This is a Wo(man)’s World: Male Teachers at Incarnate Word Academy
Amid the swishing plaid skirts and long hair that stream down the IWA hallway during the passing period, a few individuals in button-downs and slacks rupture the pattern. In a school environment dominated by girls, the presence of male teachers is a welcome difference that allows for fresh, thoughtful insight on topics both inside and outside the classroom.
To gain insight into their perspective on their interaction with the IWA community, I interviewed four male teachers: Mr. K. (Mr. Kafoglis), who teaches leadership development and is a co-director of the Young Leaders Program; Mr. Richardson, who teaches World History, AP Economics, and AP Government; Mr. Vale, who teaches Theology and Mr. Mooneyham, who teaches English, Contemporary Literature, and a World in Motion course about the 1920s. Each of these men came to IWA with a different preconceived notion of what it would be like and each now holds a different, vital role in the IWA community; however, despite these differences, these men have one distinct similarity. All of them share a deep love and dedication for IWA and the students who go there.
What did you think it would be like teaching all girls when you started here?
Mr. K: “I had no idea. I had never even heard of Incarnate Word. For my first interview, I walked in during lunchtime and honestly, it was a little scary, but on the other hand, they [the students] seemed pretty normal.”
Mr. Richardson: “Looking back on it, I think it was a feeling of uncertainty, that I didn’t know what it would be like.”
Mr. Vale: “I gave it precisely zero thought before staring here. The one thing I realized really fast is that girls are more mature than boys of the same age and are more attuned interpersonally.”
Mr. Mooneyham: “I taught previously at a predominantly all-boys school; it was about 70/30 male-female ratio. I didn’t think it would be that different having a one-gendered classroom, although I thought the tone and tenor might be a little different.”
Was it initially awkward to be surrounded by teenage girls all the time?
Mr. K: “I don’t think it was that big of an adjustment because you guys are really nice to male teachers.”
Mr. Richardson: “Yes, when I first started teaching at St. Agnes. By the time I got here, no.”
Mr. Vale: “I’m not sure. Yeah, I think so.”
Mr. Mooneyham: “Having been the father of two teenage girls, I knew what I was getting into, but they definitely keep me on my toes.”
How is it different teaching girls than boys?
Mr. K: “You guys are best inspired through the heart and through emotions. I think if I was doing this at St. Thomas or an all-guys school, that wouldn’t work. You would have to inspire through other methods. Things would have to be more competitive and it would be way more goal-oriented. So go through the brain more than the heart.”
Mr. Richardson: “I’ve never taught boys.”
Mr. Vale: “In general, with the boys, I think you have to establish yourself as an alpha male and with girls, you have to establish yourself as a friend.”
Mr. Mooneyham: “My teaching philosophy doesn’t deviate from one to the other; I teach a girls’ class the same way I teach a boys’ class. However, I can teach certain types of literature here that you can’t teach in a coed setting and get really good discussion and analysis going. Mix the genders, people get inhibited. With all girls, all the guardrails go down.”
You teach the students. Do they teach you things, too? If so, what have you learned?
Mr. K: “[I’ve learned] that you guys care what teachers say to you and about you more than I ever thought.”
Mr. Richardson: “In an academic sense, it’s amazing how often students will come up with things I’ve never thought of before.”
Mr. Vale: “[I’ve learned] that producing a good classroom environment that’s good for teaching girls requires a certain kind of generosity and being ready to affirm. Teaching you guys has made me way more of a generous person.”
Mr. Mooneyham: “The biggest is really just how to be a better human being. I know each and every day, in every class, there’s one person that comes in carrying a lot of baggage; they’re suffering in some way. I’ve learned how to be sensitive and not expect too much all the time.”
Is it difficult to remove yourself from student drama?
Mr. K: “I don’t necessarily see it and when you guys do need help, you go to the female teachers more often than not. I don’t think we get dragged into it as much. I feel like I’m always the last to know. I think that makes the job somewhat easier, because you can focus on what you do.”
Mr. Richardson: “I’m actually pretty much clueless to the drama. Every once in a while, I can see stuff, but unless a student actually comes to me, I’m not going to intervene.”
Mr. Vale: “You guys may not realize how much your teachers go home and think about you guys and try to figure out what to do, to do the best for you. That being said, it’s pretty important to find time to just totally unplug.”
Mr. Mooneyham: “No, because I don’t think escape is even possible. Students’ drama permeates everywhere. You can’t escape it and if you try to escape it, you might as well just get in the car and leave. As a teacher, you know instinctively, if you’ve been teaching for a while like I have, when to get involved and when not to.”
Want more buzz like this? Sign up for our Morning Buzz emails.
To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, or Twitter. Or you may post as a guest.