The Mistrusted Male Teacher

"Even though I had volunteered in her classroom, she acted as though it would be very strange for me to actually be a teacher at this level," he said.

Nelson said his research and experience as a male teacher led him to start working as a consultant to school districts that are trying to restructure the curriculums for male teachers. He believes the identity of children's teachers should reflect the child's larger community, including a 50-50 ratio of men to women.

But for all the enthusiasm over recruiting male teachers, media representatives from the National Education Association and the National Parent Teachers Association say there aren't notable studies or research about the real influence of a teacher's identity and gender.

The Real Importance of Gender

"I really think it has a lot to do with the personality of the teacher," said Dr. Caryl Oris, a consulting psychiatrist for the Sewanhaka Central High School District on Long Island, N.Y. "What matters more than anything is that it's a good teacher and the teacher loves to teach."

"Could you say it would be great if they had this caring male teacher? Yes, but it could be other adults in their lives," Oris said. "Children have many adults in their lives."

Oris said what worries her more than whether there are enough male teachers in elementary schools are parents who actually express their unease with male teachers.

Student and Teacher Relationship

"Children have their own anxieties about going to school. They shouldn't have the burden of the parents' anxieties as well," Oris said. "If the parent is concerned, I think that it is something the parent is reacting to from their own life or their own experiences and projecting that onto the child."

That's precisely what Payne, the author of the milehighmamas blog post, admits to doing.

"A couple of the commenters were put off about my opinion of young male teachers," Payne said. "I won't apologize for it. That was my experience, although I admit it was narrow, from working in the Los Angeles County Unified School District."

However Payne did exactly what Oris would recommend: She met with the teacher.

"I was a little nervous about what to expect with this teacher," Payne said. "But I knew immediately that he did mean business."

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