Editorial: Kids need male role models

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My first male teacher was a man called Ross Leaning.

He taught me in standard two at Hamilton's Silverdale Normal School in 1980.

I remember as a boy it was cool having a man standing at the blackboard after four female teachers.

Not that there was anything wrong with these women. They were wonderful but as a 10-year-old I remember really looking up to Mr Leaning - or "Haggis" as we all called him.

Back then, he had a moustache, hair cut, walk shorts and sandals that matched that wonderful era - and we kids thought he was cool.

He played sport with us, read us The Hobbit, told interesting stories and made us laugh.

He was the perfect male role model and it was the best year of my schooling life.

Throughout my school years after that, I had a mix of men and women as teachers but Mr Leaning stood out most.

But even back then, there were more women than men in the Silverdale classrooms.

Fast forward more than 30 years and there are still many more women than men in the classroom.

In a special report on Friday, Genevieve Helliwell reported that children are missing out on positive role models because of a shortage of men wanting to become teachers.

As a general rule, one in 10 teachers are male and we found one Tauranga school where there are no men on the 15-strong teaching staff. The problem is worse in early childhood education where an estimated 2 per cent of staff are men.

This is a complex issue but it seems the stigma of men working with children still exists.

This is a shame and means tens of thousands of children are missing out on something special.

What does this tell about us as a society?

Good on the Early Childhood Council for campaigning to attract more males.

But Waikato University and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic are not, and I believe they should revisit this.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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