Did you say "Mr."?
My new job as Assistant Pre-K Director is definitely helping me explore some new topics in the field of education. When was the last time you heard a Pre-K student referring to his teacher as male? The teaching gender gap seems to be a chronic issue in the field of education. According to the 2017 United States Bureau of Labor population survey, male teachers are less than a quarter (22.4%) of the total Pre-K-12 teaching population. Male educators constitute 41.5% of Secondary School, 20.7% of Elementary and middle school, and only 2.3% of Preschool and Kindergarten. The last number may be perceived as shocking as it has dropped by approximately 23% since 2015. These numbers suggest a clear female majority dominating the Preschool and Kindergarten teaching population. These statistics raise the question of what is stopping men from entering the teaching field, especially at early childhood education.
We have been empowering girls to conquer the STEAM world and other typically male-dominated professions. However, it seems like boys are not encouraged to have a career in female-dominated occupations like education, creating what could be described as a reverse gender gap. This critical issue in education is not only a national but a global as research and media has shown a decrease in the number of male teachers in countries like, Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Finland and Canada (Martino and Kehler 2006; Carrington, Tymms, and Merrell 2008; Cushman 2008; Drudy 2008; Skelton 2009). The underrepresentation of men in early childhood could be one of the reasons reason why male students don’t grow up dreaming of becoming educators.
Reasons could be the stigma attached to male teachers in the earlier grades. Unfortunately, male teachers are often viewed or stereotyped as less masculine for aspiring to teach younger students who could require much care and nurturing. Studies show that having male educators could lead to positive social benefits for boys and girls. The benefits include but not limited to, acting as role models, acting as father figures, students seek help and confide in male teachers, and creating a positive self-image (McGrath, K. & Sinclair, M., 2013).
Given the benefits of a diverse body of educators in the early stages of education, departments of education, school districts, universities and community organization should collaborate to increase the number of male teachers. Addressing the roots of the issue requires to start a collaborative initiative to purposefully breed more male educators to meet students’ social and emotional needs. Efforts should be advocated in diversifying Early Childhood Teacher Programs, by offering scholarships and reduced tuition to men who are interested in a career in education. School Districts should incentify that by guaranteeing experiential learning work-study opportunities for these students and a guarantee student-teach positions that lead to teaching certifications, and a pipeline of employment. Such a systematic, collaborative initiative could be promoted by high schools career counselors and the school community as a whole. An ambitious initiative like this lines up with many school districts’ visions in meeting students needs in all stages of learning, addresses a critical issue in education to help prepare our future leaders of the world.