Teachers have been a reappearing theme in my research, so I thought – as the end of another academic year wraps up – I would dedicate this month’s newsletter to teachers.
Last month I published my first article in Scary Mommy. It details a situation that we went through in our family, and I give 100% credit to my son’s teacher who – I believe – handled the situation perfectly. She could have shrugged it off, assumed the kids would work it out and/or tell my son to buck up. But she didn’t – she stepped in, made a big deal out of a gendered comment, and turned a sad incident into a teachable moment.
I’ve always had a soft spot for educators. My mom is a retired art teacher, and I was surrounded by her teacher-friends growing up. (Still am, in many ways!) Teaching requires a level of patience that I do not myself possess, and I have huge respect for people who do. So I was excited to see a common link between equal partners and teachers while conducting research. Let me go back a step and explain…
Most of you know that at the heart of my book Equal Partners is detailed information from 40 interviews I did with men who, in my definition, live as “equal partners” in their home. Not men who “help” their partner from time to time, but men who intentionally work against gender norms to do half the physical and cognitive tasks in their household. For ease, I call these guys the EP40.
I didn’t mention this fact in my chapters, but it is worth noting that of those forty men, ten work in education; I interviewed an elementary school teacher, a middle-school teacher, a special-ed teacher, a few high school teachers, a few men in higher education and a few coaches. Education was the most common sector of the EP40.
It was becoming such a popular job category that when I was on interview #29, and met yet another teacher, I decided to raise the issue. I was speaking to a man I’ll call Jack, who lives in Vermont with his partner and two kids. I told Jack that I was meeting many men who worked in education, and asked him what he thought about it; what is it about male teachers that makes them likely to be equal partners in the home? Jack explained that in his mind, it is actually the other way around. He told me, “I think men who are drawn to education are pretty introspective. We’re probably already comfortable with alternative masculinities, since we were drawn to a career that is still really coded for women. I think male teachers are already comfortable going against the gender grain.”
Today I raise my coffee cup to teachers and coaches; to all those who figured out how to pivot to virtual learning, and who showed up in the classroom despite the risks of infection themselves. I thank the teachers who patiently and lovingly reminded my kids over and over (and over and over) to keep their mask on, socially distance, and sanitize. Thank you!
One side benefit of virtual learning (and let’s be honest, there aren’t many) is that I been more involved with my kids’ learning than ever before. While printing off a week’s worth of worksheets on bleary-eyed Monday morning, I was thrilled to see that Ontario integrated Pride Month into their first grade curriculum. One of Jed’s words of the week was PRIDE, which was accompanied with a discussion of Pride Month and this color-by-number. Happy Pride!
I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day!
I’m excited to be doing a series of mini-articles this summer called Dads Who Care for an organization called Fathering Together. I think it is important to normalize men in caregiving roles; share their stories and fathering tips. (After all, many women’s magazines have done this for years.)
If you identify as a dad, you can become a member and access Fathering Together’s Facebook page and all their other member benefits. (I cannot.) But thankfully my articles are on the public website if you want to check them out. I interviewed the organization’s founders, Brian Anderson and Chris Lewis for weeks one and two. Eight more member/dads will comprise the next eight weeks. There’s a stereotype that women like to talk about their partners and kids – but I don’t think men are any different. I find every conversation interesting and insightful. I also appreciated the opportunity to speak to divorced and single dads, which was new – since all my book interviews focused on the theme of partnership.
Not surprisingly, a few of the Fathering Together interviews have also included men who work in education, including a dads who home schools and a dad who works in higher-education.
If you like what you read, you’re welcome to pass this along to the teacher in your life. See you next month - hope everyone is off to a great summer.