Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Researching the Halted Paths of Male Primary School Teacher Candidates

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Researching the Halted Paths of Male Primary School Teacher Candidates

Article excerpt

A common goal in teacher education, as with education in general, is that we aim to give voice to all of our students and to help them to succeed in life through education, often in a discourse of holism that encompasses spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual elements. As seasoned educators in the public school system and new academics, we are frequently perplexed by discord in public discourse and actual practice within educational settings. Since the 1970s, there has been much research on the plight of females in school and beyond, personified in the celebrated Reviving Ophelia, Saving the selves of adolescent girls (Pipher, 1995). Only recently have popular, widely-read, accessible books been produced with a focus on males, among the most famous, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myth of Boyhood (Pollack, 1998), followed by Real Boys' Voices (Pollack, 2000). Although these researchers are located in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, where quantitative methods tend to dominate, their books have a distinctive qualitative, narrative flair that promotes accessibility, and which we hope to build upon in this paper.

Boys, some would argue (Brown, 2003; Honey, 2001), struggle more in school than girls and are fast becoming a minority in many disciplines and with lowering enrollments in trade school, community colleges, and universities (Wente, 2003). In particular, it has long been public knowledge that there are male minorities in what have historically been, and continue to be, female dominated fields, such as nursing, flight attendants, and primary school education. While there has been little, if any, public outcry for more male nurses or flight attendants, demand for more male teachers, including at the primary levels, has been on the rise.

Indeed, research in gender and education is reputed to have taken a 'boy turn' (Weaver-Hightower, 2003) over recent years, which itself connotes suspicion and unease. Perhaps this is ill part due to the competitive nature of academe, and the increasingly small morsels of the pie which are devoted to social justice research, and the long battles feminists have waged to have their research recognized. As social justice investigators, we find it alarming to examine power dynamics around teacher education germane to the experiences of males, and to discover inequities that are serendipitously swept under the carpet. This arts-informed narrative inquiry will delve into the experiences of male B.Ed. teacher candidates in Northern Ontario who did not complete their education degree. We will explore factors leading to their withdrawal. Their voices will, hopefully, fuel dialogue around issues of power dynamics and intersectional identity (race, class, gender, sexual orientation, geographical location, and language and culture) applicable to education, men's studies, social justice, arts-informed and arts-based educational research, and affiliated disciplines. This paper begins with a brief review of the literature on male primary teachers, then research methodology, next a look at theory, followed by a composite, narrative monologue representing common experiences of former teacher candidates, and culminates in the researcher's impressions and questions.

Male Primary School Teachers

There is a perceived shortage of male teachers in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. Perceived barriers to males becoming teachers include the impression that teachers are overworked and underpaid (Bittner & Cooney, 2003), and in a profession of lower status than higher paying jobs such as lawyer, pilot, engineer, entrepreneur, or doctor. There is also the perception that men are less nurturing than women and that it is inappropriate for men to be working with young children; male primary teachers are often characterized as "feminine," "homosexual," and "pedophile" (Oyler, Jennings, & Lozada, 2001), both from within the profession and in the public eye. …

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