This article was written by Andy McCall. Andy is in his 9th year teaching, and does everything to honor his little girl, Penelope, who passed last year. Check him out on his Blog or on Facebook: Penelope's Path.
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Chances are you've seen one walking the halls of your elementary school. If you haven’t, then maybe you've spotted one at those district wide PD days. More than likely, you've mistaken him for a P.E. teacher or possibly an assistant principal. He is a rare species. Many believe he doesn't exist, that he's a myth, a fantasy creature. He is the Elementary Unicorn — a.k.a. the elementary male teacher.
Although uncommon, the elementary unicorn exists in some schools, and it is as spectacular as the ones on those little girls’ shirts between the words "magical" and “I Believe”. While he may be clad in khakis and a polo, instead of rainbows and glitter, sadly, you see him in a K-5 classroom just slightly more than you see real unicorns galloping around town. From personal experience, here are a few reasons why this is the case.
1. The easy reasons: Overall nature of Elementary Education and societal misconceptions.
When asked what grade I teach, and I confidently respond, “2nd,” it's always followed by, “Oh?” or a “Really?!”
2. Singled Out
If there is a male in the room for PD or whatever, he will be called on, he will be asked to share, he will be asked what he thinks on every question no matter what. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
When he is forced to give his thoughts and opinions, he is scrutinized to no end. Makes you wonder why you are even forced to share, when it is ripped apart like a Lunchable in 2nd grade.
4. We’re seen as an exception instead of an addition to the school.
It’s never, “Good Morning teachers!” It is 99.9% of the time, “Good morning ladies…huge pause…and Mr. McCall.”
5. Expected to only appeal to and handle “those kids”
I like to think of myself as a teacher with high standards, but I’m looked at with the sole responsibility to keep Johnny from cutting somebody with scissors.
6. Tote bags
Nothing at all is geared to a male. I’m not saying it should be (calm your totes), I’m just saying it would be nice if we were given the same thought sometimes.
Some teachers get mad because we are sometimes the favorite teacher. I didn’t ask to be their favorite; I worked for it. Stop hating.
8. Artsy vs. Real
We aren’t very artsy people by nature, and just because we didn’t have some cutesy little paper to go with our lesson, it's usually deemed substandard.
9. Role Model vs. Role Taker
A lot of times we are given the roles of “stand in the back with the kid who keeps touching everyone” instead of “hey listen to him, he knows a lot about this too.”
We get tired of listening to all the drama. No I don’t expect you to talk about College Football, but it would be nice to eat lunch without hearing a rundown of who did what on your Facebook feed every single day. We retreat back to our rooms like the unicorn in a cave.
I could go on and on, but by now you're probably wondering if I’m telling the truth. Kids today need a good male role model in their lives, and school is possibly the only way they might get that. However, I can’t say with 100% confidence to younger “wannabe” unicorns that it is completely safe to step out of the woods. The environment needs to change if they want the unicorn to come out of hiding. It doesn’t have to be all muscle cars and football, but putting a few gender-neutral things inside those tote bags every once in a while, would be nice.