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Does Gender Matter?

Jerry DeQuetteville
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Would Boys do Better in School if More of Their Teachers Were Men?

When I was growing up there was no women’s work or men’s work in our household, there was just work. We all pitched in and did what needed to be done. My grandmother was a teacher, my mother was a teacher, and many of her friends were teachers, both male and female. I came  into contact with many teachers, both male and female, who had a profound impact upon me. Perhaps  it was these influences that, when I was mulling over career options, made me finally settle on  teaching. I never once thought that it was women’s work. Clearly not all men have this same experience.

For many years there has been concern about the fact that the number of male teachers has been declining. At the elementary level, the number of men seems to have stabilized over the past few years, while at the secondary level it continues to drop.

The media portray the issue with a sense of hysteria. This summer a  Globe and Mail columnist suggested that the lack of male teachers was the reason boys are falling behind girls in high-stakes standardized testing.

To examine the issue and to try and correct some of the misconceptions that exist, ETFO sponsored a symposium that asked the question: Is the Male Teacher Becoming Extinct? The symposium, held in May, provided an opportunity for a wide range of participants to gather information and discuss the issue.

In her introduction, ETFO President Emily Noble reminded participants that “the media seems to tie the fewer number of male teachers to some perceived failure of boys in our schools. The assumptions that women are somehow unable to teach boys and that all boys learn the same way are simplistic and insulting to both genders.”

Justin Trudeau, who was briefly a teacher, delivered the keynote address. He pointed out that the reduced numbers of male teachers in our schools is a symptom that society no longer values service-related professions in general. Those who make a product are valued, those who work with people not so much. He believes teachers have a responsibility to help students to become leaders who care about others and about the environment in which we live. He emphasized the importance of teachers as role models and implored the audience to work with students in an effort to reintroduce to our society the respect for service to others and to one’s country.

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