“I am an IT teacher who lacks the Y chromosome, and that has caused a few condescending moments over my years of teaching. Personally, I have never found that my lack of Y has kept me from repairing a computer, setting up a network, or teaching.
The first day on my current job, which is sweet—a half-day program for high school students who are interested in careers in IT—I was the new teacher. I replaced a man who had taught there for many years. All students in our school must apply and be interviewed and be accepted into the program, so even though most of the students had not had a previous teacher, they had all met him. One of my new kids walks in, stops dead in his tracks, and stares at me.
‘Where’s the man?!’
‘He moved. I’m your teacher now. My name is Tory.’
‘But I need the man.’
‘Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll do fine with me. I’ve been teaching this for many years.’
‘But I bonded with the man!’
Of course, he’d talked to ‘the man’ for about ten minutes about five months before, and they’d bonded so much he couldn’t even remember the man’s name. But apparently, that bond was important to him.
‘I’m sure you’ll bond with me too.’
‘I don’t think so.’
He did. He was fine and enjoyed the year.
Another year, I was in my classroom after Open House straightening up when a gentleman comes in, obviously in a hurry and obviously looking for someone. Somehow I just knew he was looking for me, but not the actual me, a male version of me. I watched him jet about the room, looking in my office, looking in the storage room, completely ignoring THE TEACHER STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM.
Finally, after letting him suffer for a few minutes I said, ‘May I help you?’
‘Yes. I’m looking for the teacher of this class.’
‘That would be me,’ and I stuck out my hand for a handshake. The look I got. I am petite, blonde, and not a man. He slowly raised his hand and shook mine (weakly, I might add), ‘Oh. Uh. Okay. My son is in your class.’
The conversation went on, and he felt the need to ‘quiz’ me on my knowledge, apparently to ensure I was intelligent enough to teach the class. I passed because I do know my stuff. The next day I said to the kid whose dad it was, ‘Hey, you didn’t tell your dad I was a woman, did you?’
He laughed and admitted he didn’t because he was afraid he’d pull him out of my class. But he did say his dad was pretty impressed. My hope is that my boys (and I do teach almost all boys) learn that women can do anything men can do, and there is no such thing as a ‘man’s job’ in my classroom. They do all have, or will come to have, respect for my knowledge. I also try every year to bring more women into the program, but alas, it just isn’t happening the way I would hope.”