>Or a woman’s, for that matter? And who decides?
Sometimes important questions are raised in seemingly unimportant conversations. Yesterday, one of our banker friends came over for some work. His parents – his mother, more specifically – are running a school in the city for some 700 children. And I candidly asked him if he also helps them out. “I think it’s more of a woman’s job,” he replied without taking a minute to pause and think. The Guy and I reacted with just an amused expression on our faces because The Guy does run a kindergarten school and is designated as Principal there, though he is involved in a lot of managerial level work and teaching per se.
I wasn’t just amused by that reply, I was also slightly taken aback. I know of quite a few men who’ve been excellent teachers, famous and popular as well in their profession. And yet, teaching is a job we usually associate with women. So when I commented on a blog recently about how The Guy gave up his job in the corporate sector to do something of his own – start a playschool – it raised a few eyebrows, appreciative yet surprised. A man taking care of pre-schoolers is seen as unconventional because in her role as a mother and nurturer, a woman is expected to perfectly fit into the shoes of a teacher while a man is expected to be awkward and inept.
But women like me were never made to fit that cast. And men like The Guy do such a good job of it. Why the stereotyping then? Do people forget that the reason we celebrate September 5 as Teacher’s Day in India is to commemorate the birthday of a teacher who was not a woman but a man?
There are other reasons why the teaching profession is highly recommended for women – you go to work at the same time as your children go to school and come back with them. So you can perfect the balancing act between work and home with ease. Because managing home is also such a woman’s job, right? The rationale does not take into account the woman’s aptitude or her ability to be a good teacher. It’s a job that allows our patriarchal society to feel good about letting its women work without compromising on her role at home.
A teacher is such an important part of anyone’s growing up years that it’s unsettling to know that the profession is often deemed as an arrangement of convenience for women – a half-hearted attempt at allowing them to have a career.
It’s quite okay for a man to be a college prof or lecturer, but as a school teacher, he’s not seen as fulfilling his duties as the breadwinner of the family. It’s true that teachers in schools are usually underpaid. However, it’s also true that the education industry in our country is now booming. And a good teacher is much in demand even after school hours, for private tuitions and coachings that have become quite a norm with school-going children these days. Not too hard to figure out that the take-home package for teachers is more than decent now.
The boundaries between what a man can do and what a woman must do are blurring in most professions and there are stories aplenty of women who’ve broken into male bastions: army, stock brokering, real estate and what have you. It’s time now to let the men in to women strongholds.