The Power of Male Teachers
photo of a man's and a woman's bicep

“Twice the Power,” Image by Victor Bezrukov via Flickr / Creative Commons

When I heard that all the adults who died in the Sandy Hook massacre last week were women, one of my first thoughts was, “Of course they were; it was an elementary school,” and most elementary school teachers are female.  Next thought: Someone is going to call for a national effort to encourage more men to teach in primary classrooms.

Some five days later, Charlotte Allen wrote this nonsense in National Review and had her baseless, antiquated notions about big, burly men and husky 12-year-old boys who can stop bullets with their testosterone and buckets thoroughly mocked in the comments.

I don’t think more men in grades K-5 will prevent children from being gunned down at school, at least, not in the manner Allen suggests. I recall having three male teachers in elementary school—one for Spanish (for 3 out of 5 years), the art teacher (for 4 years, I think), and a permanent sub we saw frequently (for 2 years)—and I think that’s rare. I also recall that the one who demonstrated the most arrogance, bravado, and … masculinity if you will, was the only one almost every student in the entire school hated. Eventually, he was fired and, ironically, replaced by a young, attractive, take-no-b.s. woman who once pulled one of my classmates by her chin and ear from her desk all the way down to the principal’s office. The male Spanish teacher scared us by yelling and sometimes made us feel stupid for a few hours each week, but put his hands on a child? No way.

The permanent sub was mostly easygoing but could snap kids back to perfect behavior with one word if he needed to. The art teacher was on another level. Between painting and drawing, he had us do activities like analyze Shel Silverstein’s “The Little Boy and the Old Man.” He had a way of speaking in a firm tone, with a voice full of base. A tall, built black man, he looked like Allen’s fantasy of a high school football player who could still tackle someone if he had to—and there he was in a “feminized setting,” an elementary school, and teaching art no less.

And because he was in that setting, you know what else he was doing? He was nurturing and setting that amazing human spirit children abandon as they age. He was teaching empathy. He was awakening a bunch of children whose images of what they should be consist mainly of stereotypes so strong they’re archetypes, to a counter image of masculinity.

And if there were more men doing that early on and throughout children’s lives, maybe there would be fewer men murdering women and children, and the women of Sandy Hook Elementary wouldn’t have had to be the heroines that they so admirably were.

May they rest in peace, and may we not rest until this country has changed.

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