Why Compassionate Male Teachers Struggle in Education’s Jock Culture

Share with Friends
  • 11
  • 17
  • 2
man with baby
photo credit: Dad and daughter.) via photopin (license)

When I was a kid, I was bullied at school. You see, I lived in Canada, but I was a competitive swimmer–not a hockey player.  So I was an easy target.

The bullying persisted until my peers discovered that I was a very good swimmer. In fact, I was one of the better swimmers in the country. Suddenly, I was no longer a target; I was cool.

Is our society ready for a man to unconditionally love his students?
But the whole time –even when I had become accepted–I was learning some important things about masculinity. I had come to the conclusion that to be accepted as a young man, I had to either be a hockey player or be the best at a non-hockey sport. To me, that seemed hollow and stupid.

I left high school with only two close friends. Everyone else just rubbed me the wrong way.

My graduation from high school was 20 years ago and in those two decades, people have gradually begun talking about how stereotypical masculinity is negatively affecting us.

Recently, the conversation has exploded, and the grade school kid in me finally feels like some people are listening. This is especially important for male teachers.

This year was my 11th year of teaching. In those years I have taught grades 4-6 almost exclusively. When I began my career, I was frequently asked if it worried me, being a male teacher, teaching little kids. On one occasion I had my sexual intentions joked about. That was disturbing, and I made sure the offending individual knew just how inappropriate a suggestion that was, despite his attempts to defend himself with the classic, “It was just a joke, don’t be so sensitive.”

Things have definitely improved since then. Almost no one asks me if I’m worried about what people will think, and while my motivations have been questioned at times, that one insensitive comment remains the only comment of the sort I’ve ever received.

Stereotypes still exist

This progress pleases me, but I still feel unsettled. I don’t yet feel that the teaching profession is okay with me truly being me.

I still feel like I have to hide aspects of who I am in order to protect myself. This prevents me from truly enjoying teaching, but for now it doesn’t seem like I have a choice.

Is our society ready for a man to unconditionally love his students? To invite his students to his wedding ceremony? To stay in touch with his former students once they have graduated high school?

On the Hack Learning app
On the Hack Learning app

I fear that society may not be ready for a compassionate male teacher (my own administrators have questioned my motives for personally connecting with students).

It strikes me that these are things a female educator could do without any objection. I’m not trying to play a victim game here; I’m simply questioning our acceptable social norms because I don’t feel like I fit in the box.

This makes me believe that we need a new kind of male educator, one who projects compassion, empathy, sensitivity, and inclusion, as well as strength and security for his students. Someone who values both boys and girls as equals in their ability to become compassionate, empathetic people.

I am fully aware that many men like this exist and are currently in the profession. But I would be surprised if those men told me that they feel completely comfortable. Jock culture is still a thing among many male teachers, and it’s not helping men like me feel welcome.

These beliefs have compelled me to create “The Compassionate Male Educator,” online course, which will be available at www.plpnetwork.com in September.

The purpose of the course is twofold. First, I want to provide interested male educators with tools to help them successfully traverse the roads of compassion, empathy, and inclusiveness. Second, and perhaps a bit selfishly, I want to find my peers. I know there are men like me out there, and hopefully the course and this article will help me find them.

The following two tabs change content below.

Tom Fuke

Longtime teacher Tom Fuke is passionate about true education transformation--replacing grades with feedback, student-centered learning, and valuing creativity as much as literacy and numeracy. He is also interested in gender norms and the move toward more empathetic, compassionate male teachers. Tom is a former national level competitive swimmer, and has been coaching young athletes since 1996. He lives with his wife in Ontario.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge