It was claimed that salaries of up to $99,000 for the most senior primary school teachers (starting salary for graduates is $60.545), 12 weeks holiday and the chance to shape the next generation are the selling points put to WA high school students to boost the number of men taking up primary school teaching. (www.news.com.au)
Western Australian Education Minister Peter Collier made some pertinent remarks as to why he wants 'face on face' presentation to high school students on the benefits of going into primary school teaching:
"It's the best job on Earth. There are so many positive attributes to a teaching career. Our teachers are now the highest paid in the nation, the conditions are really good and there are a raft of different opportunities. And the rewards (are) every day you're dealing with a group of children who have got energy. You can make a seismic difference in terms of the direction those kids take."
The article provided the latest statistics available - men make up 12.21 per cent of teachers in public primary schools and 36.5 per cent in secondary schools. These figures do not include deputy principals and principals.
Moreover, WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen stated: "Once people start retiring, I think the percentages will be worse. The next issue will be how do we target the people in other professions who want to come in as career-changers."
Why men steer away from primary school teaching?
Another way forward might be to note a cursory check list as to why men steer away from primary school teaching (regardless of income incentives). This seems to be the first thing to investigate as there might be some simple solutions to alleviate those issues (perceived or not) in order for men to seriously consider the primary school option.
There appears to be three related issues that frighten men away from primary school teaching. Unless these are addressed it would remain likely that men will continue to avoid the profession. More so, such an outcome might mean that quite possibly, many men who don't fit very well elsewhere, may end up in primary school teaching as a kind of a last resort, and that is the worst of all scenarios.
These three relates issues are common place:
Fear of blame
Recently the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article titled “Male Presumed Dangerous” and cites the case of a male primary school teacher unwilling to assist a child who had a toilet accident unless another teacher was present. (www.smh.com.au)
Why would any man put himself and his own family at risk in such similar situations (even giving a child a congratulatory pat on the back) that happens at school every day of the week in every school across the nation.
Every reasonable man would run a hundred miles from such scenarios.
Fear of the institution
The school system is governed, not by legislation, not by school governance and not by its by-laws, rather by the never defined and utterly endless politically correct unstated presumptions which are led by, as if conducting an orchestra, those who have a weird sense of protocol and personal agendas.
The same SMH article cites a principle of a school who was intending to ban grand fathers from “watching” the school athletic carnival.
In this politically correct unstated system where men have to very carefully tread without standing on a mine, where men are presumed dangerous - why would any reasonable man put himself at such inadvertent risk?
Moreover, once even a minor infringement of this politically correct unstated rules are noted and on the record, the institution is unforgiving and it's with them forever. There is serious concern that such an unwelcome black mark will end up on the 'Sexual Offenders' list. The entire system has gone mad. Those with personal agendas (as it were) “have the say!”
Fear of parents
Troublesome parents seem to know the rules backwards and 'work whatever' to their advantage and put enormous strain and stress on teachers, and more so male teachers who are somehow, presumptiously held to higher account.
Unthoughtful parents who fail to grasp what their angry complaints involve, are able to cause enormous damage to a teacher's reputation and health, particularly that of male teachers. The evidence is overwhelming as stress leave among male teachers is rampant. One doesn't need to be an Einstein to join the dots.
Ways forward to better outcomes
One way forward is to ensure that all Education Department employees within the institutional office have been teaching at the coal face for at least 10 years. Having people making decisions about school situations (as it were) needs to have significant experience themselves in the teaching role.
There is no greater frustration than to have people from on high (as it were) pontificate to a school teacher at the coal face who has never experienced the every day traumas and anxieties associated with school teaching.
Another way forward is to ensure male teachers in particular, with 10 years service, are invited to spend one year in a non-teaching role within the Education Department's Institution so as to engender fresh approaches to those at the coal face.
A male teacher in such an oversight position dealing with a male teacher confronted with any of the three issues raised above, invariably recognises the inherent difficulties in any such situation. The situation is so dire that everything needs to be done to ensure more and more male teachers simply don't toss in the towel through frustration and risk, where a mature word of experience is all that is needed.
A reasonable accord might be delivered by the Education Department that affirms the legal legislative rules bound by all schools and teachers. The system needs in place that anyone at the local level (the school) trying to impose politically correct ideas (outside the legal legislation) are censured and put on notice with an official caution. Three Cautions of trying to implement such outcomes and it's automatic dismissal.
The philosophy behind this is to find a way whereby Principles can deal with those staff with agendas that manipulative and controlling.
The way it is today illustrates that men are steering well away from the teaching profession and there is a dire need for male primary school teachers.
Therefore workable solutions need to be found that will function at the coal face. Getting teachers involved in the institution is paramount. Finding a means whereby those with agendas (manipulative and controlling) are themselves faced with serious consequences.
There is ample Scriptural evidence for developing new strategies to alleviate stressful situations. For example, Jethro in the Old Testament suggested to Moses he appoint those in high standing in the community to act as Judges to relieve his stress. In the Acts those of high standing in the early Christian church were given leave to conduct the administration of the community to allow the Apostles the time necessary to evangelise.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html