade, then the boys might be inspired to become teachers as well. We are aware of traditional gender role dangers, but it takes change at an "elementary" level to see a real difference.
Current Educational Landscape and Frustrations
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 78.5% of elementary school teachers are female in the U.S. With over three-fourths of the teaching workforce comprised of women, the chances of having a male teacher are roughly 2 in 10. Again, it's important to note that there is nothing wrong or adverse with women teachers – the abilities and success of women teachers are not being questioned in the slightest. This discussion is centered on the benefits of more men as elementary school teachers, and why the career isn't more sought after.
First and foremost, what teachers are paid – not just elementary – is near criminal. In 2016, the median salary was $55,490 per year. At such low pay grades, men who want to be the "breadwinners" of the family won't even consider the option. Speaking of, the stigma of men making more than women and support the household is still in practice. Although we have been working towards a balance, true equality will be struck when gender doesn't affect income. Either man or woman can make more money within the family structure, and both can be elementary school teachers.
Another frustration is the continued imbalance due to a cyclical system that we can't necessarily blame on anyone. Elementary school boys who don't have a male teacher may mature and subconsciously consider the role of elementary school teacher as female. Similarly, girls will mature and think the same thing, limiting their career opportunities. At such young ages, influence can permanently shape thought and process which is why we need to uphold the ideals of diversity early on.
The Benefits of Male Elementary School Teachers
One of the most important actions a man can take that will positively affect younger generations is to follow their passion. If they are passionate about teaching elementary school, and they pursue that career, then younger boys won't grow up with that inhibition. Pursuing their passion into a nontraditional career minimizes the stigma and fights societal pressures. They are role models, and as such shape the minds of those looking to them for inspiration.
Not only are they role models for boys, but for girls as well. Male elementary school teachers break gender roles for boys, and they establish a needed interaction with girls. Older male/ younger female interactions have been under well-deserved scrutiny, but the healing and growth comes from repairing the relationship. Just as boys need women as role models to teach them how women and men interact, so do girls. Male teachers can show them how they deserve to be treated – with respect and equality – and provide them practice on intergender relations.
To finalize, this isn't a discussion suggesting men need to replace women in the elementary teaching position. It's an observation that more men within the elementary school workforce are a benefit. Diverse workplaces generally perform better than one dominated by one gender or ethnicity. The conglomeration of unique people and thought processes spark innovation and new solutions, which are invaluable in elementary school.