helping young girls overcome issues w/ male teachers

I have two friends with young daughters (who don't know each other) who are both having difficulty adjusting to their first experience of having a male teacher.

One child is 3 years old and attends a variety of children's programs in which she interacts with both male and female role models. She has recently started to complain about any program that she attends that has a male teacher. Her complaining hasn't gotten worse over time and doesn't seem to involve a particular teacher or activity, so her mom and I think this is just a phase she's going through.

The other child is starting first grade and her classroom teacher is a man. She has never had a male teacher before and has made some unusual comments about the teacher to her father (nothing to indicate any sort of abuse, just odd stuff). She has also been complaining of frequent stomach aches since school began earlier this week. I'm more concerned about this child because of the physical symptoms and the fact that she will spend the entire school year with this teacher. This child's father intends to speak with the teacher in a non-confrontational manner to discuss strategies for helping his daughter adjust to this situation. Since I recall having a strained relationship with my first male teacher (in 4th grade), despite being the "teacher's pet," I don't think this reaction to a first male teacher is extremely unusual. Have you experienced this as a male teacher? Do you have any advice?

--Melinda

When I was in 5th grade

I entered 5th grade, back in 1989, when I had my first male teacher. I was scared all summer when I found out I was in "his" class. I heard all the horror stories "he's mean, he yells, he throws desks" I heard him yell myself and saw him pick up a kid who had kicked him and spit in his face-- so yeah I was scared and nervous. But once school started-- and the relationship began between teacher and student-- I had So much FUN... it was amazing he was one of the best teachers I had at that school. And I understood why he yelled or "throw desks"... kids don't always pay attention and can be very fresh. He used his masculinity as a management tool. When a kid would flip him off or swear at him, he'd raise his off. We knew what our place was but also knew how much fun he was!! My love for science grew in his class and I enjoyed his sense of humor!

I think it's natural for us to be scared/nervous of things unknown especially when we're told "horror stories" or hear things like "male teacher arrested for viewing porn in his classroom" With the media's negative view of teachers (both men and women) it's not surprising that children are scared. We (as educators and parents) need to show both sides of the story and not let one side leave a bad impression. I hope my own story helps!

Stress of a new teacher

Hi, Melinda,

Good questions.

First, when my own children first attended school, when both my son and daughter first started school they sometimes were nervous (they had female teachers) and my son had stomach aches. We helped him by playing with him and talking about it. The play was the best thing to do since he couldn't always explain or articulate what exactly was making him nervous.

So - it happens for boys and girls for any new situation.

Second, I think it's great to talk with the teacher. I always wanted parents to come to me with any concern. Obviously, I don't know the male teachers so cannot say whether it is their gender or whether their style of teaching or personality.

Again - I think the best approach is to - in a nonconfrontational manner - ask for the teacher's help in resolving the child's concerns.

I'd love to hear what you figured out with your 4th grade male teacher. Did you ever have another male teacher again in later grades? How did that go?

Bryan

Is it common for girls to be scared of male practitioners?

Is it common for girls to be scared of male practitioners? I ask because when I started placements in daycare nursery setting, as a student, 2 days per week, I created rapport with the children fast, except for 2 little girls aged about 2 and 2 and a half. I attended 2 days per week, yet after 5 weeks, these two girls still cry every time I attempted to enage them. Each time, they would immediately start crying for 'daddy'. Incidentally, I purposely didn't address them or make direct eye contact with them in 3rd and 4th weeks, so as to avoid setting them off and to show them that I was not a threat. Often I would address or engage adjacent children quite alright but the monet, I again attempted to engege those two girls, they would again just get anxious and cry.

I expressed my frustration & the circumstances to my colleagues, mentor and my tutors and peers. My colleagues simply said, 'Oh, both those children are quite new still and their parents say the girls cry when any man except their dad is in the room or approaches them.' This seems a bit odd but is this a common experience?

My placement was cancelled and my mentor used this problem as one of the reasons why she didn't want me to continue my placement there because she said that it demonstrated that I 'lack insight of childhood development and appropriate ways to engage children'. She also complained that because the children were scared of me, my colleagues had to sometimes remove the child into a different adjacent room of the younger or the older age groups, plus the child did not attend on 1 or more occassions- neither or which I was aware of.

I feel that the mentor is blaming me for the setting's problem, when it's not really my responsibility, but theirs to address how to handle the child's fear of men, incl. myself; plus advise me how to interact ( I received no guidance or feedback that they were taking steps to remove the child, when I was present).

I feel like how they handled this issues is another form of hidden gender discrimination- what do you guys think though? In my placee, the colleagues' place or the mentor's place, what steps or advice would you have taken?

Any references to articles, books, research, please add a link here. Thanks.

Fear of men

Good questions.

I think it's extremely important to have a mentor that can help one work through any problems. My concern comes from your statement that you received no guidance or feedback. The reason we spend time as students is so that we can learn.

Look through the website and you'll find some articles that address some of your questions.

What are you doing now?

Let us know.

Bryan

When I student taught in

When I student taught in first grade a girl missed the first day because she was nervous about a "man" teaching her. However, her mother and my coop teacher were both supportive and quickly this student adjusted and when I see her and her family at the store or park etc she always runs over to say hello and usually gives a big hug. Her mother has been very complimentary and appreciated having a man in her daughter's classroom. So I agree with Bryan, the lack of guidance and support is the disturbing thing from my perspective.