- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2003

Some men teach because they feel they make a contribution to society that way. Others love a certain subject. A third group finds it rewarding to be around children.

Judging from how few men pick teaching as their profession, however, many men can’t find a good reason to teach.

If school systems are going to be successful in attracting male teachers, they have to give men more and better reasons to pick the profession, local male teachers say.

“Higher salaries would definitely make a difference,” says Michael Calderon, 40, a social studies teacher at Rockville High School. “Men want to be able to provide for their family.”

Locally, salaries range from about $35,000 in entry salary to about $80,000 for teachers with a lot of experience, education and years in the job.

So, while not in the doctor or lawyer range, the money might not be as bad as some think, says Randy McGinnis, who has a doctorate in science education and is a professor of education at the University of Maryland’s College of Education in College Park.

When Mr. McGinnis taught high school in the Bronx in the late 1980s, his students, for example, had a warped perception of what teachers make, he says.

“They said they would never go into teaching because basically they could make more recycling bottles than being a teacher,” he says. “It’s not quite that bad.”

His current college students acknowledge that the starting salary is pretty good but also know that salary increases are fairly flat, Mr. McGinnis says.

“When they see senior teachers who are having a difficult time paying for college for their own kids, it’s discouraging for them,” he says.

Yet being fulfilled in one’s profession is not just about money. It’s also a matter of having status and receiving respect.

Mr. Calderon says, “The school system itself perpetuates the notion that the classroom is a dumping ground. That works against attracting males.”

It’s often assumed that men will want to enter administrative positions after just a few years of classroom teaching, he says.

Mr. Calderon suggests that after a certain number of years in the profession, a teacher should receive an elevated rank, title and income level.

“Maybe after 20 years you’d become a ‘master teacher,’” he says.

Providing a good and friendly environment might help prevent new teachers from leaving the profession prematurely, says Anthony R. Stanley, a fourth-grade teacher at Patterson Elementary School in Southeast.

“I think it’s important that we embrace new teachers,” Mr. Stanley says. “It’s overwhelming in the beginning, and you don’t become a good teacher overnight. It took me 10 years to figure certain things out.”

Another hurdle that male teachers have to clear is the stigma of teaching being seen as women’s work.

“It’s like men who go into nursing. People start asking, ‘Well don’t you want to be a doctor?’” says Melinda Anderson, National Education Association spokeswoman. “Men generally shy away from professions that are perceived to be female. Look at nursing, 93 percent of registered nurses are women.”

Having a male teacher who can open your eyes and show that teaching might be a profession to pursue also helps, Ms. Anderson says.

Aggressive advertising campaigns and better cooperation between colleges of education and local public school systems also might improve the situation, Mr. McGinnis says.

Finally, Mr. Stanley delivers the most practical advice:

“Any teacher — new and old — needs good shoes,” he says. “I walk around all day long. There is no time to sit down.”

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