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Being a teacher is already a challenging job, but the added dimension of being a male teacher can make it tougher for recruits to the education field.

While teaching was once considered a female-dominated profession, there are now plenty of men entering the profession, enticed by the prospect of making a difference in kids’ lives and taking a few months off work in the summer. While they may struggle to get established in the education field, most men who choose to be teachers find it rewarding and fun to work with children and help educate them and shape their future.

Men thinking of entering the education field often wonder what awaits them and how to prepare for their first real teaching job. While it can be different based on the grade level, subject, and type of school, some of the daily realities of being a male teacher might include the following:

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Confronting outdated stereotypes in reality

In the past, teaching may have been viewed as a woman’s profession, which led to a disparity in how many incoming teachers of each gender exist. Like nursing, the teaching field has opened up more over the years, and many of the recruits to the profession are now male. But while change is happening now, the disparity in the number of working male teachers still exists, and it can be shockingly high in some states. For example, studies have shown that only around a quarter of the teachers in California are male. As a result, male teachers looking for help and support online or in the local community may be flooded with resources geared toward women. In some social circles, men becoming teachers may be confronted with derision due to the perception that teaching is a woman’s field. The best way to deal with these silly stereotypes is often to continue teaching and making a difference in people’s perceptions, one person at a time, through your work and reputation.

Helping children with no father figure

For small children with no father in the home, especially boys, a male teacher can be a positive role model that can teach important emotional coping skills and the curriculum. Children who grow up in the system or a single-parent home may not have had a regular male presence in their lives before. This can be a harsh reality for teachers who don’t yet have kids of their own and aren’t sure how to act as a father figure or set a positive example. Teachers might bond personally with students over shared passions like music or sports, leading to a connection that can last beyond the school year. This connection can help the student and encourage them to continue attending school through times of turmoil at home. It can also make teaching more rewarding for the teacher to see students flourishing.

Teaching often means working hard for little pay

The economic reality is not limited to male teachers by any means. Teachers all across the nation struggle with low wages, depending on the school district and neighborhood. Some school districts starting wages are quite low but include good health and retirement benefits. In impoverished districts, teachers may have to pitch in to supplement the supplies kids bring or provide snacks for hungry kids throughout the day. Underpaid educators may have to take on extra work in the summer months to make ends meet.

Finding support from other teachers

It can be hard for male teachers to find other males to commiserate with and get tips from, but this kind of bonding is key. The best advice and pointers come from practical experience, so new teachers can benefit from a mentor who has already gained some years in the profession. There are unique problems facing males in the profession, including how to handle the pressure of being a male role model and father figure to students, what to wear to work, and how to handle issues that may crop up with female students in a sensitive way.

Working as a male teacher can be difficult, and it may not be the right work for everyone. However, those with the right personality, patience, and dedication can find it a rewarding long-term career. Setting reasonable expectations before entering the field is one good way for prospective male teachers to understand what awaits.