Male primary teachers are victims of silent apartheid
Every time that we check our behaviour, ensure our door stays open, stop our hands from even touching a child on the shoulder, avoid being in a one-to-one situation with a pupil - these are our daily reminders that we need to be watched. Isn't it ironic that those personal qualities that have probably drawn us into primary school teaching - the supposedly feminine qualities of empathy, patience, gentleness and nurturing - are the qualities that we now have to stifle.
Many male primary teachers are likely to be the only male member of staff.
Unconsciously, perhaps we can find ourselves pigeonholed into certain roles: he's a man, he can take the after school sports clubs, he can do the dirty, unpleasant tasks nobody else wants to do, he can mend the tea urn, he can do the extra duty. He can't? Well what sort of a man is he?
Then there's the social exclusion: we're often sidelined from many "women-only" conversations. And to whom can we turn if things go wrong? We cannot easily be seen to be confiding in a female colleague without that contact being misconstrued or at least being commented upon.
I believe female staff practise an underlying hostility to the male primary teacher. If a parent has particularly asked to see you to sort out a problem, it's because you're a man. If some pupils are looking forward to being in your class, it's the novelty they are anticipating enjoying. If the difficult boys in the school respond to you, it's because you're a man (not a good teacher). If you win a promotion it's only because you're a man.
Teaching can be difficult for both sexes. But I believe that male primary teachers face additional pressures and I don't see how the TDA can conceal them enough to be successful in its recruitment drive.
Paul Warnes is a primary supply teacher in Kent