More hassle for male teachers?

// 30 December 2008

The Independent published an article yesterday claiming that male teachers are more likely to be subjected to aggressive student behaviour than their female colleagues. This generalisation is based on the findings of a report released by the University of Warwick, which was commissioned by the National Union of Teachers (NUT):

The university poll of 1,500 teachers revealed that 80 per cent of male teachers face pupils answering them back every week compared with 70.8 per cent of female teachers.

More pupils are likely to answer male teachers back in the classroom and disrupt their lessons. Female teachers report a drop in rowdy behaviour, though they are more likely to be harangued by aggressive parents.

The picture painted by the research shows similar overall levels of disruption in the two years (2001 and 2008) – although the trend is towards more aggression against male teachers.

What seems to have been neglected during the analysis of these results is an appreciation of the different ways in which male and female teachers manage their classes. What I can remember from my schoolgirl days is that the aggressive teachers elicited an aggressive response from pupils, and those who took a more placid yet firm stance bore the brunt of bad teenage attitudes, but nothing particularly threatening. Male teachers (at my school) were more inclined towards the former method of chastisement. Female teachers the later.

What I can recall also is that (generally) it was the male teachers who were the most confident in the classroom, often using humilation tactics (one maths teacher in particular was downright cruel to a lot of the boys) and thus they precipitated a more impassioned response from students. These, as I say, are generalisations constructed from my personal memories, but I believe that a survey of this nature cannot be fully appreciated unless all factors are considered. Student behaviour towards teachers cannot be understood without also assessing the attitudes of teachers towards students.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 30 December 2008 at 1:31 pm

Yet another survey which did not investigate a gendered analysis as to how and why male teachers are supposedly subjected to aggressive student behaviour. Research such as this is useless because it only ‘discovers’ part of the problem and then makes generalised claims. Ergo: male teachers are subjected to more violence than female teachers. Yes but why is this the case?

No need to ask how boys and girls are subjected to gendered norms within education or how boys are actively encouraged to ‘speak up and challenge teachers’ perspectives.’ Whereas girls are still overlooked by both female and male teachers when girls attempt to speak up or answer a teacher’s question.

As Abby says, research did not seek to ascertain how male teachers ‘teach’ or how female teachers ‘teach.’ Neither was there any attempt to analyse how boys are socialised into masculine behaviour and how boys are praised for adopting aggressive and angry behaviour, whereas girls are subjected to control and disapproval if they attempt to assert themselves.

Yet another project which was not only a waste of time and effort but proved nothing apart from claiming ‘male teachers suffer more than female teachers.’

andrew // Posted 30 December 2008 at 1:38 pm

I saw this research, in a BBC article I think and thought something similar to you. The research does just look at the situation from the teachers point of view and the pupil’s point of view has been ignored.

What occurred to me however was that a third party p.o.v. might also be useful. I don’t know if male or female teachers would be more or less likely to report “disruption” given the same classroom situation but thought it odd that this wasn’t reported to have been considered as a factor in the results. Maybe there is absolutely no difference in the classroom just how the teachers report it, or maybe the difference is even greater than indicated?

Laurel Dearing // Posted 30 December 2008 at 2:15 pm

how odd, i found that the male teachers (experienced at least) got more respect generally. i suppose a lot more of the in-training teachers were women. it had a lot to do with how much sway they held, or sometimes how scary they were.

Chrissy // Posted 30 December 2008 at 3:54 pm

From experience, I believe that there is no solid and generic link between gender and quality/effectiveness/style of teaching. It is very much a matter of the individual teacher. Most of this research is, in my experience and opinion, futile because young people tend to ‘react’ to the teacher and not the gender standing in front of them

chem_fem // Posted 30 December 2008 at 10:13 pm

I went to a girls school and male teachers definitely got a tougher deal with the students. We were young, silly and they were the only males in school. Male teachers in girls schools are probably only a small proportion of the total though.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 31 December 2008 at 1:36 pm

It also doesn’t say whether it is only high school teachers that are counted. Aggression amongst primary school kids is generally much lower and there is a significantly higher level of women in this area, which would skew your results somewhat (as it would make it look like a significant percentage of female teachers face no aggression).

I also find this study a bit strange as my husband is a teacher and he thinks that female teachers get a lot more agro and disrespect than male teachers as a lot of kids have issues with women in authority. This could be a regional issue- but I wouldn’t a thought so.

yeomanpip // Posted 2 January 2009 at 1:37 pm

Having worked in a school for several years I have seen how things are, but only in this 1 school .

There seems to be an equality within academic studies, both boys and girls are encouraged to do the same things.

There is promotion of all sport within education, but definate segregation, boys and girls don’t play sports together, although the younger children do play ‘games’

Now, one thing that is noticeable is the promotion of sport outside of education, it is here that misogyny shows through, I have seen male teachers loudly chant with their male students, and dispute ‘last nights game’ with male students, but not with female students, or female staff.

Its not just sport, outside of the classroom girls and boys are treated differently, male teachers will lose their temper with male students, yet treat female students with kid gloves (sometimes this is funny, seeing a misogynistic teacher being figuratively tied up in knots by a clever girl)

Generally misogyny rules.

We recently had a spate of graffiti reported by one of the cleaners, the report reached the headmaster and the toilets were closed and inspected by the head, the bursar, the deputy head, the estate head, and 2 female teachers, the order then went out to keep the loos closed and repaint them.

Why so much fuss? it wasn’t the first time graffiti had been seen, sometimes very graphic too, usually an order to clean it went out, with no juidicial entourage to bear witness.

The difference was this was in the girls toilets, and the F word was used (no, not feminism unfortunately).

I have also sat in the staff room and heared misogyny spouted from too many mouths, and at all levels.

although that no longer happens, now theres a definate silence when I enter because they know I will point out there faults.

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