Read Mark Barry's Full Article:
Overcoming the Stigma of the Male Primary Teacher
The Solitary Man
For too long, men have been taught by society that we are supposed to be tough and strong. Men are not allowed to cry. But there is an increasing realization that the societal taboo against male expressions of feeling is actually harmful. As humans, we are not designed to swallow our emotions. This can be damaging to our well-being. There has been growing recognition that men showing their vulnerability is not a weakening of their manhood but rather an exertion of power in taking control of their own physical and emotional health.
A Culture of Mistrust
A Google search for "male primary teacher" will quickly reveal the often unspoken hesitancy that many male teachers have about teaching primary school children. Put simply, generations of fear mongering and some isolated cases have fabricated a mistrust and suspicion that have permeated the public psyche. Although it is slowly eroding, I believe there is still a strong stigma of mistrust placed upon male primary teachers.
It my belief that answers can be found by putting relationships first and building a strong extended classroom climate based on restorative practices and principles. Ultimately, I believe that male primary teachers need to ask themselves, "How relational is my pedagogy?" Am I actually building healthy positive relationships with my students and their families, my colleagues and my extended educational community? Effective relationships build upon trust, understanding and true belonging.
Children of Men
There is a growing consensus that more male primary teachers are needed and that this will help to reduce gender stereotypes around the profession. Providing younger children with positive male role models and breaking down these gender stereotypes is important. Male primary teachers can show children that boys are versatile too - we can cry and laugh, knit sweaters, bake cookies, and also play football. I feel that there is an imbalance between efforts to get more females into STEM-related fields, as opposed to efforts to get more males into caregiver and empathetic roles. The primary-elementary school staff room, with its statistical under-representation of men, can be isolating to the male gendered psyche.
In a school that has adopted a relational culture that is actively nurtured through a strong RF-RJE framework, there is a more authentic and trusting relationship between all members of the school and community. Parents and caregivers are active contributing members and have meaningful relationships with their child's teachers. There is less opportunity for mistrust and misunderstandings, as efforts are constantly made to build meaningful relationships through perspective taking and collaborative problem solving. Through restorative practices, when harm or conflict does occur, there are established frameworks that can facilitate transparency, repair harm, resolve conflict, and respect the dignity of all members.
Creating welcoming spaces that are free from judgement and provide a cultural ethos of mutual respect and understanding can help everyone understand our motivations and mistakes, and establish strong norms and values that can help build positive and trusting relationships. Honouring before measuring. In a RF-RJE community and school culture, there is no solitary man. For he belongs.