At some point in their career, most teachers will see it. We’re not talking about a jammed copier or loose tooth, here. We’re talking about the difference in the way teachers are treated depending on how their gender presents.
They might notice that parents are more critical of women teachers, especially those teaching STEM subjects. Maybe they’ll notice that the administration fawns over male teachers for doing the same things that female teachers are expected to do without recognition. Or perhaps they’ll see a significant difference in how men and women are treated by students.
Recently Reddit user @braytwes posed this question:
“Does anyone else feel like female teachers are treated worse by students, admin and parents than male teachers? With regard to being disrespected more, not taken as seriously, questioning qualifications, etc. And it’s not just male students or admin that seem to be this way toward female teachers. Other females seem like they treat other females worse.”—@braytwes
In combing through the responses, almost all teachers shared a single opinion. They seemed to agree across gender, years of experience, and subject area. So. Let’s dive into it.
Here’s just a few of the responses.
From women teachers: yes, women teachers are treated worse
“I have numerous male students who try to challenge me about curriculum, definitions, deadlines, etc., yet their male teachers have ‘no issues!’ with them.”—@ADHTeacher
“When a male colleague gets one kid who has some difficulties and makes a connection, he gets teacher of the year. For the rest of us, it’s just expected.”—@Defiant_Ingenuity_56
“My husband … had to simply show up and say something silly to be teacher of the year.”—@Defiant_Ingenuity_55
“A [male] sports coach can have high expectations and a student thrives. I have high expectations and I’m a b****.”—@DaisyDame16
From men: yes, women teachers are treated worse
“Male special Ed teacher here. I’ve had a number on my caseload who have behavioral issues with only female staff at school. Never has anyone had issues with only male staff. My guess is many sped students have fewer positive males in their lives so that may impact it.”—@throwawaymysocks
“I am a [male] department chair and my [female] department members and I will play a game where they suggest something, will get shot down, and then I bring up the same idea worded differently and suddenly I am being thanked for my ‘thoughtful ideas.’”—@woodelf86
“My management strategies PALE in comparison to many of my female colleagues, but for some reason, students who will attempt asinine activities in their classes are barely on the radar in mine.”—@pretendperson1776
Yes, women teachers are treated worse—especially women of color
“As a white male, I’ve seen women, especially of color, be treated worse than their male colleagues my entire career.”—@SnapCracklePopSauce
Others commented that male teachers have to take on difficult students or are assumed to be pedophiles.
“Male teachers are dumping grounds for students with disciplinary issues …”—@algebratchr
“Male teachers have their own terrible treatment and concerns.”—@AleroRatking
Other Redditors brought up examples of where poor treatment of both genders occurs.
“Parents blow off academic concerns raised by my [female] partner, and then act like they are taking things seriously when I raise the same issues. On the flip side, I think [parents] are more likely to confide social/emotional issues relating to their child to my partner teacher.”—@one_finger_salute
“Depends … Basically: [male teachers] get away with a lot more but have very specific and difficult issues as well.”—@thecooliestone
The prevailing theme in the Reddit thread: By and large, women teachers have it worse when it comes to treatment and expectations from students, parents, and admin. Male teachers may be expected to take on certain tasks, but these tasks pale in comparison with the extras that women teachers are expected to take on. Not to mention, the added insult of the near-heroic praise male teachers get for the “extras” women teachers do all the time.
We’re not asking for preferential treatment, just equal respect.
We’ll end on what can best be described as this Reddit thread’s mic drop:
“Misogyny is baked in to American K-12 education. Female teachers are infantilized to the level of their principal/daddy deciding what they’re allowed to wear while being expected to make extraordinary sacrifices in terms of free time, earning potential, and mental health to raise ‘their’ kids.”
“Last time I checked, 75% of school superintendents were men, despite the fact that 76% of K-12 teachers are women. By and large, women are excluded from the football banter and weekend golf games that ingratiate male teachers to the school and district administrators making decisions about schedules, leadership roles, and opportunities for promotion.”
“In contrast, martyr teachers are almost exclusively women taking on the role of mothers, doing the emotional labor required to keep a family together, i.e. prop up a system on the brink of collapse. Another reason to be extremely leery of the ‘We’re one big happy family here!’ ethos. Public education in the US would implode overnight without the millions of hours of free labor teachers provide.”
“Of course students are wise to this, for the same reasons they may feel contempt for their own mothers choosing to remain in abusive relationships. To them, it reads as weakness. They don’t yet grasp nuance. They see teachers being vilified from all corners while not being held accountable for their own actions. Of course they’re going to capitalize on that.”—@WhatFreshHello