By Michael Hawton, MAPS
In a former stage of my career, I trained to be an infant/primary school teacher. I went into teaching, because I liked kids and because I was told by some teacher-relatives of mine that I would be a good teacher! I lasted a couple of years, but I still do work with families by training parent educators.
As World Teachers' Day approaches, it should cause us all to reflect on the state of teaching these days and about the valuable contribution that teachers make to the lives of our children and the community at large. But here's the thing; something is wrong with the teaching profession when there are fewer and fewer men doing it.
The numbers of men in the teaching profession have been steadily declining since the late 1970s - down 10% in primary schools and down 15% in high schools.
The benefits of having male role models in children's lives of course should not be understated.
In Australia, one in five children live in single-parent households, mostly these are female-led households. So, many kids don't have many interactions with adult males in their lives.
Given that children spend a good portion of their day at pre-school and school, it's important that children observe and interact with male teachers, who bring a different vantage point to problem-solving and risk taking compared to their female counterparts. Paul Amato, who has studied father-child relationships, has shown that there are many positive benefits for children - especially girls – by having strong positive male role models in their lives.
Just from a social learning perspective, it makes sense that if boys and girls see their male teachers interacting constructively with their female colleagues, they will likely learn from that observation. If we accept the maxim -monkey see/ monkey do' then it is really important that kids get to see male teachers communicating respectfully, acting cooperatively and taking direction from often-female school directors or principals.
It is important then, that we stem the flow of male teachers out of the profession. However, in the meantime, there is a policy vacuum in this area. We need to know why men are not entering the teaching profession and what we can do to keep them -on the bus'. Otherwise, what little research we have is suggesting that in all probability, there will be very few male teachers teaching in our schools in 20 years' time. We can't afford for this to happen.