You don’t look like a maths teacher?!

So it’s back to school and I’ve fallen in love with my job all over again. I will be posting about the highs and lows including more brilliant remarks from children such as “Miss you really need to pick that spot on your face” (Day 3 new term). However, this post is more about a very odd phenomenon that I have experienced too many times.

The inspiration for this post (which may end up a bit ranty so I apologise in advance) comes twofold: the first was during a lazy morning when I was watching Nothing to Declare and a man uttered the words “Do I look like a drug dealer?” to which the security guard replied “you tell me, what does a drug dealer look like?”

The second has been happening ever since I began my training. It goes something like this:

Person A: “So what do you do?”

Me: “I’m a teacher”

Person A: “Ooooh primary?”

Me: “No, secondary”

Person A: “Oooh that’s brave, Art?”

Me: “No, I teach maths”

Person A: “OOOOHHH Maths.. you don’t look like a maths teacher”

Me: …

"What does a maths teacher look like?"
“What does a maths teacher look like?”

Now before I get any abuse I am by no means suggesting that being a Primary teacher or an Art teacher are somehow inferior, in fact I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for all teachers. Primary couldn’t be more important in a child’s life and I fundamentally believe all pupils should partake in as much of the Arts curriculum as possible as I am equally as proud of my Art and Maths A levels.

But why as a society, are young female teachers all primary?

What about the male primary teachers? The female head teachers? The Male nurses? The female builders? Having had these conversations with far too many people (including family members) it has made me think twice before I pigeon hole a profession to a gender. I have pulled my pupils up on it on more than one occasion when they refer to teachers as “she”, clearly stating how men are teachers too.

Having spent the beginning of summer up in Leeds for TeachFirst Returners week, I can safely say that there are at least 3,000 teachers in schools across England and Wales who may face exactly the same conversation I have had. Perhaps it’s time to show what a maths or science or drama teacher looks like. Move away from the media depictions of maths teachers being sour faced, child hating individuals who carry a briefcase and can’t work any technology in the room. Challenge the Miss Honey stereotype of a primary teacher. I want to inspire my pupils to believe that they can genuinely take on any career they choose and I never want this decision being affected by gender.

I know I am not ground-breaking in any of my comments here but I think it should be talked about as much as possible as things will never change if we don’t mention it.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you have ever experienced anything like this.


2 thoughts on “You don’t look like a maths teacher?!

  1. I was most interested in this piece; anything which challenges our stereotypical views of the world is of value. This is because, whatever the issue might be, it causes us to rethink our current orthodoxies, beliefs and expectations. Perhaps there is a parallel here with views about children’s “abilities” where the orthodoxy is to place them and teach them in “ability groups”. Some years ago there was an interesting Ofsted publication titled “Expect the unexpected” and this similarly challenged expectations in education.


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