How Did You Guys Get Here?
A thesis submitted for my master's in education

The following paper was submitted in 5/98 in more or less this form for the thesis requirement of my M.Ed. at Louisiana State University.  It isn't all that bad, but reading through it, I groan at the naiveté of the language, content, and, well, everything!  Still, the theoretical background was very thoroughly grounded in the literature, and I went above and beyond the expectations in at least that regard.

One thing that strikes me about this work is how different literature in this area reads than that found in, for example, neuroscience.  Whereas the latter focuses almost exclusively on the content, in much of the literature I read (primarily from education and the social sciences), the semantics of the presentation were regarded as sufficiently important to warrant extensive quotes directly from the relevant literature.  My thesis is representative of that style.  Perhaps overly so.  Had I written it today, I would have worked harder to summarize in my own voice rather than allowing others such a dominant voice.

title page
How Did You Guys Get Here?:

A Study of Factors That Deterred
Male Secondary Teachers From Pursuing
Alternate Careers In Education.

Louisiana State University

I would like especially to thank the participants of this study for their time and honesty in providing the most complete definition to the answers I sought and the enlightenment they provided beyond scope of this project.

I would like to thank Dr. Wandersee for his insightful comments in helping shape this research into something accessible and relevant.

I would also like to thank Dr. Egea-Kuehne for her assistance and encouragement in defining this topic for study.


 I would like very much to dedicate this work to Dr. Catherine Cummins for her assistance in the personal re-direction of my life.  Without her direct and timely intervention this research would not have been possible.


The histories of male secondary teachers were explored to determine their motivations for entering the teaching profession.  Eight teachers were interviewed to uncover specifically why these males choose not to teach at the elementary or university level or pursue a position in administration.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (page numbers not relevant in web format)




Statement of problem
Value of the Study


Historical Perspective: The Feminization of Teaching
The Effect of the Sex-Stereotyping of Teaching
Devaluation of the Profession
Males as Role Models


My Research Perspective
Subject selection
Data Collection and Analysis


Profiles of Participants
Pre professional Experiences With Teaching
Effects of Role Models and Family
Why Not Administration?
Why Not Elementary?
Why Not the University?
Of Salaries and Summers
Advice to Their Own Children
Suggestions to Recruit More Males






Statement of problem

While secondary teaching remains one of the least gender segregated professions in this country, other areas of education continue to represent the stratification by sex of the majority of the workforce.  Why is the population of secondary teaching so unique in its composition when school administration, elementary teachers, and university professors represent uneven distributions of the sexes?
The purposes of this study were:
(a) to identify a descriptive profile of male secondary teachers to explore the motivational characteristics in their career selection.
(b) to examine what factors prevented these teachers from choosing careers in other areas of education.
Value of the Study
Most studies of sex segregation in the workforce have focused on women's experiences in male-dominated occupations (Williams, 1992).  Furthermore, teachers have uniquely influential position in society, from which they can lastingly influence the perceptions and life decisions of today's children.  Education is the most immediate area where focus should be placed to create an environment representative of gender equality.  This study may help develop strategies to correct the stratification found throughout educational professions.

It was assumed that:

1. It was possible to identify motivations in career selection through the methods employed.
2. Participants in this study provided honest responses to the best of their ability.


This findings reported herein were limited by the following:

1. Participants' responses were elicited primarily by the questions which guided the interviews.
2. The following factors involving the participants: (a) their limited number, (b) the fact that all were volunteers, and (c) the fact that all were recruited in Louisiana.


Historical Perspective: The Feminization of Teaching

At one time teaching, in the formal, curricular manner we know it as today, was an almost exclusively masculine activity.  While women taught their children domestic skills, the males of the community transferred the knowledge of the culture.  Men often taught part-time, or as a stepping stone to more lucrative or prestigious jobs (Apple, 1986, p. 62).  Strober (1982) summarizes: When teaching was a relatively casual occupation that could be engaged in for fairly short periods of time... [a] farmer could easily combine teaching in the winter with caring for his farm during the rest of the year.  A potential minister, politician, shopkeeper or lawyer could teach... in order to gain to gain visibility within a community (p. 18, cited in Apple, 1986, p. 62).

However, economic incentives fueled a change in the character of the American educator.  Kaufman (1997) explains: Despite the inherent elitism in teaching, the dominant assumptions within United States society converged with the interest of employers (largely men) in keeping the labor that women provided unprofessional and relatively cheap (p. 122).  Sugg (1978) summarizes: Our patriarchal forebears in the middle of the nineteenth century consented not only to the rapid feminization of the teaching corps in quantitative terms but also to the redefinition and development of teaching as a female profession (p. 3).

This process of feminization in American education began during the Industrial Era, from the late 1700's until about 1860.  Prior to that time the home was the center of the economy, but when the Industrial Era dawned men left for the new centers of productivity, the factories.  Common schools soon emerged (Griffin, 1997) largely due to the influence of Horace Mann, the Father of the American Public School (Morgan, 1936, p. 3), and other advocates of women as teachers (Apple, 1986).

The 19th century ideology of domesticity that made women custodians of home and morality implied that teaching was a logical extension of women's other duties (Vaughn-Roberson, 1992, as reported in Montecinos and Nielsen, 1997).  The doors to education were opened wide for females, whereas the vast majority of other avenues of advancement in the community were barred.  Nineteenth century activists exhorted women to enlist in an army of female teachers... and to create an honored profession for women (Beecher, 1846, pp. 10-11, cited in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 37).

Stockard (1980) reports that an 1850 account of the educational process describes how young men were trained for college or careers in business, and young women were trained to be daughters, wives, sisters, mothers, companions, and teachers who would determine the morals, manners, and intelligence of the community.  Whereas the presence of female teachers probably encouraged learning activities for females, it probably discouraged boys from seeking teaching as a viable and worthy profession for themselves (p. 168).

Altenbaugh (1992, as reported in Montecinos and Nielsen, 1997) contends that the funding structure of American education also contributed to the feminization of the profession.  Locally controlled schools, motivated by a drive to maintain low budgets, welcomed the hiring of inexpensive female teacher (p. 48). Female teachers could be expected to work for significantly lower wages than their male counterparts (as much as a third less) (Tyack and Hansot, 1990; Norton, 1926, as reported in Griffin, 1997).  DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) report that some modern day scholars believe that the transformation of the schoolteacher role from male to female was so complete that teaching was irrevocably feminized (p. 37).

However, during this century the pendulum has begun to swing toward a more masculine composition of teachers.  Since 1920 there has been a steady overall increase of men in education (except for a dip during WWII from which the trend more than completely recovered) from 14.1% to its modern high of 34.0% in 1980 (Hoffman, 1993).  In the 1993-94 school year the proportion of males had declined to 26.8% in the total teaching population (National Center for Education Statistics, 1992).

Currently, the elementary sector is overwhelmingly (upwards of 80%) female, yet administrators are predominately men (more than 60% of all principals are male, although in rural areas this figure goes up to 90% at the secondary level) (NCES, 1992).  To break this down, in the 1994-95 school year, women represented only 3% of superintendents, 6% of high school principals, 14% of middle-levels principals, and 34% of elementary school principals (Nielsen, 1995, cited in Montecinos and Nielsen, 1997, p. 47).  These numbers depict a very stratified field.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 1992) summarizes the problem: Males predominate in the higher prestige and higher paid positions at all educational levels of teaching and administration, whereas women predominate in the lower paid positions, such as early childhood education (as reported in Griffin, p. 8).

Yet in all this disequilibrium a surprisingly calm spot (in statistical sense only) appears.  At present, secondary teaching is one of the least gender-biased professions in this country.  Males represent just a few percent less than half of all secondary teachers (NCES, 1992).

The Effect of the Sex-Stereotyping of Teaching

The research finds that women today enter teaching for a number of reasons: family pressures (Cortina, 1986, as reported in Griffin, 1997), because it was a good job for a woman, it fit in best with having children and a family life (Spencer, 1986, p. 53, cited in Griffin, 1997, p. 9), and because of societal expectations to be feminine, incapable of strenuous or difficult work (Spencer, 1986, as reported in Griffin, 1997, p. 9).  These pressures run contrary to typically "masculine" interests and exclude males from considering education as a viable option.

Williams (1992) finds that [m]ales often resist their initial motives and inclination to work with children until they have explored other avenues, tried other majors and occupations, often on the advice of their parents (as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 38).  DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) found that all but one of the eleven male elementary teachers they interviewed had tried another career even though they recognized their enjoyment of working with children (p. 39).

The underrepresentation of males in education (particularly at the elementary level) cannot be attributed to hostility on the part of supervisors or female coworkers, as acceptance into the work culture is seldom a problem.  The factors which dissuade males from entering education most frequently come from outside the profession (Williams, 1992).  Therefore, it is highly probably that a large number of these cases can be attributed to the distinctive influence parents play in their children's lives.  For example, [s]ome parents, especially fathers [even one who was himself a teacher], initially viewed the choice of teaching as unchallenging or inappropriate but ultimately supported the candidate's choice (Nielsen, 1997, p. 40).

Many of the elementary student teachers Nielsen (1997) worked with started college with traditionally masculine majors such as business, the sciences, or kinesiology, and had only changed their major to elementary education after an intervening experience working with children (p. 47) such as working at a camp or coaching.  Further, Nielsen noticed when he asked secondary education majors if they had ever considered majoring in elementary education, he was frequently met with either shock, as if he had launched an attack on their masculinity, or a receptiveness to elementary education due to their recent experiences in elementary settings (p. 47).  The extreme contrast between these categories of responses implies that males are not inherently averse to a career elementary education, but rather are denied access to experiences in the profession by social pressures.

Perhaps these same pressures on males account for the fact that, while the percentage of women expressing doubts regarding their career choice was stable (though relatively high), this percentage increased among males as they moved through their preparation as teachers.  Men cited salary as a factor in this apprehension twice as often as women, which may serve to explain why in the same study more than twice as many men as women aspired to positions in administration (Montecinos and Nielsen, 1997).

Even after they begin teaching males are viewed by others as individuals in the process of finding more lucrative lines of work.  Epstein (1988) finds that [m]en moving into traditionally female jobs are perceived as stepping down in status....  These perceptions may explain why men who otherwise might show interest in or an aptitude for traditionally female jobs are probably discouraged from pursuing them because of negative stereotypes associated with them and the stigma of working in a female-identified occupation (as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 38).

Research suggests that people organize their images of occupations in a highly stereotyped, socially learned manner (Gottfriedson, 1981).  As a result, teachers are perceived as more masculine in character the higher in education they are  employed.  Glick, Wilk, and Perrault (1995) found that kindergarten teachers were perceived as the most feminine while professors were considered the most masculine.  The amount of prestige associated with these educational occupations rose steadily as their perceived masculinity increased.

Males are forced to distance themselves from students because the further one gets from children the more one gains in money and prestige (Walsh, 1995, p. 165, cited in Griffin, 1997, p. 14).  DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) point to the unfortunate reality that the [l]ack of professional growth and recognition as a classroom teacher prevents social and economic benefits and encouragement to persist in the profession.  Professional growth as a teacher generally means exit from the classroom (p. 45).

The proportion of males in teaching positions climbs as their clientele mature in age.  Men dominate the professorate in number, comprising 73% of all full-time faculty (Chronicle of Higher Education, 1994, as reported in Street, et al., 1995), in secondary education only around 50% (Lee, 1995), while less than 17% elementary teaching force is female (NCES, 1992).  It seems society is guiding males toward the more prestigious areas of teaching.

Similarly, males represent the overwhelming proportion of administrators.  Research into educative administration focuses heavily on the preponderance of males in the positions of principal and assistant principal.  Given that the major portion of schools' budgets are devoted to teachers, there is a paucity of research into the character of the teaching population.

The commonly held belief that male-dominated higher education has greater autonomy, prestige, status, and legitimacy than female-dominated elementary, middle, and secondary education leads to the conclusion that, as in society at large, discrimination against women has affected the professionalization of education (Murphy, 1990, as reported in Kaufman, et al., 1997, p. 123).

In spite of the fact that secondary teachers represent equal proportions of males and females and the fact that university faculty are nearly three quarters male, all levels of teaching were perceived as "feminine" in Glick, Wilk, and Perrault's (1995) study of occupational stereotypes.  Williams (1992) warns us that [c]haracterizing the classroom teacher as female, subservient, and second rate makes it unlikely that males will choose teaching, even when predisposed to do so (as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 38).  Gottfriedson's (1981) theory of vocational choice anticipates that this will frequently be the case.  He contents that individuals often do not consider pursuing occupations when either prestige or the gender-type of a job does not match their own socio-economic background or gender... (as reported in Glick, Wilk, and Perrault, 1995, p. 566).

DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) contend that a profession with feminine qualities in performance and masculine authority is an enigma for males' career choice (p. 38).  Thus, popular stereotypes of occupations may contribute to the sex-segregation of the job market (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1987, as reported in Glick, Wilk, and Perrault, 1995, p. 566).

DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) summarize the problem: Often economic security and benefits, if not great earning power, encourage men to enter teaching; but the social and psychological conflicts may be a greater barrier than the economic limitations (p. 38).  They conclude with the entreaty that women's strong contribution to teaching must not be negated, but at the same time recognition and honor must accrue to men who choose to care for and teach young children (p. 45).

Devaluation of the Profession

In her 1881 address to the National Education Association convention, Susan B. Anthony implored her audience to examine the problems destined to grow out of the poor status of the profession. Do you not see that as long as society says that a woman is not competent to be a lawyer, a minister, or a doctor; but has ample opportunity to be a teacher, every male who chooses the teaching profession acknowledges that he has no more brains than a woman? (Herndon, 1983, p. 68, cited in Kaufman, et al., 1997, p. 122).

In a more modern tone, Beyer (1992) reiterates Anthony's sentiment.  The perceptions were unmistakable, then as now, that if the best students, male or female, do not choose teaching, but instead choose law, medicine, theology, or science, teaching will not achieve the same societal status (as reported in Kaufman, et al., 1997, p. 122).  Despite the historically proven fact that women typically flock to male-dominated occupations when opportunities are made available, men are less likely to enter female sex-typed occupations than vice versa (Jacobs, 1989, as reported in Williams, 1992).

In fact, not only do men not flock to female-dominated occupations, in education, beginning teachers are lost in massive numbers and education majors frequently change majors.  Greer (1968) lists several characteristics of the profession with which to explain these facts.  She cites that teaching requires the transmission of others' knowledge and skills, it does not create new knowledge; teachers' clientele are involuntarily present; rewards for success are divided among colleagues and the school; a student's success is not seen as one teacher's success and, as a result, there is no system of advancement or mobility; teachers generally operate within the privacy of their own room, so there is no shared community to bind them to the profession (as reported in Spencer, 1986).

Spencer (1986) views Greer's points not as causes for teachers' lack of commitment, but as evidence of the quasi-professional status of the occupation.  Beginning teachers quickly realize that, for the same amount of work as they put into teaching, they could receive greater pay and prestige outside of education.

It is no coincidence that those professions which command the greatest prestige allot the greatest autonomy to its employees.  In Sizer's (1992) words, We give people autonomy: we say We trust you to solve this problem not only for yourself, but for us all.  In the world of work, we dub this autonomy 'professionalism.'  The Lawyer writes his brief.  The doctor makes his diagnosis.  The roofer decides how to sheathe the faulty gutters (p. 183).

Grimm (1978) defines professionalism as the process by which an occupation claims and receives the legal autonomy to exercise a monopoly over the delivery of an important service (p. 294, cited in Spencer, 1986, p. 3).  Sizer concludes that the fact that teachers are left unobserved in their classrooms more than 95% of the time is not the honored badge of professionalism, but an indication that what happens there is thought to be of relatively little consequence (p. 184).

Spencer (1986) concludes that the conditions under which teachers work are more similar to those of blue collar workers than those of professionals (p. 5).  She points to interruptions by the intercom and tasks such as monitoring bathrooms and performing janitorial duties in their classrooms as universal examples. Sizer (1992) agrees that teachers are treated as hired hands.  They are told where they will be and how long they will spend there.  Orders come from "downtown," handed down in the form of curriculum guides and standards.  Teachers are rarely trusted with the selection of texts and teaching materials they are to use.  Sizer (1992) enumerates, teachers own nothing, are told what to do, and have little stake in their enterprises....  Not surprisingly, they often act like hired hands (p. 184).

A perfect example of this devaluation from administration can be found in the plethora of government designed, "teacher-proof" curricular plans.  These programs were implemented most sweepingly in elementary schools where materials were provided at little or no cost to school administration.  With characteristically thrifty enthusiasm principals accepted these programs with open arms, then put pressure on teachers to implement them.  Administrators impart the impression that teachers aren't sophisticated enough to design or execute their own curricula (Apple, 1986).

Beyond the insulting lack of autonomy, the condition for which teachers most frequently demand improvements is monetary compensation for their labor.  Sizer (1992) contends that [w]e pay people what we think they deserve.  Salary policies are more complicated than that, of course, but money is clearly an expression of our priorities (p. 183).  Bok (1993) concurs.  The amounts people are paid... reflect our deepest values, motivations, and priorities.  For better or for worse, we can often learn more about what matters in this country by observing what we are willing to pay for than by studying the messages that come to us from pulpits and campaign husting, lecture halls and editorial pages (p. 5, cited in Kaufman, et al., 1997, p. 124).

Yet school boards often hold salary increases under the inflation rate.  Sizer (1992) reports that one estimate found a 13% drop in drop in teachers' real salaries from 1970 to 1980, and a 16% real reduction in the compensation for independent school teachers.  In the 1980's, enrollments dropped from a high of 46 million children to 39 million after the baby boom generation had passed through the schools.  Bok (1993) reports that as a result, [r]ather than aggressively recruiting the best teachers, schools boards capitalized on the surplus of applicants to allow salaries to fall.  During the 1970's, average earnings dropped by almost 25% in real dollars, and starting salaries fell even further (p. 58, cited in Kaufman, et al., 1997, p. 124).

Furthermore, the longer teachers are in the profession, the wider the gap between their salaries and those of other white-collar workers (Spencer, 1986).  In 1993 the starting salary for a college graduate in education was 15.3% below the average for beginning graduates in all other fields (NCES, 1997).

Society is dismayed at teachers' widespread dissatisfaction when it manifests in the form of strikes.  They are expected to get by on the intrinsic rewards of helping others, yet they have no means beyond the most base methods of making their conditions known.  The financial matters which directly affect teachers are decided out of their view, in school board-union negotiations, state legislation, and federal grant committees, where teachers have no say (Sizer, 1992).

The accumulation of these factors devalue the public's perception of teaching.  Sizer (1992) reminds us how society underrates it's teachers.  We say, 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.'  The parent confesses at a bar after work, 'Our son David is just temporarily a school teacher, of course....  He's earning the money he'll need for law school (p. 3).

Spencer (1986) states that, as a result of the profession's quasi-professional status, few good students want to enter teaching and experienced teachers are extremely dissatisfied (p. 187).  More than one third of teachers report being dissatisfied with teaching and more than one half would not choose to enter teaching again according to one study (Feistritzer, 1983).  The fact that districts which offer comparatively higher salaries retain teachers longer than districts offering lower wages (Murnane, et al., 1991) indicates that this retreat from teaching is at least in part economically motivated.  Sizer (1992) contends that improving American secondary education absolutely depends on improving the conditions of work and the respect for teachers.

Males as Role Models

Paradise and Wall (1986) describe how schools systematically prevent boys from merging schooling with their personal identity because the methods and motives of schooling are feminine (as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 38).  The formation of boys attitudes in environment where a majority of female teachers are subordinate to an overwhelmingly masculine administration may bias students to view teaching as women's work and that women are ruled by men since principals are predominately male.  In part what is needed are males who model teaching as a profession appropriate for boys.

Critical to the definition of an effective teacher is the ability to be a role model of a successful individual.  Lack of male role models would indicate that children not only may lack a strong male presence in their lives, but they may also learn that being a school teacher is the proper accomplishment for a female, but not a male (Hechtman and Rosenthal, 1991, as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 38).  Furthermore, Mancus (1992) reports that male absence tends to be self-perpetuating as suggested by research findings showing that male teachers more than female teachers influence boys' views on teaching as a profession (as reported in Montecinos and Nielsen, 1997, p. 49).

DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) put out the call that, more than just as models of masculine teachers, males are needed in education to fulfill roles not being supplied for children, especially boys (p. 42).  In a survey by Wood and Hoag (1993) elementary school principals overwhelmingly responded that more males should be encouraged to enter the field, given the absence of male role models for children growing up in single-parent homes headed by women and the need for more males who value academics as well as athletics (as reported in Montecinos and Nielsen, 1997, p. 48).

Emerging evidence indicates that boys and girls benefit from varied instructional settings because of differences in learning preferences (Bem, 1993).  A more balanced experience with male and female role models may change children's perceptions of appropriate vocations.  As boys and girls see more male teachers in classrooms, they are likely to perceive teaching as equally important to both genders (as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 45).

A balanced participation of male and female teachers may lead to curricular activities and classroom atmospheres that enrich the lives of both girls and boys in schooling.  The induction of more males in elementary education may not so much transform teaching as create a more balanced education for children (DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 39).

Montecinos and Nielsen (1997) advise that teacher education programs must make efforts to recruit and retain members from this underrepresented group (p. 49) and call for strategies to retain men as classroom teachers at rates comparable to women teachers (p. 53).  They add, based on a recent figures from the NCES (1992), that men should be considered a group to be targeted in current efforts toward having a teaching force representing the social diversity of larger society (p. 48).


My Research Perspective

Given that this I share at least two inherent characteristics with the participants of this study (namely that I am both a male and a teacher), I recognize that I not only am a investigator here, but also a potential participant in this study.  While I cannot volunteer myself as a participant in my own research, I have employed my history as an instrument for detecting recurring themes during the analysis of my data.  The fact these findings hold a more personal interest for me than for another investigator provided me with a greater sensitivity to the search for meaningful answers.

Participant selection

Participants were experienced male secondary teachers who were not involved in coaching.  The rationale for specifically excluding teachers who coach from this study was to eliminate the bias that males in the profession are there, not to teach, but to coach.  Whether fairly or not, coaches were excluded so as to examine only those males who fit a profile more typical of an individual who might go into other areas of education such as administration, or teaching at the elementary or university level.  Dedication to their secondary roles as coaches perhaps prevents some teachers from progressing to other areas of education.

Design and rationale

Semi-structured interviews were conducted individually with each of the participants.  Interviews attempted to examine patterns of influence which led these teachers to their present profession.  Subsequently participants were asked about deterrents from their moving into other areas of education, particularly teaching at the primary or university level, or administration.

Although surveys would have reached a larger population and, therefore, would have allowed greater generalizability of findings, they would not have provided the rich, meaningful answers which interviewing can supply.


Interviews were based on a set of primarily open-ended questions which explored participants' histories where relevant to their decision to enter into a career in teaching.  Further questions examined why these participants chose not to enter into more gender stratified areas in education such as administration of teaching at either the primary or university level.

Data Collection and Analysis

Interviews were recorded on tape, then transcribed on computer.  They were examined for common, recurring themes.  Due to the relevance of these questions to the principal investigator's own life, particular attention was paid to themes which were common between the principal investigator and the participants.  Strands of analysis were identified and examined alongside previous literature.


Profiles of Participants

Participants were selected from two separate schools, four from each.  One school was a smaller university laboratory school, the other was a relatively large rural high school.  Participants taught a number of different subjects at the secondary level.  Five of the participants held at least a master's degree; one held a doctorate.  All had several years of experience, the maximum being 36 years.  The minimum amount of experience at the high school level was two years, although this particular participant performed duties instructing for a number of years in his previous job in industry.  The next-to-least amount of experienced possessed by a participant was six years.  In spite of the fact that the schools from which participants were recruited were very different in size, professional atmosphere, and student population, responses supplied by displayed remarkable similarity.

Preprofessional Experiences With Teaching

Although a number of participants believed they were innately meant to become teachers, preprofessional experiences were frequently cited as major influences.  Some performed instructional duties in the military or in previous jobs in industry and found these roles enjoyable.  Participants also recalled early experiences, some from as far back as junior high, working at camps, working as a teacher's aide, or guiding extra-curricular activities such as clubs.  More than half mentioned tutoring at some time in their preprofessional experience.  Engaging in activities which somehow mirrored a facet of teaching seemed to play a defining role in regarding the profession as a viable option.

However, participants reactions to their own experience as student teachers varied.  One commented, I knew as soon as I walked in this was for me.  Another reported conflicts with a university supervisor.  Still another found the experience miserable, and remarked that the notion of training teachers through student teaching was unrealistic.  He explained, I'm not so sure that it's possible to prepare them for what they face. I don't think it's necessarily the fault of the program, perhaps it's a problem with the concept of trying to prepare people for an art as though it's a skill.

Five of the participants worked in other professions before going into teaching.  Of the remaining three, two trained in other areas besides education.  Only one had studied education from the time of entry into college.

Effects of Role Models and Family

The second most commonly cited reason to enter education (the first being commitment to children) among both males and females in Neilsen and Montecinos' (1997) study was the desire to follow in the footsteps of exemplary teachers the participants encountered as students.  Here, too, role models were identified as major influences among participants.  However, the variety of role models listed was surprising.

One participant described an older female teacher who was a strong and efficient disciplinarian, commented, I thought a lot about how she was and how she dealt with kids and I liked it.  I always felt very happy with her, very good with her.  She was always very competent, very kind and had very high standards and I thought, 'Hey, I'd like to do that.'

Another participant described a junior high teacher particularly fun to be around who was on the same level as his students.  Still another described a college teacher who didn't have an elaborate plan.  In fact, he walked in with a book, opened it up, got his piece of chalk, and just started talking.  This teacher particularly impressed the participant with his natural ability to get information across.

The majority of participants reported a number of teachers in their extended family; only one participant was the "first of his line."  Still, the influence of family was found to be tremendous, to both a positive and negative effect respective to the case.

Although parents tend to be largely unsupportive of their male offspring entering elementary education (DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997), participants here told mixed stories.  Roughly half reported that their parents were, in fact, supportive from the time of their son's decision, often because they recognized an aptitude early on.

Others describe the opposite experience. [M]y father was appalled.  He said, you can't make a living teaching.  I said, that's my problem, not yours, Dad.  Another reported that his family didn't think teaching was a good profession.  There's no respect and it isn't lucrative.  And they're absolutely right about their objections, but we kind of went into it... open-eyed, so we weren't surprised by those things.

Many commented that their families felt that they were wasting their lives because I could be doing something more significant.  When asked how this negativity might be refuted one participant commented, I don't think it's possible to explain why to someone who doesn't value it why it's so valuable.  My parents always thought I should be a college professor.  They thought that if I wanted to be an academic, that's certainly a much more status filled profession....  Another participant touched on many components of the profession that lead to parental disapproval:

They didn't like the idea of teaching.  It sounds arrogant to say this, but they felt I was smarter than that....  My parents didn't like it because I was spending so much time teaching.  ...[They] never realized how much work a teacher got.  Then I would tell them what some of my kids would do [and].... they'd say, I can't believe you put up with that stuff.  I'd go find a job doing something else.  So, no, they haven't been real supportive.  They've accepted it, but they still want me to do something else....  They don't think I get paid enough for what I do and they think there's too much violence.
One participant whose parents were less supportive in the beginning said his parents became more accepting when they saw their son's success within the profession and happiness with his career decision.  He related, I think it took him a good five or six years after I started teaching, after I got out of college and I was teaching in a small, rural parish and I was elected president of the teachers' association of their parish that he thought, 'Well, maybe you're doing okay.  People seem to like what you're doing maybe that's okay.'  He was happy with it after that point.

Why Not Administration?

For the most part participants reported very little interest in moving on to administration in spite of or perhaps because of experience with administrative duties.  Of the participants, three considered administration early in their teaching career, but decided against.  The remaining aspirant was a relatively new teacher who had not had much experience with administrative duties.

Deterrents from administration most frequently cited were the nature of the duties, the high level of responsibility, and the hours.  In fact, nearly all participants referred to the phenomenal amount of time principals are required to devote to their school each day as a major factor in their lack of want for the position.  Comments included:

I have never met a happy principal....  Everybody says, well, it's a lot better money.  Yeah,...  but ...the principal's the first one here and the last one gone.  He's at every sporting event.  I screw up, I might get in trouble, but so does he.  It's not worth it.

I think administrators spend 20 hours a day being administrators.  They're at night functions, weekend functions.  They don't have a lot of home life and home life is very important to me.

I don't know if I wouldn't enjoy it so much as there are a lot of other added responsibilities a lot of other headaches that go into the job, a lot more time that goes into it.  If you look at some principals and how they are involved with their school from 6:30 in the morning till 8 o'clock at night, 3 or 4 days a week... that's something I didn't want to spend time with.

There's a ton of lawsuits against them.  We're having tryouts right now....  Somebody's always got a problem that their son or daughter didn't get picked for something, so they'll bring a lawsuit against them.  There's just too many headaches.  It's not worth it.
I'd rather be with the kids for one thing.  Also, I think the hassle's too much.  I think most people go into that mainly because there's more money in that....  Later on as you get older you start to think more of your time and your sanity than the money (laughs).
One participant echoed this last sentiment, stating that he was a teacher first and administration was too far removed from that role.  That job to me has nothing to do with teaching.  That is not a teaching role.  To me an administrator ought to by law be required to teach at least one class of kids to remember what he's here for.

Males in other studies report being "tracked" into areas within their profession considered more legitimate for men.  Often this form discrimination paradoxically leads to better pay and more prestige (Williams, 1992).  An example of this was supplied by a participant who told of how he had been asked to literally be the token male on a committee, then added, I hope there was more to it than that.  This lead to him directly to getting his master's degree and, consequently, better pay.  He commented, I don't know whether it's because I'm good at it or because I don't complain about it.

Because of their point of entry into the field as well as other factors tied to gender, male teachers all too often do not encounter the same barriers to advancement as their female coworkers (Spender, 1982).  In spite of their own ambitions males teachers frequently face invisible pressure to move up in their profession; they must work just to stay in place due to opportunities structured into the occupation (Williams, 1992, as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 42).

One participant was aware he had been provided more than his share of opportunities throughout his career.  I don't know whether they're pushing me or whatever, but last year I was on the discipline committee to create a code of conduct which we have in place this year, I'm on the discipline review committee now, I'm on the SACC's Southern Association of Colleges....

Another participant was turned off of the idea of administration because for so long in his career he had been guided toward it.  [M]aybe because so many people have tried to put me in a box.  Any male who goes into education is automatically looked on as administrative material somewhere down the line going to see if that person wants to do administration.  I was receiving a lot of pressure.  In fact... two assistant principals had been working on me for about a year and a half trying to get me into going back [to college] and being certified for administration.

Williams' (1992) study found that there is a preference for hiring men in underrepresented occupations.  Yet even in the roughly equal distribution at the secondary level, gender mattered.  One older participant believed that he had been granted preferential treatment in being hired.

[T]here were two other young ladies who had applied that were just coming out of their student teaching.  They had their certification.  I didn't have mine....  I think that I got the job because I was a guy and because of my age.  Both were major factors....  [T]he kids had substitutes for a month before they hired me.  I think they hired me mainly because [of] problems with behavior.  They felt that just the fact that I was male and I was much older than any of the others that that would give me an edge on controlling the students.
Why Not Elementary?
Although participants frequently reported a love of or a natural ability to work with children, they were very selective about which ages they believed they would enjoy teaching.  Most participants put a solid boundary below which they stated they would either not be comfortable with or simply could not teach.
Seventh grade I liked a whole lot; they were a lot of fun to work with.  I think even younger, even sixth grade would be an age I wouldn't want to deal with.
I could teach eighth graders.  I wouldn't find it very satisfying, but I don't think I could teach any other grade.
 Many cited a passion for their subject matter as a main reason for this belief, but all explained in one way or another that they lacked the nurturing qualities that they believed they were expected to have.
I'm not as touchy-feely as you need for an elementary teacher....
[I]n the 6th grade they're still making a transition from elementary to middle school and they need a lot more "warm fuzzies," as I call it.  In the seventh grade they don't have to have those quite as often.  I don't have to worry about hurting someone's feelings because I'm not as sensitive as I need to be....
Their needs are more than I want to deal with....  I just think there are too many needs that have to be filled that I'm not prepared to fill or fulfill.
Probably at that point I wasn't as comfortable working with smaller kids....  I still wouldn't consider it now, probably because I don't know that I could be the nurturing type person they seem to need at that age.
 A few participants admitted to considering teaching at the elementary level, but their path was already set toward the secondary.
The thought has occurred to me... but getting into it?  I don't know why, I guess it was quicker and easier for me to get into secondary because... I already had all my math and all my physics [credits], I just had to go back to get certification.
[A]t the time when I was in college I didn't [consider elementary], but I did after I started teaching.  I thought maybe I should go back and teach at a lower level because... on that level you have a chance to mold and change some attitudes.  I wished I would have went down there.  I think I really could have... taught them some things because their mind is not made up and you can mold them....
Participants recognized that their duties would have been much more diverse had they chosen to pursue careers as elementary teachers.  One commented that he lacked the intelligence for the job.  It's just that I don't think that I could impart that wisdom to them, that knowledge to them and I'm afraid that they would end up suffering.  Another explained:
The reason why I didn't teach elementary... was because there's just so much stuff you have to have to for it.  I'm not musically inclined and I'm not great at writing....  Also, it's hard to get down to that level.  That's hard for me.  In fact, sometimes I talk over the kids in here's head.
DeCorse and Vogtle's (1997) research on elementary student teachers uncovered some concern over images of male teachers presented by the media's in connection with cases of child abuse and sexual harassment.  Perhaps due to the unsavory nature of the subject only one participant broached the subject.  He expressed a fear of being presumed a pedophile for entering the profession: [I]t's a good way to be investigated for a guy.

Williams (1992) found that men are very distressed by the negative stereotypes associated with males in teaching.  Their self-esteem is undermined and they second guess their motivations for entering the profession.  Men who might otherwise show an aptitude or interest in teaching (particularly at the elementary level) are dissuaded from pursuing what might they might otherwise find a rewarding career.

Why Not the University?

Considering the love of a subject area expressed by some participants, it might be logical to conclude that teaching at the university level would be compatible with their interests.  However, participants reported this was definitely not the case for several of reasons.

Finding the time to go back to school for additional degrees was one obstacle to teaching at the university level was reported occasionally, (Part of the problem with teaching college... is the pressure to get your master's....  I mean here there's pressure too, but not as great) as was pay (I had a chance to go to the university level once when I was working on my master's degree, but... I didn't want to take a cut in pay just to say I was at a university), however, simply leaving a much-loved profession was more often expressed.  One participant related:

I thought about it....  I sat down and I really considered what I had to do at the college level and what I was doing at the high school level and the one thing that really keeps me at the high school level is the extracurricular activities. Being a sponsor of a club... those things are the things that I wouldn't be able to do at college....  Being able to do some of those things keeps me feeling good about what I'm doing and I know that I'm helping the kids in the classroom, but I'm also helping the kids outside of the classroom.  I don't think at the college level I'd have that same opportunity.
Another difference between high school and college which was frequently reported was the belief that students were much more malleable because of their younger age.
I felt like I could make more of a difference to someone who was at an impressionable age.

[T]he very things that give meaning to teaching to me I wouldn't get it as a college professor.  College kids are certainly much more worldly and cynical about their education.... [T]hey're harder to reach.

Of Salaries and Summers

 Williams (1992) found that the low pay in female dominated occupations was a deterrent to men.  While the majority of participants here reported dissatisfaction with salary to some degree, a few had come to terms with it on some level.  One teacher stated, I wasn't thrilled with the prospects, but I came into this with my eyes open.  I knew I wasn't going to get rich teaching.  Others reported that monetary compensation would have been nice, but the profession and what it involves was a more significant factor in their decision.
[T]he dream of being a teacher that was more important than actually what I would earn.

Money's not an incentive for me.  The incentive for me teaching is seeing a difference in my kids and helping my kids get through their daily lives.

Teaching does what I need it to do.  It pays my bills and we live comfortably, so it's okay.

This agrees with Gerson's (1993) assertion that in the past decade, males have begun choosing careers stressing service to society and personal satisfaction over extrinsic rewards such as money and prestige.  Some men have become disillusioned with traditional male professions and attracted to less lucrative but more personally satisfying lines of work (as reported in DeCorse and Vogtle, 1997, p. 41).  One participant commented, I feel that I still have the same value as if I was an engineer or if I'm an educator or if I was governor of the state... I would have the same value.

However, many resented the fact that their low salary is rationalized with the hours and summers off, which one participant described as a rip-off.  Surprisingly, one teacher took a stand more typical of administration: I work nine months a year.  I have every holiday off.  I have almost a month for Christmas, two weeks for Thanksgiving,... Easter, spring break.  So if you consider the nine months I'm working that's not a bad salary.

The shorter hours and summers off were definitely an incentive to the profession for most.  Participants' reasons ranged enjoying the summers for leisure (There were some guys who were teachers who I knew extremely well who taught me in junior high and high school.  I loved the things those guys would do during the summer.  They would fish, they would go on trips.  I thought, man, I would like to be like that) to utilizing the time for professional development and family (The nice thing about the summers off is that it lets me go to school... and it lets me spend time with my kids... [and] see my wife).

Several participants reported they enjoyed the profession because of the "set hours," some adding that this was a major incentive to the profession.  Only one participant described the time as merely a fringe benefit, adding that, ...the fact is, unless you're really good at organizing stuff, you're not really off at three o'clock in the afternoon.

When asked about retirement or moving on to other careers there was a sharp division among participants.  One stated that he would not retire until it's not fun anymore.  Another commented, I could see myself doing this possibly 20 years. Others clearly considered other options.  One reported biding [his] time and waiting as opportunities present themselves, although he also commented that he wasn't sure that he could handle being in an office.  However, none of the participants made any clear commitment to a point of departure from the profession.

Suggestions to Recruit More Males

When asked for ways more males might be attracted to teaching participants unanimously referred to the low salary.  One participant recognized that it was a sexist assumption, but concluded that males are more often expected to assume the breadwinner role.  Another participant echoed this sentiment: [M]ost people when they look at teachers they see it's females, it's secondary income, so when they strike (which I would never do personally) a lot of people think it's no big deal because it's a second income, they can still live off the husband's income....

The issue of advancement was another related factor discussed.  Participants realized that the only path to advancement is to leave the classroom.  One participant commented, There's no advancement.  You start as a teacher and where you stand is either the top or the bottom of the profession.  You're not going to move as a teacher unless you want to be a college professor.  Another expanded on that point. [U]nless you're in a very large school system where there's a lot of movement of personnel, there's not a lot of opportunity for advancement in small school systems, you get to be a classroom teacher and you sort of stay there for the rest of your life unless you move away somewhere else.  [In] the larger systems... there's a bigger turnover of personnel... and more advancement for people to get on and do administration, if that's something they want to do.  But unless you go on to administration you don't earn that much money.  I mean, you just rely on state increases in pay and that kind of thing.  That hurts the profession a whole lot.

One participant explained that, Any time you've got a profession where you can find anywhere from 10 to 30% of the workforce not certified to be teaching the classes they're teaching, then you're sending a message that you probably have a shortage of qualified teachers and the only reason for that is the salaries.  He continued that the administrators were using the wrong approach by withholding raises until scores increase.  The way to get better scores and better teachers in the schools is to make the jobs competitive.

Another participant summarized the issues: Power, money, and the possibility of advancement motivates a lot of men.  None of those things are present in this profession.  Give us more money, give us control of our classes, and some way in which to increase our influence on our environment.  He added, [T]eachers are treated like dirt and they have almost no input and autonomy over what they do in the classroom....

Yet, in spite of all they have themselves experienced in the profession, the majority of participants reported that they would recommend that their children go for it if they had any interest at all in education, some very enthusiastically.  Yet, many who had children old enough to consider teaching as a career found that they had not.  On participant reported that his daughter perhaps choose another area because she saw her parents (both teachers) work so hard at what they did.  Though it was a labor of love, the fact that, even with two parents working, teachers bring home so little for their efforts, may have dissuaded the child early on from seriously considering teaching as a worthy occupation.

One participant supplied the admonition to his offspring that, should they consider teaching, they should be prepared to supplement [their] income.  He reported knowing a fair number of teachers with have second jobs.  They get off in the afternoon then go work at a convenience store or they go work at a fried chicken place or shoe store at the mall....

One participant pointed out that, while money (or the lack thereof) may be an deterrent, teaching is best taught by people who want to be teachers.  He explained, A lot of people say they aren't going to go [into education] because there's not enough money in it, but at the same time... I think it's something that you need to want to do on your own.



Preprofessional experiences with activities which in some manner resembled teaching played an role in influencing participants to consider a career in education as did role models who were teachers at one level or another.  Some participants found that their families were supportive.  Those whose parents were less supportive at the start became more accepting after several years in the profession.

It is common for males to encounter a glass escalator toward advancement among particularly female-dominated occupations (Williams, 1992).  Male teachers interviewed here encountered pressure to take on administrative duties.  However, long hours, excessive responsibilities, and the nature of the duties were major deterrents cited for not pursuing administrative positions.
 Because males are almost always pushed "up," by the glass escalator, rarely does one find influence for teachers at higher levels to move "down" to elementary.  Participants here reported no pressure to consider teaching at the elementary level and, in fact, felt that they were ill-equipped to deal with the emotional needs of younger students.

Although participants attributed a personal love of their subject matter as a main reason for teaching at the secondary level, they did not wish to teach at the college level.  This was attributed to a lack of malleability in that age group that participants claimed to enjoy working with in their students at the high school level.

Participants cited summers and shorter hours as an incentive (or as a fringe benefit at the very least) to enter the profession, but resented the fact that their poor salary was rationalized by this fact.  Participants also wished for more influence, autonomy, and room for advancement in the profession.

Participants also stated that increasing these factors would make the profession more competitive and attractive to males who wished to support a family.


Due to the frequency and enthusiasm with which preprofessional experiences were cited by participants, it would be advisable for teachers at all level to examine utilizing instructional strategies which require their students to take a more assertive role in the classroom.  In giving students a more direct course in instructional duties, teachers may provide opportunities for students to discover whether they possess this innate capacity to instruct as well.

The variety of role models cited by participants implies that teachers of either gender or any multitude of teaching styles may provide the proper influence for male (and perhaps female) students.  Strong role models seemed to counter the negative effect of parents' attempts to dissuade their sons from considering a career in education.  This researcher wonders, how many potential male teachers never surmount this obstacle to reach the ultimate support these teachers received from their families?  Teacher preparation programs might be wise to address this facet so commonly encountered in male teachers' experience.  Support from the academic community might counter the rejection males who enter teaching feel by society as a whole.

Schmuck (1981) and Gilbertson (1981) found that principals typically recruit male teachers in discussions about administrative problems more often than women teachers.  This interaction frequently leads to opportunities for advancement out of the classroom for males, while female teachers are kept out of the loop (Lee, et al., 1993).  Given the reluctance of the participants in this study to advance to administration, a constructive approach for males might be to recommend a female colleague more receptive to administrative duties, thereby circumventing the patterns of noninteraction that stratify advancement by gender.

Working with malleable young minds was one of the reasons participants cited choosing to teach at the high school level rather than working with college students.  It would be reasonable to suspect that participants would therefore enjoy teaching at the elementary level where the most impressionable students are.  The two main reasons given for this aversion, that participants enjoyed their subject area and lacked nurturant qualities, are perhaps rationalizations developed through pressure from society to stay out of the most feminine areas of education.  It is probable that these males might have been just as well suited to and happy with teaching younger students had they not been steered toward an area of the profession where apparently a compromise is made.

Another possibility is that secondary teaching is more than merely a midpoint on a spectrum of gender stratified occupations.  The fact that the population of teachers at this level is composed roughly equally of men and women is perhaps less due to the fact that secondary teaching lies between two biased areas and is a transition between them and is perhaps more due to the underlying characteristics of the students' teachers.  Secondary education is a unique area where teachers find the best of both worlds in education: their students are still impressionable, yet can handle more challenging material than younger grades might.

Regardless of the level of teaching, the low salary lack of prestige men never give partake of opportunities to experience teaching firsthand, so many males who might have an aptitude for teaching are steered away.  If the economic incentives were there, men could be more committed men to their roles as teachers and perhaps would not be lost as often to the lure of administration or teaching at the college level.

One participant provided a suggestion which was more than a little intriguing.  Retirees from the military and industry often possess all the personal characteristics administrators admire in their best instructors: organization, a good sense of discipline and motivational strategies, experience in training and instructing, experience with children (their own), and valid and authentic knowledge of the demands of the job market.  Additionally, the deterrent of the profession's low pay is offset by the supplement of a pension from a previous job or branch of service.

Regarding this population as temporary employees would be imprudent.  Given the throng of teachers who leave in their first few years in the profession, nearly every teacher in the field should be viewed as "temporary."  Researchers agree that more men are needed in education at all levels.  DeCorse and Vogtle (1997) state that education must make a concerted effort to induct more males (p. 44).  This untapped population brings a wisdom and experience to the classroom unknown by the fresh-out-of-college, twenty-something teacher.  These individuals could be a valuable asset to the classroom and may help redefine the profession in unimagined ways.


The investigator presents the following recommendations:

1. Future studies should be conducted with a larger population, drawn from a wider geographic area to give these findings a more factual base on which to draw generalizations.

2. A parallel study using a similar approach with female participants to determine whether the data recorded herein reflect a male experience exclusively or whether these findings are common to both male and female secondary teachers.

3. Future studies should be conducted using other instruments so results are not constrained to the questions which guided these interviews.

4. Future studies should be conducted to help design an effective recruitment program to increase the number of both qualified men and women at all levels of education.

5. Results of this study may be examined in relation to present teacher education programs at both the primary and secondary level as well as administrator preparation programs to determine if the curricula or other factors at the university level contribute to the gender stratification apparent in so many areas of education.

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Appendix A: Participant Consent Form
Title of Study: Why do males enter the teaching profession?
Project Director: Dr. James Wandersee
Principal Investigator:Alexplorer
phone: [deleted; no longer valid]
email: [deleted; no longer valid]

Purpose of Research:
To explore the life decisions and personal characteristics which led to males' entry into the teaching profession.

Procedures of the research:
Interviews concerning motivations for entering the field of education.

Potential risks and Protection of Confidentiality:
Invasion of privacy is very subjective.  What some may construe as a casual question can be very upsetting to others.  As a researcher my goal is to accurately answer my questions to the greatest extent possible, therefore my investigation may impose on your privacy.  As a subject in a research project you have the right to set up any barriers to what you may regard as invasive.  This includes limiting questions and explorations into areas you consider too private in nature.  Please feel free to stop me at any time.  Your name will not be used in the publication of this study.  Your participation is entirely voluntary and you may withdraw consent and terminate participation at any time without consequence.

Potential benefits:
A significant benefit is that, because you were selected as a subject, the results of this research will be relevant to you and your field.  The information you provide in this research will be included with information from subjects similar to you in some ways.  I believe that the answers uncovered by this research will be very interesting to you, and you are encouraged to examine them with me as they are revealed.

 "I have been fully informed of the above described procedure with its possible benefits and risks and I give my permission for my participation in this study."

Signature:  ________________________________

Appendix B: Interview questions

I Personal questions:

II What led the participant into teaching: III What kept the participant out of other areas: IV Other questions:
All contents copyright Alexplorer.
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