Wednesday, December 06, 2006


A Discussion About Men Teachers

There's been a great discussion over at a weblog by Dr. Helen.

Below is my comment in response to the discussions:

What a great discussion!

First, I want to thank Dr. Helen for starting this discussion.

I work with a national non-profit called MenTeach.

You can see our website about men teaching at

People were asking about data about the percentage of men rather than anecdotal information. I've written and researched this topic since the 1980s.

As for history, men were the majority of teachers until the 1800 when more women started to outnumber the men. The numbers increased right after World War II when men returned from war and had the GI Bill to pay for their education.

But back in colonial days, young men, some studying to be clergy, were hired by local citizen school boards to teach children. According to public records, from 1635 to 1750 almost all of the teachers on town payrolls were men. It wasn’t until 1750 that the number of men teachers decreased to 85%, with the remaining 15% being women primarily teaching in summer programs (Tyack & Hansot, 1992) and what we would call family child care today.

Over the next century, the male majority of teachers began to decrease. During the 1800s the percentage of men teachers in some states dropped to less than 25%. For example, by 1834 in Massachusetts, 54 % of the teachers were men, and by 1860 this figure dropped to 22 % (Joncich Clifford, 1991).

There are several explanations for the decline in the number of men teachers. One of the reasons appears to be that men could earn higher wages in other occupations and women could replace the men teachers for lower wages thereby making it cheaper for town school trustees.

Demographic changes appear to be another reason why women began to enter teaching in greater numbers than men. Women were experiencing decreasing birthrates and a rising age of their first marriages. These changes in the mid-1800s provided middle class women a greater opportunity to attend school and with increased education middle class and women from wealthy family wanted to work outside the home (Joncich Clifford, 1991).

Teaching was one of the few socially acceptable careers for middle class women because teaching could be considered an extension of women’s domestic role.

MenTeach did a large national study in 2002 and found three intertwined reasons why don't teach or stay in the field:

1. Stereotypes - people believe teaching is women's work and that men are not nurturing or caring enough;

2. Fear of Accusation of Abuse - people believe that men are going to harm children;

3. Low Status and Low Pay - people do not value teaching nor are we as a society willing to pay the people who teach our children sufficient to attract and retain men (and many women).

This is a very interesting topic and brings out many different opinions.

I would end with, let's decide what is best for our children. Don't we want our classrooms to reflect what the world is - half men and half women and diverse.

Joncich Clifford, G. (1991). Daughters into Teachers: Educational and Demographic Influences on the Transformation of Teaching into 'Women's Work' in America. In A. Prentice & Theobald, M. (Eds.). Women who Taught: Perspectives on the History of Women and Teaching. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Youcha, G. (1995). Minding the Children: Child Care in America from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Scribner Press.

Tyack, D. B. & Hansot, E. (1992). Learning Together: A History of Coeducation in American Public Schools. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


Interesting Discussions About Men Teachers

One of the great things about the internet is the quick access to so many people and discussions.

One of our readers forwarded a link to an editorial in a weblog and the numerous comments that followed.

You can read (and join in) the editorial and discussion here:

Dr. Helen

Friday, December 01, 2006


Teaching is a hot job.

There is a shortage of nurses - many hospitals and nursing homes are even recruiting nurses from other countries. There is a prediction that there will be a shortage of teachers. This may be an opportunity recruit more men to be teachers.

One place is to contact businesses and corporations to recruit some of the men that are being laid off and offer them re-training to become teachers.

In a recent special feature, "America by the Numbers," in Time magazine (October 30, 2006) they listed hot jobs and cold jobs.

Here is their projection of the "top five US occupations projected to grow by 2014", ranked by the total number of jobs….

* Postsecondary teachers: 524,000
* Home health aides: 350,000
* Computer-software engineers: 222,000
* Medical assistants: 202,000
* Preschool teachers: 143,000

Source: Exchange Every Day

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Teachers Are Underpaid

Bill Moyers gave a speech in San Diego on October 27, 2006 to the Council of Great City Schools. In one part of his speech he said:
A nation that devalues poor children also demeans their teachers. For the life of me I cannot fathom why we expect so much from teachers and provide them so little in return. In 1940, the average pay of a male teacher was actually 3.6 percent more than what other college-educated men earned. Today it is 60 percent lower. Women teachers now earn 16 percent less than other college-educated women. This bewilders me. Children aren’t born lawyers, corporate executives, engineers and doctors. Their achievements bear the imprint of their teachers. There was no Plato without Socrates, and no John Coltrane without Miles Davis. Is there anyone here whose path was not marked by the inspiration of some teacher? Mary Sullivan, Bessie Bryant, Miss White, the Brotze sisters, Inez Hughes – I cannot imagine my life without them. Their classrooms were my world, and each one of them kept enlarging it.
Although low pay is not THE only reason men don't teach, it IS an important barrier. We sometimes wonder at what point would pay lead to more men teaching - if teachers made $100,000 a year would there be more men teaching?

How about $80,000?

What about $50,000 a year?

Oh, right, some teachers DO earn $50 - $80,000 a year. And of course, there are many teachers who earn only $26,000 a year. And this is with a bachelor's degree with a teaching license.

We know teaching is important. At least, those are the words we hear from our leaders. And, we know it's important to have diverse classrooms. But, are we willing to pay teachers well so that our children succeed.

If you want to read the complete text of Bill Moyer's speech, you can read them here: America 101

Friday, November 10, 2006


Put the toilet seat up.

We were reading through some of the many postings on the internet about men teaching and found this weblog about one of the humorous "occupational hazards" of working in a field with mostly women.

"The Men's Room"

"I've always wondered if other male elementary teachers out there have this problem..."

Read the entire blog.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


A Continuing Debate: Are Men And Women Different? Does It Matter?

We've been watching the debate stirred by research done Thomas S. Dee is an associate professor in the Department of Economics at Swarthmore College and a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) suggesting that some boys do better with a male teacher and some girls do better with a female teacher.

There was an interesting Opinion piece in the LA Times by an author of Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs by Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers. A book published a few years ago.

We appreciate the need to not perpetuate stereotypes. And that the key is that both boys AND girls get a quality education. And that some of the most important factors for childrens' educational success is competent teachers, men AND women.

We were reading some of the responses to the Barnett and Rivers' book:

Monica J. Kern, Professor of social psychology at the University of Kentucky.

"As a social psychologist, I read this book with some eagerness, thinking of it as a potential text for my classes. However, I ended up feeling rather disappointed and concluding that--while it makes some good points--it suffers from many of the same criticisms it points out in the work of feminist scholars.

As an example, the book devotes an inordinate amount of space to criticizing the work of Carol Gilligan. I was actually glad to see this, because the authors correctly point out that Gilligan's work has had a disproportionate and scary amount of influence on cultural thought despite severe methodological flaws (e.g., small sample, reliance on unrepresentative anecdotal accounts, refusal to allow other researchers access to data, etc.). However--and without any apparent sense of irony--Barnett and Rivers rely heavily on anecdotes from their own clinical practices throughout the book to make THEIR points. And if it's not okay for Gilligan to do so, why is it okay for them?

A second feature I found disappointing in this book is that the authors misinterpret "small differences" to mean trivial or meaningless. For example, a frequent refrain throughout the book is that studies comparing genders find more variability within genders than between genders. This is undoubtedly true, but it does not mean that the obtained mean differences are unimportant. As an illustration, take the height difference in men and women. Few people would argue that men, on average, are taller than women. Of course, there is greater variability within genders than between; in other words, the difference between the tallest ten percent of men and shortest ten percent is greater than the difference between the average man and woman. But that does not call into question the documented sex difference: Men are, on average, taller than women, and this difference reflects innate biological sex differences. Height, of course, is a trivial trait I chose to make the point vividly, but the same argument can be made about any of the cognitive and psychological traits that solid science (e.g., peer-reviewed meta-analyses) reveals to demonstrate sex differences. To give a more substantive example, while men and women do not differ on overall IQ, they DO differ in the shape of the distribution, with men being disproportionately represented in the tails. To put it bluntly, there are more severely retarded men...but there are also more male geniuses. Why, nobody knows, but it does no good to try to pretend these differences don't exist or to blame it on some nonexistent glass ceiling that is preventing women from geniushood.

In short, I feel this book goes too far in trying to deny the existence of sex differences. I agree with the authors that the "Men are from Mars" and Carol Gilligan crowd is doing a disservice to men and women alike by stereotyping and pigeonholing us and insisting that we do not have the capabilities or flexibilities to show traits associated with the opposite gender. But I think "Same Difference" undermines their own argument by insisting too steadfastly that there are no differences at all, and their argument is undermined further by a willingness to rely on anecdotal evidence they (rightfully) dismiss in others' work. Yes, there is tremendous variability within genders, and both men and women are capable of an infinite range of behaviors, emotions, and talents. But men and women also differ, reliably, consistently, and in statistically significant and practically important ways. To pretend that they don't is the tale of the emperor's new clothes all over again."

The debate will continue.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Research: Gender Does Matter

MenTeach has been working at recruiting more men to be teachers for almost 30 years. Others before us have also done the work. MenTeach completed the largest study of it's kind looking at why men don't teach or leave teaching - The Importance of Men Teachers: And Why There Are So Few back in 2002. And there have been studies over the years - although - many have been small in size or qualitative or ethnographic. These have certainly been important contributions - for example, the work of Brian Robinson, Christine Williams, Paul Sargent, James King - these have been some of the researchers.

Most of us know from our personal experience working with children that children need the strong, caring, nurturing qualities that men (and of course women) offer. We know children need men in their lives. But there really hasn't been any study that we know of that shows a specific correlation between a teacher's gender and child outcomes.

Until now.

Now there is a study - interestingly by an economist - that shows that the gender of the teacher matters. Thomas S. Dee is an associate professor in the Department of Economics at Swarthmore College and a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and has published a study.

You can read his article,
The Why Chromosome: How a teacher’s gender affects boys and girls in the Education Next journal.

We hope that this study adds to the public's awareness about male teachers' importance. We do, however, want to caution - the most important characteristic is the quality of the teaching - but we also know that gender does matter when it comes to children suceeding.

Monday, September 25, 2006


"Essential Touch" is essential to children and key for men teachers

The implications of the publication of Frances Carlson's "Essential Touch" are enormous for men who work directly with young children. Male educators have a unique and far more generalized burden to bear when it comes to issues of touch. A principal reason men give for not entering or staying in the field of early childhood education (ECE) is fear of being accused of sexually molesting children (Nelson, 2002). Men in ECE are forced to expend tremendous amounts of energy coping with societal stereotypes that portray us as potential abusers.

By publishing this book, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) presents an authorized rationale for why young children absolutely require nurturing physical contact to foster attachments and ensure their healthy emotional development. "Essential Touch" makes the case that programs with written policies, clear boundaries, and proper training face far less accusations of abuse than programs with little or no guidance. Fewer accusations mean considerably less scrutiny on a day-to-day basis, making the profession a significantly more attractive and safer career choice for all, but particularly for men.

When a child attempts to crawl into a male early childhood educator's lap, he can finally begin to let go appearances. "Essential Touch" provides a coherent defense against the institutional reminders in pre-service professional preparations, in-service trainings, and consultations with superiors emphasizing the scrutiny he will be held to. All the unofficial mentoring, stories, and off-hand reminders from parents and colleagues promoting the adoption of no-touch practices purportedly in "your own best interests" can now be thoughtfully and summarily discounted.

The safeguards afforded in this book should serve to help stem the spreading malady of "no-touch" policies and the rising potential for unfounded abuse accusations. Acknowledgments of the crucial roles and challenges facing men in ECE are woven throughout the text. There needs to be whole scale endorsement, promotion, and dissemination of Frances's good works not just in the United States of America, but internationally as well. "Essential Touch" is a triumph, and Frances Carlson should be celebrated as a model activist, ally, and champion on behalf of men who work directly with young children.

Don Piburn

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Want male role models? Stop looking at male teachers with suspicion

by Rod McGough
McGough, of Salem, works as a day care teacher at Child Care Network and instructional assistant at Cave Spring Elementary School.

Recently we heard of another sad tale of yet another child whose innocence has been lost forever by mistakenly putting faith and trust in a teacher, child care provider and friend. This time it is a 4-year-old boy in one of our local day care centers.

At the same time, the John Mark Karr case has come to national attention. Hometown papers across the country are increasingly reporting the sad news of a child once again molested by a trusted friend or family member. And who can forget the Catholic priest scandals and the Michael Jackson case?

While no one can or should even try to belittle the trauma and lifelong scars that these child victims will bear, I'd like to bring to light the other victims of these crimes as well. I call them the "co-victims." Whether it's an accurate description or not I don't know, but I see them as people who are touched emotionally, psychologically or even spiritually -- either as an individual, as a group or even as a community -- by a crime, in this case, child molestation.

Read the editorial.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


There Is Money Available To Teach

Getting training to be a teacher gets more and more complicated and more and more expensive. Fortunately there are many programs available to assist people to either go to school or to become a teacher.

Here are two scholarship/training programs you should check out:

Breakthrough Collaborative is a national non-profit that increases educational opportunity for high-potential, low-income middle school students and inspires outstanding college and high school students to pursue careers in education.

The Pearson Teacher Fellowship recruits high-caliber college graduates to teach preschoolers in low income communities. In turn, Fellows receive pre-service training, a $12,500 stipend over two years (in addition to their teaching salary), professional development support, Comprehensive Memberships to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and other support.

If you go to the Resources section of the website, you'll find other programs and also financial aid information.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


How to Recruit Men To College

One of the things I really enjoy about working with MenTeach is reading the many articles that get published in the media.

I've worked in this profession for many years and have read many and contributed to some of those articles. And over those years, by doing a survey of the newspapers and magazines over those years, we've noticed a definite increase. MenTeach is contacted, on average, once a week by the media about men teaching. It gets particulary busy right before school begins in the fall.

One of the biggest challenges we face in recruiting more men to teaching is that fewer and fewer men are attending college.

One reason cited is that there are so few male teachers. It does seem obvious. If you are a boy in school and the adults around you are the role model for career options, you would choose a career that is being modeled. But, there are few men teachers modeling teaching as a career choice.

And if you are a man of color, you will see even fewer men modeling teaching as a career.

The great thing about the internet is that we hear about what is going on all over the world. And, there are successful ways to increase the number of men attending higher education. There are so many articles published, it's easy for people to miss some of the more interesting articles that offer those successes. It's easy to focus on the problem and not the solution.

For one of those great solutions, check out this article about recruiting African-American students to higher education. It offers a great model for a university to go out to the community and recruit men. But a elementary school or early education program could do the same thing on a smaller scale.

What do you think?

Have you found effective ways at recruiting men teachers?

Friday, May 12, 2006


Need Help, Wants to Teach

I had a telephone call from a woman, Deb, in Milwaukee. She knows two young African-American men who want to be teachers - they're 19 years old and have finished high school. They did okay in high school, B and C grade point averages. They didn't qualify for scholarships that top students can receive. They aren't top athletes so they didn't qualify for sports scholarships. So, they are having a hard time trying to find enough money to enroll in a teacher training program. There is the Pell Grant but that money just doesn't cover the cost of attending college.

The good news is that there are some programs available for men to become teachers.

A few of them are:

Clemson University coordinates a program Call Me Mister, there is also a program at the University of Louisville - Minority Teacher Recruitment Project. Another program is in Savannah, Georgia at Armstrong State University called Pathways to Teaching Careers Program. There are others if a person looks for them. It's not easy and it means a person has to leave the state they are living in. And there is Americorp programs throughout the United States including Teach for America.

We know that there's going to be a teacher shortage in the coming years. We know it's true because so many teachers are reaching retirement age. Now is the time for us to increase the diversity of our teaching staff by recruiting young men to become teachers.

It's people like Deb asking for information to help young men attend college to become teachers - that's what can make the difference.

Many times, especially for parents who haven't attended college before, there needs to be support to help young men get through the post-secondary options and the confusing paperwork to enroll in programs for teachers. High school guidance counselors need to be offering these resources to young men to become teachers.

The challenge isn't just for African-American or other men of color. It's a big challenge for any men with parents who haven't attended college. Many people don't realize how little assistance many young adult receive applying for college. And they wonder why more men don't attend college.

In a future editorial, I'll write about the challenges of enrolling in a teacher training program and what needs to happen to those university and college programs to make them more male-friendly.

Friday, April 28, 2006


If a classroom is boy-friendly... will be father-friendly and if the school and classroom is father-friendly, then it will be a place for men to teach.

It seems that there are many news reports about the struggle boys are having. Newsweek devoted one of their issues to the topic, other newspapers cite the declining enrollment of men to college.

There is a growing discussion of the "New Gender Gap" for boys and men.

At MenTeach, we've written about the importance of men in children's daily lives for years and believe that having more men teach will help to improve the chances that there will be more males completing high school and entering college.

We write "help" because having more men teaching isn't a panacea or magic solution. We believe it's an important policy and will have positive effect - but - we also believe that teacher's pay should increase.

What do you think?

Monday, April 10, 2006


Oh, where, oh where can he be?

by Don Piburn

Images of female early educators interacting with children are a staple in education magazines, brochures, promotions, trailers, advertisements and other professional media. Though ample images of female teachers appear throughout its pages, education magazines neglect to include so much as a single image of a man teaching children (For one example, see the March 2006 NAEYC issue of Young Children. Exceptions emerge in several advertisements that do feature male educators. These forward thinking advertisers are reflective of broad global trends in marketing strategies.

Advertisements featuring men in nurturing roles are appearing with greater and greater frequency in the mainstream media. Images of men capably nurturing and caring for young children without a woman in sight are increasingly common in print, television, and on the internet. Nurturing men are depicted in ads for products and services including cereal, carpet, department stores, wireless technologies, and more.

In an era of modern feminism, gender role adaptability has significant mass appeal. This poses challenges for marketing strategists who struggle to keep pace with the everyday experiences of what has been called the most gender-rejecting generation advertisers have ever had to contend with. Consumers now want to see successful female role models in advertisements. They also value men in family-oriented roles, doing household chores, and spending time with children. In a modern society, where gender roles are increasingly fluid, men who care for little children are now viewed as sexy.

Those who operate from the assumption that men are second class caregivers risk provoking the ire of activists. A recent TV advertisement that showed a mother chiding a father for haplessly offering help to his obviously capable daughter working on her homework roused the anger of Dads and Daughters, a national fatherhood organization. The resulting negative publicity continues to reverberate throughout very public political and media circles. The field of education would do well to consider the possibility and implications of similar bad press on the profession as a whole, and to proactively seek solutions.

In Bryan Nelson’s 2002 survey of professional educators, 97.9% agreed or strongly agreed that it is important for men to work with children. For our educational organizations to abide by their mission, which proudly asserts the importance of building an "inclusive organization," and its Vision Statements, which stipulate that children have access to an environment that respects and supports diversity, theses organization must attend to the widespread gender disparities amongst its ranks.

Normalizing male involvement in education requires powerful imagery. When education professional media neglect to include images of male teachers, they cultivate stereotypic and outdated assumptions about male behavior. Pulling away from the stereotypic graphics and copy of the past demonstrates awareness for the obvious: That adhering to stereotypes in these times of fluid gender role expectations is bad for children, bad for women, bad for the world, and it is bad for business.

Monday, April 03, 2006


PRINCIPAL Magazine: Where Are the Men?

By Bryan G. Nelson

"The closest I’ve ever gotten to winning the lottery was living two blocks from where the winning ticket was sold. But that didn’t stop my imagination. If I won, I’d buy the car I’d always wanted. I’d give my family and friends money to make some of their dreams come true. And I’d build the ideal school.

The school would have the latest technology and be clean, with all the toilets working. It also would have highly qualified, well-paid teachers. But most importantly, there would be an equal number of male and female teachers, as diverse as the students enrolled in the school."

When you read the article, please note that there is one slight correction:

Are men not teaching because of low pay?
Not necessarily. In unionized school districts where teachers have the same levels of experience and education, male and female salaries are similar. However, let’s be clear. If teachers were paid higher salaries, more men would teach.


Are men not teaching because of low pay?
Not necessarily. In unionized school districts where teachers have the same levels of experience and education, secondary school and elementary teachers are paid similar, yet there are more male secondary school teachers than elementary. If pay were truly the main issue, there would be equal percentages of men in elementary as in secondary schools. However, let’s be clear. If teachers were paid higher salaries, more men would teach.

I think it cut it due to space limitations.

You can read the editorial printed in the May/June issue of PRINCIPAL Magazine published by National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

Thursday, March 30, 2006


How many men teach children?

There are only a couple of places to find the national percentages and numbers of men teaching. One is the National Education Association.

Overall = 24.9% of the 3 million teachers

Elementary = 9%

Secondary = 35%

In MenTeach's study, our percentages we comparable. We also studied early education and found the percentage to be approximately 4% for percentages of men teaching young children.

Another source for numbers is the Current Population Survey by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. They publish information about occupations every year and has historical data.

Child care = 5.2%
Teacher Assistants = 9.1%
Preschool and kindergarten teachers = 2.3%
Elementary and middle school teachers = 17.8%
Secondary school teachers = 43.2%

You can see the 2004 numbers here:

Men teaching numbers

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Am I my brother’s keeper?

by Don Piburn

A growing number of international trainings, promotions, and campaigns seek to rehabilitate men for their gender insensitivities toward women. The spokesmen for these “gender training” campaigns are heralded as vanguards for a new way of masculine thinking. That blatant gender inequalities openly hostile toward women exist throughout this world is indisputable. Interventions for addressing gender inequalities worldwide are timely and necessary, but expecting men to collectively atone for the sins of their brethren is misguided. Educators and Psychologists know that “deficit model” interventions are inherently unsuccessful at producing significant behavior change. Gender training campaigns targeting masculinity as a social order are themselves based on chauvinistic assumptions, putting even potential allies on the defensive. By emphasizing men’s failings, gender training castigates, stereotypes, polarizes, and at the end of the day sanctions rather than reduces chauvinism.

Principled men and women should challenge the gender insensitivities of their peers on all fronts, but rather than relying on ineffective deficit models to promote such ideals, sincere change agents should turn instead to proven assets-based approaches. There are more than enough positive male and female role models from which to draw strategies and inspiration. Besides, by concentrating on adult behavior-change as a principal means for reducing gender inequalities, we aim entirely too high. The roots of chauvinistic behavior are universally rooted in early childhood, as are the most promising solutions.

As long as children observe only women in early care and education roles, boys and girls will continue to draw stereotypic assumptions about their respective gender identities. The majority of little girls will accept nurturing others as part of what it means to be female, while numerous little boys will come to express their masculinity through separation and learned indifference. When children experience gender balanced care, they distinguish alternative roles and learn new respect for themselves and others. Having men in early childhood education alerts children to social forces that might otherwise condition them to accept gender stereotypes. Men who teach young children are the true ambassadors of changing social perspectives.

Gender role expectations are evolving. Family men in many societies are now expected to participate in the care of their children. The field of early childhood education is altogether failing to prepare children, particularly the boys, for the range of adult roles and responsibilities that society now expects them to fulfill. Modeling appropriate behavior is a fundamental principal of developmentally appropriate practices, yet the field of early childhood education continues to deny the obvious: If young children are to learn the value of nurturing male behaviors, they must have nurturing males in their daily lives from which to model from.

There is anecdotal and some research evidence suggesting that male teachers in early childhood programs can increase father and father figure involvement in children’s lives. Having other men in early childhood programs helps fathers and fathering figures to feel at ease and welcome. By exposing children to men in a variety of nurturing roles, and by teaching that men and women share equally in care and education responsibilities, we significantly increase the likelihood that the next generation will follow our best examples. Ultimately, children will do as we do, not as we say.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


My Dad Was A Den Mother

by Don Piburn

I grew up in a rabidly active family, driven principally by my father’s creative energies and my mother’s infinite patience. As children, my four siblings and I were just as comfortable in a boat as we were on dry land, spent uncountable nights camping in the mountains and deserts, and as a family explored many of the lesser-known expanses of coastal Baja Mexico in our ruggedly dependable panel van.

Keeping in mind the gender role expectations that were typical for the early 1960s, we boys were specifically targeted by my Dad for guidance in the value and use of tools from a very early age. We watched and helped around the house as Dad poured concrete, laid brick, landscaped, and did all of the carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and other skilled projects. He maintained the family vehicles and rebuilt car engines. My Dad is also an artist and craftsman. He built a boat in our garage, crafted his own fishing poles, carved wood, sculpted stone, sketched, painted, his abilities seemed endless. For a number of years, around Christmas time, he would turn our entire front yard into a sweeping hand-crafted holiday display of the North Pole, complete with a waving Santa in flight, galloping reindeers, busy little elves, and people, animals, and structures that blinked, gyrated, glowed, and twirled into the night.

When I turned eight years old, I joined the Cub Scouts. My Dad tells the story that one afternoon on returning from my weekly den meeting, he asked me what it was that we did there. I explained how we watched television and ate cookies, which motivated him to go for a little chat with the responsible party. He returned from that less-than-diplomatic discussion with all of the paperwork, trappings, and tools to be our next Den Mother.

Dad believed that if young children, and particularly the boys, where to know about men and to learn what men know, then they needed to be around men. He set about turning sections of our garage into a Cub Scout den. He decorated the walls with all the pomp and ceremonial symbols, and each week all of the neighborhood boys would gather in our garage to see what would happen next. There were badges to be earned, honors to be granted, and ceremonies conducted to commemorate various rights of passage. We quickly realized that our Den was completely different than all of the others in the larger Cub Scout Pack. What we did was extraordinary, and a sense of comradeship developed between us.

Dad understood what was developmentally appropriate for young children without any formal training. Activities and projects were ready in advance for us to work on. He would prepare the pieces and parts, gather the tools, and make simple plans for us to follow as we hammered, sawed, and cut our way through wood, leather, and metal. He would cut our names out on the jigsaw as we watched, and we would sand, nail, fill, and finish them for show. When we gently hammered a small piece of sheet cooper against the jig he created, an ashtray would miraculously appear before our very eyes. Times do change: It seemed everybody smoked cigarettes back then and needed an ashtray, but we could hardly believe that our unskilled little hands could cause such a beautiful object to appear as if by magic.

In time his tenure as our Den Mother came to an end. I really don’t know the reasons why, although I suspect that some pressure must have been brought to bear that ended his little social experiment. This was, after all, the early 1960’s when it would have been highly irregular for a man to be teaching young children. Given all of the social triumphs of the last 40 years, that same obsolete idea still zealously refuses to give way.

As a child, I remember Dad telling me that I really had no idea just how much I was learning, and that I wouldn’t know until I got older and looked back. Years later, during my initial forays into the field of early childhood education, the male teachers who might have functioned as my mentors and role models were noticeably absent, just as they are for the latest generation of boys in our centers and classrooms. Fortunately, I could always look to my past and remember my Dad, showing me the way.

Saturday, December 31, 2005


A Global and Economic Movement

We receive many e-mails from all over the world. It's one of the most hopeful and satisfying parts of this work (besides of course working with children) to hear from so many men (and women) from all over the world who understand how important it is for men to teach.

One interesting point that has come up as MenTeach has connected to the many men and women in the global network has been seeing that in some countries, the majority of teachers are men. This trend tends to be in so-called "developing countries." These are often countries that have the greatest restrictions on women and women's rights.

Historically, in the United States, teaching has been a predominently male occupation until about the mid-1800s. But as women got more education, delayed having children and marriage, they were hired as teachers. And it was also because women could be paid less than men that school boards hired them.

So as we think about this issue about men teaching - it's really important to recognize two important issues: 1) that it isn't just that we want more men - we also want competent men teachers. And, 2) there's a larger economic issue at the base of our struggle.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


A Response To The No Touch Editorial

Tell that student (unfortunately) welcome to the club.

I personally went through that situation once. And it was silly too. I can't exactly pinpoint what brought the "lecture" on to me, but I got the lecture from a young female 4th grade teacher (not the principal mind you) about how she had attended a seminar in which an attorney (I love those people, don't you?) told the group of educators that men are involuntarily "sexual predators." She was very clear that it "wasn't my fault that I'm that way. After all, you're male."

Could you imagine?

I should have been angry. I should have quit that Seattle school and walked away (I was a volunteer no less!). I told my professor at school and he was furious as well. All I felt was hurt. I REALLY took it personally. No, I never looked myself in the mirror and said "Yeah, I'm a male so therefore I'm a sexual predator." But it did make me scared every time I was around her. I don't understand how the Principal (who was aware of this lecture) could allow this to happen to me. When I asked him about it, he sided with his teacher (I would expect nothing less. I'm not a parent nor a staff member) and reminded me that male teachers "are watched very closely for these things." He never mentioned anything about the same standard for female teachers.

I didn't take legal action. I didn't want to. I loved the kids I was teaching, and, I found this out later, parents of the kids I taught raved about me. It REALLY made me happy to have a volunteer who is told by the Aunt of a student in the class I was in, "You made my nephew (She used his name) the happiest I've ever seen him at this school. You really made his 5th grade year special." If it weren't for the kids and those parents (and the PTA President) I probably would never have continued into education.

The No Touch policy is starting to catch on with females being held just as accountable as males, but it is going in the wrong direction.

Again, when I attend DC this year, touch will be a big topic for me to talk/vent about if given an open forum to do so. There's so much I've learned while being a substitute teacher.

Daniel Levitt
Fargo, ND

Monday, October 10, 2005


Just Say NO, to No Touch

by Don Piburn

Male early childhood (EC) educators face stereotypes that portray us as potential child abusers on a daily basis. Clearly, children must be protected from child abusers, yet a principle reason many men give for not entering or staying in the field of early childhood education (ECE) is fear of being accused of harming young children (Nelson, 2002). Only at their own peril do many male EC educators offer "the intimate pats, back rubs, caresses and leisurely holding on laps and in arms that little ones need" (Honig, 2005). Is it any wonder that men pass over our profession in favor of something less perilous, like working at high altitudes, driving at high speeds, or operating dangerous machinery?

Though no-touch prohibitions are commonly imposed on male EC educators from the moment we enter ECE, many of our female colleagues are now finding this appalling legacy is being passed on them. Recent child molestation cases involving priests was the justification given for an insurance carrier's insistence that the all-female staff of a church affiliated EC program stop full-body hugs, allowing children to sit on their laps, or much else besides placing a caring hand strategically across back and shoulders. Another example appears in Carlson, (2002) where she notes: "In an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show, the president of the National Education Association said, "Our slogan is, teacher, don't touch" (p.12).

What male EC educators know, and what our female colleagues are beginning to experience, are regular institutional reminders in our pre-service professional preparations, in-service trainings, and consultations with superiors emphasizing the scrutiny we will be held to. There are the unofficial mentoring, stories, and off-hand reminders from parents and colleagues promoting the adoption of no-touch practices purportedly in "your own best interests." All EC educators may now have to grapple with a proposition once reserved principally for male professionals: That it would take only a serious misunderstanding to cause a career, reputation, life, and the lives of the teachers' family to be permanently ruined. When a child naturally seeks physical comfort from an EC educator, that teacher must weigh appearances. By consciously striving to avoid any appearance of impropriety an ever-present cloud of uncertainty tarnishes even the most basic human act of nurturing a child. The children feel it, but know it only as rejection.

No-touch policies are driven by modern society's taste for sensationalism and unscrupulous media quick to capitalize on our greatest fears for children. My own first tentative steps as a male EC educator were on eggshells, for in the early 1980's the McMartin Preschool child sexual abuse trail was front-page-news. The recent trial of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges occurred first in the media prior to being held in the courts. As in the McMartin case, EC educators so accused still face the possibility of a trial by media, but are in far less of a position to take positive advantage of the coverage in the way Mr. Jackson could.

The societal paranoia fostered by the so called "reality" media is ironic, for these are the same media sources that Diane Levin (2005) charges with disseminating progressively narrower, ever more violent, and increasingly sexualized gender roles to children. Girls, many as young as 3-years old, are barraged with images emphasizing unrealistically narrow body ideals, object materialism, and sexualized imagery as symbolic of what it means to be female. The gender role messages marketed to boys center on aggression, power, conflict, and most disturbingly, a direct association between male violence and sexuality.

In his article on myths about men who work with young children, Bryan G. Nelson (2004) notes that action, not suspicions protect children. It is appropriate to rationally and reasonable minimize all dangers to children, and to that end an initial FBI five year criminal history check and annual criminal background checks are required for all licensed EC workers regardless of gender. To minimize the risks to EC professionals themselves, the field of ECE needs comprehensive safeguards from the spreading malady of no-touch policies and to reduce the potential of innocent professionals having to abide the course of an unfounded abuse accusation.

Systemic safeguards might include, but need not limited to: 1) Sweeping "Healthy Touch" campaigns that seek to normalize developmentally, culturally, and professionally appropriate physical touch in all EC programs. 2) Promotional campaigns supporting age-appropriate healthy sexuality development including endorsement of the concept to the family members we serve 3) Stronger professional recommendations for written program policies and procedures, recommended structural modifications, and proper staff training to strengthen these protections.

Although the NAEYC Prevention of Child Abuse Position Statement (a pdf file) item #6 (p.2) states "Programs should not institute "no-touch" policies to reduce the risk of abuse," NAEYC could disseminate influential books on the subject - perhaps as NAEYC comprehensive membership benefits – and publish articles on exemplar environmental modifications, family involvement practices, community resources, and professional references on the subject.

We need prominent and open discussions on the impact of no-touch and the consequences of modern electronic media policies moved up to the professional, familial, and policy front burner. Those EC programs with written policies, clear boundaries, and proper training on healthy touch, typical child sexual development, and child abuse prevention face fewer accusations of abuse than programs with little or no guidance. With fewer accusations, our profession will be a far more attractive and safer career choice for all caring adults.


Carlson, F. M. (2002). Incorporating Touch in Early Childhood Settings. Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. See also:

Honig, A. (2005); ExchangeEveryday. (2005, April 29). Strong Talk on Biting [Msg 1063]. Message posted to id=1063

Levin, D. (in press). So sexy, so soon: The sexualization of childhood. In S. Olfman, (Ed.), Childhood Lost: How American Culture Is Failing Our Kids, Childhood in America Series. Westport, CT: Praeger Press

Nelson, B. G. (2002). The importance of men teachers: And reasons why there are so few. Minneapolis, MN.

Nelson, B.G. (2004, November/December). Myths about men who work with young children. Child Care Information Exchange, 160, 16 - 18.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


It's Not About Men versus Women Teachers

I was just reading an article out of Calcutta, India about a school protesting the transfer of their only male teacher.

This is great that parents are upset to lose a male teacher. But when you continue reading the article you find that people feel that the female teachers aren't doing as good a job. They describe the work the male teacher is doing as being "sincere." I'm sure that may be a language or cultural use of the word.

But the more important question raised is whether men are better teachers than women. This isn't the first time this distracting debate is raised. It's important to reframe the question about men teaching. It isn't so much whether women or men teach better. It's a more important issue to make certain that children have the best teachers. It's also important to have adults representative from the children's community.

Right now there are only 21% of men teaching in schools. Of that percentage only 9% are teaching in elementary and about 4% in early education/child care.

The better question is: What message do children get when they see so few men teaching in schools?

Children learn from what they see in their daily lives. We see the disparity addressed with women in other professions - medicine, law, construction, computer science, engineering. That's why organizations work so hard to make certain there are special programs for girls to be mentored in those professions with mostly men.

There needs to be programs for boys about working in professions with mostly women. We are beginning to see a few being developed - let's ask and expect more.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Expect Male Involvement

In an editorial in the January issue of Child Care Information Exchange, Bonnie Neugenbauer writes about the importance of men teachers.

Read the full text of the pdf file.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Do You Already Have A Degree?

One of the barriers for men teaching can be the need for additional education that is required to become a certified teacher. The time and cost can dissuade a man from considering changing careers.

But there are alternatives available in many states. The requirements and method varies from state-to-state. And the certificates vary. In many states there is a shortage of science and math teachers and others need special education teachers.

You can check what your state offers by going to National Center for Alternative Certification.

What do you think and what degree do you have?

Friday, July 22, 2005


The Tipping Point for Men Teachers

I always try to find time to read and I just finished the book: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

I've known about this concept for years - remember the book or concept, The 100th Monkey. I also have a background in public health (which the book uses lots of Public Health theory and some stories.)

Well - the great thing about the book is that it has provided me more specific ideas about how we can apply it to men teaching and our movement.

I'd encourage y'all to read it and let's discuss the ideas to apply it to our men teach movement.

Essentially - it's about creating an epidemic - a healthy one - getting men to be teachers. What are the key ways that we can cause this epidemic to happen? I think we have all the key ingredients - we just need to be intelligent about our steps and find that "tipping point."

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 27, 2005


Great Britain aims for five-fold increase in Men Teachers

I read an article about the British government working to invest in increasing the number of men teachers.

There has been a growing movement in other countries to increase the number of men teaching.

We've reported this happening in New Zealand and Australia.

It's exciting and hopeful to see such a growth in the movement particularly when a government will put the resource behind it.

The question is when will the United States back increasing men teachers as other countries are doing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Hiring men teachers

I was reading through some online newspapers.

One from Sauk Center, Minnesota (a part of the state that is home to the Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone) and the other from China.

The Minnesota article was about an old town hall that was being moved. In the news back in 1891 the township added some outhouses to the school, some books and hired a male teacher.

Back in those days, the number of women teachers were starting to outnumber the number of men teachers and that percentage has remained the same since.

I also read about the need for more male teachers in China. The issues about few men teachers is the same all over the world:

1) Stereotypes
2) Fear that men will harm children
3) Low status and low pay

Fortunately, I do find more and more articles appearing about the topic of male teachers. And there are some countries trying to make some positive changes.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Recruiting More Men to Teach

There are many ways to recruit more men to be teachers.

Start a large public awareness campaign
There needs to be constant, pervasive messages about the importance of men teaching children. Every media needs to show positive images of men teaching or telling stories about the value and significance of men teaching. Newspapers, magazine, television, the internet, movies and radio all need to help to shift people's perception that teaching is women's work.

Pay teachers more money
Increasing teachers salaries will attract more men to teaching. Our society shows that it values something by paying for it. If we can pay millions to athletes, then we have the resources to pay teachers more money. In our society, one way we show how we value something, is by paying more money for it. Aren't our children worth more than what we are paying teachers for.

Increase boys opportunity to learn to be a teacher
We offer girls special courses in math/science/engineering or computer technology because we know that they have had less exposure and support in those areas. Do we offer boys the same opportunity around teaching and nurturing? We can offer boys workshops and classes around how to teach and care for children. And we need to offer it in a way that is interesting to boys. We have modified the math/science/engineering and computer technology workshops and classes for girls, we need to first offer something for boys while making certain it is relevent to boys likes and dislikes.

Those are just three ideas, we have more to share.

What about you? What ideas do you have to recruit more men to teaching?


Show Them The Money!

By Tara Renee Settembre

The expression, “it’s a man’s world,” can not be said for the teaching field, now that the number of male teachers is at a 40-year low.

ThoughtMechanics Blog

Read the Blog.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


How to become a certified teacher

I've been in correspondence with an organization helping people get their teacher certification. Here's what they've told me:

Earn Your Passport to Teaching

A Respected, Efficient and Cost Effective Route to Becoming a Fully Certified Teacher

Take your first step towards pursuing a rewarding teaching career with Passport to Teaching. Offered by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (, Passport to Teaching is a respected and efficient way to attract more qualified men (and women) to change careers and enter the teaching profession.

With its individualized preparation program, individuals with bachelor's degrees can earn the Passport to Teaching without necessarily taking additional college courses. To earn certification, individuals must demonstrate mastery on a subject area examination and a professional teaching knowledge examination. Certifications are currently offered in English Language Arts, mathematics, general science, biology, and elementary education. You can earn your Passport to Teaching certification in a couple of months or you can take up to a full year depending on your knowledge base and the time you have to complete the process.

The application fee is only $500. Individuals who apply by May 31, 2005 can receive a $100 savings off of the application fee. Visit to sign up for a free Introduction Kit so that you can start pursuing your rewarding career today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Things Men Do All Over the World

I've been catching up on e-mails and had the insight that there are many events going on all over the world around men teaching.

Back in March there was the Call Me Mister conference that reported about their first cohort of African-American teachers graduating.

Don Piburn, from Hawaii is attending the World Forum in Montreal where he will be presenting about men teaching.

This September there will be a conference in London about men teachers.

There are things going on in Queensland (Australia), in Norway, Puerto Rico and numerous other places. It's an exciting time.

One of my goals is to get people from all over the world to come together and organize around teaching children.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


The Paradox of Male Teachers' Independence

I was thinking about a group of men that I met with a few months ago. They've been organizing and trying to meet as a group. It's slow going. Sometimes guys don't show up for the dinner or get-together, which can be challenging for the man that is organizing the activity.

What I've come to realize that for many men who teach, the quality or characteristic that helps them remain in the field, persistence and independence also causes them to not want to belong to a group. Paradoxical isn't it.

What I have found is for a group to succeed requires them to have bigger purpose or vision for their group. Aiming at a common goal helps the group to grow as a group and build closer connections.

For example, a group may want to organize around putting out a publication or brochure for their community. Or they may want to present a workshop at a state conference. A group I helped start ended up doing a statewide survey. The process of doing the project helped us get closer together and become friends.

What have you tried?

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Working Together to Recruit Men To Teach

What would happen if every man that is currently teaching were to seek out any other man in his community that is also teaching? Either in early education, elementary school or high school?

And once the two men get together, talk about their work, they were to find other men. They could meet every other week to talk about work and their lives. The deep satisfaction to see a child learn to read. Or seeing a those first few words on paper connect with an image in their mind about what those words mean. Or helping a child understand adding a few numbers or solving a complicated physics problem.

But why stop there. As the men got to know each other they could begin to think about encouraging other men to join them in their work. The men teaching in high schools could consider offering a class for young men about working with children. They could go to a local child care center and read a book to the children.

We know it is important work. Research supports this. We know this on an intuitive level - that's why we've devoted our lives to this work. It will take concerted efforts to convince men to consider teaching. And it will take working together.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Working With Children

There's lots of talk about teaching and early education and how important it is. Yet, we don't see the resources put into teachers. Salaries still remain much lower for working with children then working with machines or a basketball.

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