Wanted: Male primary school teachers
Mark Lye had a wide grin on his face. He was acutely aware he was becoming a bit of a modern relic.
Lye works at Wainuiomata’s Arakura School and is one of New Zealand’s few male reading recovery teachers. The job sees Lye working one-on-one with students aged six and seven who are underachieving in reading. It’s not uncommon for schools to have such a teacher. But it is, Lye admits, fairly unusual for that person to be a bloke.
“I’m about as rare as a moa,” Lye said.
“I’m just about extinct.”
Lye said he first trained as a teacher in the 1970s before joining the Air Force. Back then, a big advantage was that young men and women were paid to train as teachers.
“We didn’t have to get any of those terrible student loans. I take my hat off to young people today who are prepared to make that commitment despite the costs.”
When Lye left the classroom for the military, there were a wide range of other blokey options for male teachers – in the military, police and corrections. There weren’t such options these days. But Lye said regardless of gender, a good teacher was just that.
“If you are a good teacher, you will do a good job.”
In 2013, just 16.5 per cent of New Zealand’s primary school teachers were men. That means since 2004 there has been an 8.3 per cent drop in the proportion of male teachers working at primary level.