“Momma, why aren’t there more boy teachers?”

Janet Alperstein, Raising Race Conscious Childrenby guest blogger Janet Alperstein, Ph.D

In the fall of 2005, I sat in my parents’ living room where a postcard on a bookshelf read “Raise Boys And Girls The Same”—and told them that my adoption plans were moving forward and that most likely I would be adopting a boy. I never expected their reaction.

“What do you know about raising a boy? What do we know about raising a boy? We’ve had two daughters and now two granddaughters.” Happily my parents’ concerns were short lived.

That postcard had long served as a reminder that I could do anything, whether it was play a brass instrument or get a Ph.D and many things in between. So…how do I raise my son to understand that boys and girls can both study anything, do any job, etc.? Just like we talk about race and religion, we talk about gender as well.

When my son, was three or four, he made his first comment to the effect of:

“Boys can do anything and girls can’t.”

Before I could formulate my thoughts, my mom said, “You’re talking to the wrong person,” motioning towards me.

And thus began the first of our direct conversations about gender. Even before this, I have always made a point to highlight men and women in a range of careers, especially people we know, including stay-at-home dads, women rabbis and cantors, male daycare teacher, etc. And in our home, every job around the house is the mom’s job, be it cooking dinner or taking out the trash.

Recently, my son asked:

“Momma, why aren’t there more boy teachers?”

I think this was at least partially prompted by the fact that his reading teacher this year is a man and my son adores him.

“Well,” I explained, “In our family, we believe that teachers are very important but not everyone thinks that way, so teachers are not always well-respected and are not the highest paid jobs which makes the job less attractive. As you move onto high school and college there will likely be more male teachers. There is more respect for high school and college level teachers and often a bigger salary…which makes teaching a more attractive job.”

My son remained puzzled. “Why would anyone think teachers aren’t important?!”

We will continue to talk about these issues. We must, in order make it possible to raise boys and girls with the same opportunities.


Janet F. Alperstein is the proud mom of a seven-year-old boy born in Guatemala City and raised in New York City where their gender, racial, ethnic and religious identities are an important part of their everyday lives. Dr. Alperstein has worked in higher education for just over 20 years with a focus on international education and has taught a graduate sociology class on gender and the role of schools for 15 years.

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