Fed up with being mother;Update

24th September 1999 at 01:00
Class, race and gender stereotyping are alive and well in primary schools. Male primary teachers in the early years are either seen as potential paedophiles or, conversely, sexless and without ambition. Higher up the age range, they are regarded as disciplinarians who command more respect than their female colleagues. Women in early-years teaching, in their own minds as well as in their colleagues', are nurse maids whose sole purpose is to mother children. They only gain status as they move further up the age range. Black and working-class teachers are not taken seriously.

These are the views of a small group of teachers interviewed by Elizabeth Burn of the University of North London in her work in progress, "Becoming Mum": Dialogues with Female and Male Primary Teachers.

Their voices reflect dissatisfaction, anger and disappointment within the profession. They portray the view that primary teaching remains the preserve of white middle-class women in the main, with men, when they appear at all, in positions of senior management.

The most disaffected of the group are the men, whose sense of alienation begins in teacher training and continues in the staffroom. They talk of constantly overhearing "men-bashing" and of being ignored, and of being recruited to take on a class of tough boys even when they are inexperienced. They also complain of feeling constantly on their guard because of the close scrutiny they are under by female colleagues.

For their part, the women rail against the "mum" role into which they feel they have been put and, says one, with which they collude. She says, "I've never fitted in... I don't see my role as giving children medicineI I'm a teacher, an educator."

Eizabeth Burn, School of Education, University of North London, 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB. email: e.burn@unl.ac.uk

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