Nobody can deny the fact, that school plays a crucial role not only in children’s education, but also in their character and outlook forming. It is important that children learn about the norms of society they are supposed to follow as men and women. This is because gender is defined by the society and therefore as the boys are growing up they need some guidelines on how to live and behave as the society expects. Most of the time these boys are in school and it is during their early years in life that they get to learn about their gender roles.
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It is supposed that “boys in particular need strong, charismatic teachers who mix firm discipline with a good-natured acceptance of boyish energy” (Mills, 2004). It is supposed that such teacher must be a man only. And the possible solution is to involve more male teachers in schools hence providing boys with male role models. So the aim of this research is to find out if boys really need male primary school teachers as role models. This is a very interesting problem to explore because of the changing gender roles which brings a lot of conflicts in relation to gender balance. There has for long been silence on the issues of gender, this problem is not referred openly. This approach has negative consequences for the present gender relations in schools.
The term gender can be used to describe the socially prescribed roles and relationships between men and women. “Gender is always lived in the modalities of ethnicity and class, nationality in the modalities of gender and race, and class in the modalities of gender and nationality” (Prins, 2006). Every society has its gender norms which help to assign specific responsibilities and entitlement to men and women.
In recent years, there has been the need for gender equity, so the presence of male teachers in primary schools is considered to be a reasonable strategy in order to help in trying to achieve gender equity and is an attempt to demystify the notion that learning and teaching is a girls’ thing. Teaching and especially in primary and elementary school is considered as a ‘woman’s’ work. This is the perception that is held by most people and thus the presence of male teachers in the school might help to reduce the myth that is associated with school among the boys. There is a lot of fear when it comes to teaching; this is how the people are socialized. So if the boys are told that there is nothing wrong in teaching and learning then it will go a long way in trying to achieve gender equity in the society. (Davies, 2003)
This is in school where the boys get their first hand experiences about life outside the home. It is considered by many scholars that one of the problems our system of education faces today is so called “feminization” of school. This approach implies that that there is a kind of “feminist conspiracy against boys” in schools, and male teachers are not welcomed also. So the Queensland’s Male Teachers’ Strategy suggests some reasons for why there are so few males in teaching.
There is a stereotype that teaching is not a “masculine profession”. But the main reason for this is low salary. Still “the upper echelons of the profession are filled by men”. The status of the profession might be improved by means of higher pay levels.
According to the latest research conducted in Queensland the number of male teachers in schools is only about 28%, and it is constantly decreasing. So a new strategic plan was developed in order to attract and retain male teachers. (Mills, 2004).
There is a wide-spread notion that this so-called “feminization” may have negative influence upon the education of boys. It is also stated, that there is an urgent need to re-masculinize schools in order to make them more ‘boy-friendly’.
This suggestion gives us the idea that a “charismatic teacher” must be a man only, and female teachers appear to be a deficit:”Women are seen as problem and men as the solution”. The idea of a male teacher as a role model in some way denies women’s pedagogical skills.
What is more, male figures are seen as the disciplinarians in the society. This means that the society has certain expectations about the schools. There is the myth that fathers or the male figures in the society are supposed to discipline the children. These myths have been carried forward to the schools.
Our society has idealized the nuclear family and the children who are brought up by single mothers are shunned by the society. This therefore leads to the idea that male teachers would act as role models to the children who lack fatherly advice. That is the society has valued the father figure so much that the absence of a father makes the society to want to replace or have a substitute who will lead the students. This is further connected to under achievement in school for the boys. These are the myths that are associated with teaching and learning. In a society that has a lot of kids who are brought up by single parent and mostly mothers, a male primary school teacher is the closest role model that these boys have (Lingard, 2002).
As Mills states, “for many mythopoets, the pressures confronting boys could be avoided if there were men involved in their upbringing”. It presupposes that male teachers play a father-like role to children, the main aim of which is to discipline them. It means that without a firm male hand the children are uncontrollable. This idea valorizes masculine domination in families and in school. The mail teachers are in such a way supposed to possess “natural” disciplining skills. This approach leads to implication that female teachers are deficit. At the same time, in order to show their “manliness” some male teachers are apt to put-down to boys. These actions are treated as something compatible with masculinity.
Of course some children may learn better from some male teachers. But the question of discipline in a class is not only a question of teacher’s gender (Lingard, 2002).
The society has made the learning institutions to appear as feminine. This is because the curriculum seems feminine in nature and the lack of male teachers in school further mystifies this notion. It is stated, that boys usually view learning as feminine, because they are normally taught by female teachers in school. This in turn makes learning activities feminine in the view of the boys and most of the time they are assisted by their mums with their school work since they have been socialized to have a male figure around. Therefore the availability of male teachers in school would help to increase the achievement of boys in primary school. Gender balance in schools is important in a society that wants to achieve gender balance. If this situation is reflected in schools it will help the society at large to deal with gender issues. If the boys learn about gender balance early in life, that is, during the primary school years they will transfer this knowledge to the society. The boys are able to know through their role model that they do not lose their identity by being in school. Masculinity or femininity is not defined by what a person does but rather who he/she is. The male primary school teachers show the boys that any one can teach and teaching and learning is not for women and girls respectively. (Davies, 2003).
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As for “boys’ energy”, many teachers state that they spend more time dealing with discipline than teaching, and that boys are the main focus of disciplinary action. This is because boys’ loud, physically disruptive and aggressive behaviour has to be addressed before learning can occur”. (Gender Equity)
As observed by Abbott (2005) boys need male teachers as their role models as they help to reduce discipline cases in schools. This is an example of “boys will always be boys” approach to the problem, when school is supposed to value such essentialized masculine behaviours.
Still there is some evidence proving that boys tend to misbehave more often for female teachers. Jone (1985) indicates that some female teachers complain about the behavior of the boys towards the female teachers. In the DEST study conducted in a small rural school some female teachers expressed their concern about the problem of boys’ behaviours. Observations showed that indeed boys are likely to be more disruptive with women. “This will often entail requiring boys to consider the influence of gender concepts, and more specifically their understanding of masculinity, on their attitude and behaviour. Such an approach is seldom taken up by male teachers” (Mills, 2004). While as it is true that any teacher can maintain discipline in school, the society has socialized the boys to view the male teacher as the disciplinarian. For a society to achieve gender balance, these myths need to be demystified. They have to start from the society, that is, the immediate family. For example the disciplinarian can either be the father or the mother. This notion will be transferred to the school setting where every teacher will be given the appropriate respect and treatment that he/she deserves.
Gender and sexuality are very complicated issues. Sexuality is complex and the boys tend to feel that the male teachers have some first hand experience. “Self is constituted within relations of control and is deeply embedded within systems of knowledge and discourse. This is an important development, one that has contributed to new directions in the study of identities associated with gender and sexuality” (Callero, 2005). It is considered, that the male teachers can offer them some comfort and show how to behave and accept their sexuality.
But there are some facts, that prove that men in school are not always an advantage.
Numerous researches prove that when men teach boys they are likely to collude with boys in order to maintain existing relations of power. Some male teachers are abusive to boys.
Some attempts are in progress to improve the situation. Schools revise the school curriculum, since the society views the curriculum as feminine, this is in turn attributed to the under achievement of the boys. Certain areas of education where under achievement for boys are noted include: listening, speaking, writing and reading. The curriculum should incorporate the interest of the boys in the school curriculum.
“While it is well established that certain transformative politics are imperative to pursuing the goals of gender justice, an affirmative agenda, characteristic of large-scale initiatives, such as Success for Boys, has clearly been most effective in steering current gender equity policy directions in Australia.” The educational needs of schoolboys continue to be addressed; it aims at creating boy-friendly curriculum and establishing positive relationship with boys. (Keedle, 2005).
The under achievement that is today noted with the boys would reduce because the boys will have something that is interesting and it will keep them in school. This together with the presence of the male teachers will help to model the boys. Mills shows how some school-based programs that are dealing with “the social construction of masculinities” have some positive influence on boys when it comes to relationships with the other children and violence. It is shown that some boys whose behaviour does not correspond to the dominant style of being masculine face with homophobia. “Masculinity tends to be defined as that which is not feminine, but femininity is not defined as that which is not masculine […]. To be like a girl is much worse than to be like a boy – so that to accuse a boy of being girl-like has far more negative weight than to accuse a girl of being boy-like.” But nowadays many of stereotypes shift. Sociologists demonstrated the variability of sexual meanings, identities, and categories; many shifted their focal point from “the homosexual’ as a fixed, natural, universal sort of being to homosexual as a social category that “should itself be analyzed and its relative historic, economic, and political base be scrutinized’ (Conell, 2005).
It is no doubt that socialization is an important concept in every society as it helps to condition the children as they grow up. This is what helps to define masculinity and femininity. It helps to define how boys and girls perceive each other and the society at large. But it is not obligatory that boys have male teachers as their role models. But still men can and should participate in education of the children, both boys and girls. The benefits for boys having more men in their lives are doubtful, but men should take responsibility for welfare of children.
Teachers should be taught more about gender. “While there had been some professional development focus in the Case Study Schools on these matters, at times there was an absence of awareness of the most current research and theory about the topic. The most effective approaches appear to be those that combine such a focus with a stress upon enhancing teachers’ pedagogical repertories” (Lingard, 1997).The dominant notions of masculinity and femininity must be changed. Nowadays we see that in our society poverty, suicide rates, violence in families become even worse. All these factors make the need for gender education even more urgent. So being a positive role model does not depend on gender, but mostly on education and teaching skills.
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