The missing father: How male teachers are seen by students from divorced settings

Over the span of my career, I have worked in two different juvenile detention facilities. In both cases, I have seen the effects that a male educational figure can have in the classroom. Girls, in particular, form early opinions and attachments to male teachers depending upon their background. But if they have come from a split home environment, and they are fond of their father, chances are the male teacher is viewed by the girl in a father-figure light.

There are days that I wish I had a dime for every female who has come up to me and said, "You remind me so much of my dad." Even those who don't express it verbally find, on a subconscious level, that same similarity: This guy carries the same cadence, the same body language, even perhaps the same idiosyncracies as the significant male figure in their out-of-school life.

If the young lady has been abused by a male, or her opinion of the men in her life is less than shining, the teacher may have a harder sell, to say the least. Resistance to ideas in class, disobedience, and other effects can all be seen as a result of the environment from which the female has originated.

For boys, it's a different proposition. We may remind them of dear ol' dad, but that's not necessarily a pro or a con -- it just seems to be accepted as fact. Guys, even young ones, simply see other males as exactly that: other males. Sure, we're all grown up, and maybe we have the type of athletic build (or not) that one day they'd like to boast, but in general, the median opinion is just, "That's Mr. So-and-so. He's my teacher." Case closed.

Maybe, just maybe, over the course of the school year we may build ourselves into a bit of a role model for the boy from the broken home, especially if dad isn't present. Boys, after all, are always looking for men that they'd like to emulate in future life, especially if they've come from a place without dad on a regular basis.

Here are my questions: Does my experience sound a lot like what you've experienced, or have you witnessed something else entirely from broken-home students? How have you modified or accomodated to address the emotional needs of such students? Do you feel the need to at all, or do you just treat them exactly like little Joey from the middle-class American nuclear family? Enough with the questions, I suppose -- it's up to you.