Men Don’t Cry

| April 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

I wanted to cry.

All my life I thought that I shouldn’t. Especially in public. After all, men are supposed to be mentally strong and stable, so when you even have a hint of emotion you just have to suck it up and betray nothing. That’s not to say you can’t cry at all (funerals, births, and sports are great times to express your feelings), but crying in front of a child that’s not your own, over something as banal as a poem, in front of girls (!!!), is ridiculous and embarrassing.

But I had just heard my tutee, a shy nine-year old boy, finish the last stanza of Still I Rise by Maya Angelou in front of the entire 2nd grade. It was the first time he had ever presented something, so obviously he was nervous and very hesitant to speak. And for the past three weeks, everybody had a go in convincing him to go on stage. When he finally did – under the guise that it was a great way to soak up the attention of the class – it was a beautiful and eloquent moment, and it made everyone in the room proud enough to…well, you would’ve cried with us if you knew where he started in the beginning of the year.

I’ve learned that a teacher will cry at some point in their career. It’s part of the job. Working with people is a emotional occupation, and working with students will only toy with your heart even more. How else could you express the frustration of seeing someone answer a question incorrectly for the fourth consecutive time, or show how proud you are when you tell them how much they have grown and learned from their shortcomings? Or what happens when they walk into your classroom with their own distractions and problems in life, when they ask questions that you don’t necessarily know how to answer? And then of course, there’s the end of the year – graduations, growing up, and the sinking feeling that it could be the last time you see each other again.

This was the only result when I searched for "Male Teachers." photo credit: Army Reservist and Teacher During Uniform to Work Day via photopin (license)

This was the only result when I searched for “Male Teachers.” photo credit: Army Reservist and Teacher During Uniform to Work Day via photopin (license); Featured photo credit: Recovery via photopin (license)

But I’ve also learned that crying is not manly. I’ve learned that teaching, in itself, is not a manly occupation. I grew up with this belief that working with children in a female-dominated workplace is something only applicable to “queers or pedophiles or failures.” For a male teacher, there always seem to be many details and situations that demand to be explained.  Take that moment I described earlier with my tutee: When taken out of context, it can easily paint me into a monster and land me in jail: Why is a grown man crying over a child that’s not his? Why is he even involved with said child in the first place? Does his parents know? Why is he teaching him poetry? Can we trust an adult male to be alone with children?

And looking back, I am often intrigued that many qualities resonating with being a good teacher were also not qualities of an ideal man. Being caring and nurturing, reading out loud to children (and of course, being emotional) – these are things regulated to that of a mother or a babysitter and something that an adult man generally has no time for really. I mean, most of us grew up believing that we would suck at doing these things anyway. I guess that’s why it’s easy to embrace the expectation that men would be the main breadwinner, that my occupation would be one of power and prestige; that my day would start at 9 and end with happy hour and fit whatever physical activities in between. There was a pressure to be assertive, to be dominant and earn as much as possible while rising as high as you can in this hierarchy called life.

And instead, I threw it all away to become a teacher.

So what happens now? I can say that teaching has made me question masculinity in itself, in the sense that it made me redefine what being a man means. And I don’t think it has digressed much; as a child, the images of superstar athletes and gun-toting soldiers used to resonate courage and inspiration. Today, I still empathize with these qualities – only in the form of educators and tutors working with students to achieve their own goals and dreams. I mean, can you imagine how bold someone has to be when they have to improvise around a lesson plan for thirty 4th grade students? If anything, I would say that teaching – and by extension, crying – is probably the manliest thing someone can do.

Writer’s Note: For more posts regarding Masculinity in Education, I would recommend reading the posts of fellow SED graduate and Culture Shock Alumni, Jeff Fox – linked for you here, here, and here

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Category: featured, Poetry, Prose and Comedy, Politics, The (Sex)es

Mike Chan

About the Author ()

Mike graduated from BU in 2016 with a Elementary Education major and Mathematical Statistics minor. He is from Washington (the State) and a avid football fan, so don't be surprised to see him bunkered down by the television on Sundays. He's likes music, long naps, movies, Doctor Who, video games, and making people feel great (and sometimes altogether at once). If he is not writing here, he's probably busy rambling on Reddit or cooking something exotic. Follow his Twitter @karatemanchan37. You have been warned.

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