Being male doesn’t make you a role model

A friend recently told me how thrilled she is that 7 out of the 20 teachers at her son’s primary school are male. The reason for her excitement is that she wants her son to have male role models.

In one way that’s fair enough: there are not many male teachers in Australian schools. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2011 women account for 70 per cent of all full time teaching staff in Australia. The underrepresentation of male teachers is particularly acute in primary schools, where men account for only 19.3 per cent of full time teachers.

Despite all the excellent female teachers in our schools, having a man in front of a class conjures up visions of a life-changing teacher who will inspire kids to climb onto their desks and say ‘O’ Captain, My Captain’ a la Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.

Australian of the Year Adam Goodes.There are fine examples of positive male role models, deserving of the title, including Australian of the Year Adam Goodes. Photo: Brendan Esposito

But in reality, these male teachers might be decent blokes who turn up, run through the set exercises prescribed in the curriculum and head home. Or they may be terrible teachers, with questionable values who don’t seem to even like kids.

My friend knows next to nothing about most of these male teachers — other than the fact that they’re men. And that’s the point: aren’t we setting the bar a little too low for male role models if all they have to do to qualify is to pee standing up?

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One thought on “Being male doesn’t make you a role model

  1. I enjoyed this story and good to read other opinions about the topic. I am a male infants/primary Teacher with 20 years experience. It has always been a fight to prove myself in the early years Dept. I want to be seen as great Teacher, not because I am a male and the kids need a male role model. I have just spent 10 years working for a private school in Malaysia. Out of the 14 Teachers employed at this school, 9 were males and most of the these males worked in the early years. Why did this school attract so many males? It didnt. The Principal, a female from the UK employed us on our merits. She didn’t see ‘male’ on the application. Many schools in Australia seem to distrust men. Try being a male casual relief teacher. You approach a school and no matter how good your record is, you need to win over the Admin person in the school office. She or he (more likely the former) wont see the need for more males in schools. They will just put you on the list. Many relief Teachers I know don’t get many calls. They just happen to be men. Why? Who knows. I know I didn’t go into this profession to be a Principal, nor am I envious of the higher wages of other careers. I don’t really care if I am a role model for boys. I just want to be a role model for all children. When I graduated over 20 years ago from a Teacher’s College in NSW, 40% of my year were male. Today that figure is more like less than 10%.
    I have returned to Australia and registered to work. In the city I live in, I have visited many schools to put my name down for relief Teaching. Last term I managed to get 2 days work. So far in Week 2 of Term 2 I have not had a call. Possibly schools need an affirmative action plan with employment. This may work. I fear though my skills will get rusty as I wait by the phone for someone to see me as a great Teacher first, man second.

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