Monday, April 10, 2006

Irrational Suspicion

The Tampa Tribune writes that male teachers who choose to work with younger children are coming under increasing suspicion:
Negative comments and raised eyebrows also have affected aspiring male kindergarten teachers in recent years, said Pam Fleege, associate professor of early childhood education at the University of South Florida.

"It's very sad. Male students have come to me after they've been challenged by their own families and friends," Fleege said. "Some are accused of being pedophiles. But they mostly get a lot of, 'What are you going to say when a parent confronts you?'"

Confrontations with suspicious parents are rare, teachers say. That could be because parents who are uncomfortable with a man teaching their children often request a female teacher.

Those requests are honored every year by Carol Hughes, principal of Leila G. Davis Elementary in Clearwater. She leads the only Pinellas County or Hillsborough County public school with two male kindergarten teachers.

Tamara Lowe, whose son was in Goldstein's kindergarten class years ago, said that when her son was assigned to Goldstein she contacted Berkley Prep officials to "express concern about the wisdom of having a young man teach kindergarten."

If a male teacher encounters fearful parents, the key is to involve them in the class as much as possible, said Brian Esparza, who teaches at Leila G. Davis.

"You just have to get to know them, let them get to know you, and win them over," Esparza said. "You get those kinds of parents, but I hear a lot more of the flip side, people happy that their child has a male role model in kindergarten."

Principals take many requests to place children with male kindergarten teachers. That opportunity, though, is available at a small percentage of schools.

In Pinellas, eight of 418 kindergarten teachers, or almost 2 percent, are men. In Hillsborough, there are 13 men and 764 women, again almost 2 percent

In Pasco County, the numbers are higher than the 9 percent national average. That nationwide number, though, is at a 40-year low, the National Education Association says.

Of the 884 Pasco kindergarten teachers, 105 are men, almost 12 percent. In Pasco, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students are educated together, based on their achievement levels.
There's much more to read in the whole story.

I think that there are a great number of effective male teachers out there who would really like to work with younger children but don't because they fear that their motivations will be suspect.

And it's a shame, as so many kids could use a few good male role-models in their young lives.
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