Culture & Entertainment

Male teachers: Are you prejudiced?

By: Jennifer Gruden
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Male teachers: Are you prejudiced?

By: Jennifer Gruden

A leaked memo from the Toronto District School Board was reported by the Globe and Mail this week: "The first round of TDSB interviews will be granted to teachers candidates that meet one or more of the following criteria in addition to being an outstanding teacher: Male, racial minority, French, Music, Aboriginal." With 592 comments on the Globe and Mail site I'm going to go ahead and say that people feel strongly about this issue, mostly about the affirmative action portion of the memo. I'm reminded of some of the issues I've had to confront in myself about men and caregiving for my two sons. I'm a big fan of Gavin de Becker's book Protecting the Gift, about how to approach the question of keeping our kids safe. He pretty much takes apart the issue of "stranger danger" but points out that statistically, it's men known to the family that are most likely to abuse our kids. (A small percentage of those men, but it is still likely that abusers will be male.) Now, I'm absolutely committed to the idea of men as equal caregivers and now that my eldest is in elementary school, I'm happy to have him in male teachers' classrooms. (So far, only his gym teacher has been a man. And I have kept point #2 -- don't prejudge -- from our "8 ways to make a connection with your kid's teacher" piece in mind.) And yet...it is other kids' fathers I worry about more than their mothers. I felt differently about the male after-school math club teacher at my kids' Montessori and when my son started at his dojo I was glad for the closed-circuit TV that let me watch the class. When I was hiring a nanny I did get one application from a guy and I set it aside. I'm not proud to admit all this -- after all, I have sons! I think they will be excellent babysitters and hope if they want to be teachers or work in daycares that they feel free to do so. But I still worry. When I set that "manny" application aside, I really was making a decision based on prejudice - that there was a higher chance that there would be "something wrong" with this person. And I still did it, because in all the fuss of hiring a caregiver I was not willing to add that stress into the equation. I can see that young men are still getting the message that if they want to work with little kids there is something wrong with them. And for the ones that make it past that issue, I can see that what probably works out to a constant low level of suspicion that they are in it for the wrong reasons (whatever those are) would be very tiring. And I know the problem really does start with me. I'm just not quite ready to put my kids' safety -- real or perceived -- forward as part of the solution. I'm really curious about what you all think. Do you feel the same about male teachers as female ones? Do you think the TDSB is going in the right direction with this? More teacher woes? How to talk with your kids' teachers.
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Male teachers: Are you prejudiced?

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