Discussing the prospect of a new hire in our school, my directress sipped water from her brightly colored bottle after playfully choking on her response, hearing that I suggested a male candidate should not be ruled out in choosing a new teacher. She has always been the first and final say on the hire even though I participate here and there especially in dropping a list of skills that I think are necessary for the new class suffering a teacher- vacuum.
Then I have come to remember that on my first formal teaching position at a kindergarten in Vietnam 6 years ago, the roster has always been all female. In fact, even the security personnel, helpers, nannies are female (there’s the cook, by the way).
I didn’t wish to be discriminating as I have had experience hiring a male when I was teaching in China over a year ago which worked beautifully (interestingly I chose a male only once), but after learning about the interpersonal skills needed in preschool teaching, it is starting to make sense now. After all, Lilian Katz in 1989 said that mothering and teaching very young learners are distinct, and in my experience, male teachers are very good in making this firm distinction. But the evidence pointing to the need for fostering tender attachment (within the scope of professional decorum) (Scarlett, 1998), I believe, is more overwhelming than the need for firmness and gentle authority. The need is just more deep-seated and innate. The ability to establish the secure attachment is so strong a teacher trait that caregivers openly appreciate it, and parents put in so much value. And touch… let’s not even go there.
Does it really take female teaching sensibilities to perform this job? Or are we being sexist? I surely don’t want to be discounted from being a suitable candidate by virtue of my gender, I have always believed.
Although in light of all these, I refuse to make gender distinctions when it comes to competence, I cannot help myself from seeing females as better candidates (not better teachers, take note) overall to fill the jigsaw shape that parents and maybe students as well are seeking to fulfill. Teaching preschool now makes me feel like only the very distinct form of the female kind of instruction can satisfy the nurturing, caring, loving needs of students in this developmental stage. There might be little difference in ability and skill but maybe, there is an intrinsic one in personalities influenced by gender.
Scarlett, W. G., Ponte, I. C., & Singh, J. P. (2009). Building positive teacher – student relationships (Chapter 3). In Approaches to behavior and classroom management. SAGE Publications. Retreived from http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/26067_3.pdf