Can Amish Men Be Teachers?

Male teachers are a rarity in the Amish school.

Primarily an occupation for young unmarried women, one father, ‘Robert’, estimated that there were only about a half-dozen male teachers in the Holmes County vicinity, out of approximately 170 one-room schools.  A quick count in the 2005 church directory actually turned up closer to 20, but with many schools having more than one teacher, males still account for only about 6% of the total.

Robert’s kids attend one of the few schools taught by a male.  Other parents whom I spoke with seemed to be pleased with this particular teacher. Robert said his boys have a blast on the softball field with him.

But the main reason probably has to do with his experience, being his fifth year of teaching. More experience of course means fewer problems and challenges that the school board, (which consists of local parents) and the other parents would have to deal with.

Amish_school_kids

Young women typically will teach for a couple of years before getting hitched. Marriage and the demands of home usually put an end to teaching.

I’ve always had the impression that if you can get a male teacher,you take him, rather than a young girl or an ‘old maid’ as Robert, a former teacher himself, put it to me. (in the non-PC Amish world, terms like ‘old maid’ get tossed around all the time). Also a non-PC practice, you end up paying more for a male teacher, especially if he has a family to support.

Rewards of teaching in an Amish school

 

Why teach in a one-room schoolhouse? Probably for the same non-material reasons teachers anywhere take up the occupation. Robert acknowledged that it’s not an occupation for everyone, but that‘when you see the light go on in their eyes’ after trying to get them to understand something, it makes it all worth it.

I asked Robert how he managed eight grades in one room. He said you can usually get the older ones going on an assignment while you devote more attention to the younger ones. The first and second graders require the most work; you have to get it right with them or otherwise you’ll have ‘stress all the way through’. Trying to handle so much at once causes time to really fly, he said, and you have to hustle to get a lesson done before the next recess break.

How do the Amish react to the idea of outsiders teaching in their schools?  Teachers are almost always from the community. Occasionally a Mennonite person or, very rarely, an English person may teach.

I was asked last summer if I would consider teaching for a certain Indiana school which was having a tough time finding someone in time for the start of school. One of the fathers was going to have to cover in the meantime. After speaking with Robert, now I kind of wish I’d taken them up on the offer.

Earlier this week I had the chance to visit an Amish schoolhouse and observe classes.  I also pulled pitching duty for softball at recess.  More on that in the next post.

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    13 Comments

    1. What a very interesting post. I never really thought about men teaching in the amish communities. He sounds like quite the teacher.

    2. amanjo

      Oooh, that teaching job would have made for some very interesting stories, but I can see that it’s also a big commitment. I think you’re happy with your wandering lifestyle. 🙂

      As always, another fascinating post. I love the glimpses of the Amish world that you bring us!

    3. amanjo

      Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, but I pimped you out on LiveJournal: http://community.livejournal.com/syn_promo/816974.html

      I love your blog and want more people to see it because I enjoy your writing very much!

    4. Very interesting post. This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. My family and I would absolutely LOVE to sit in for a day or a week in an Amish classroom. But I suppose communities might be less open to this now than in the past because of the tragedy at Nickle Mines.

      In general, what would the pre-requisite be for a community to hire an “English” teacher? What curriculums (if any) are popular with the Amish?

      Here’s a book on this topic that might interest readers. I have not ordered it yet, but from the description and reviews, it looks wonderful. It is called “The Amish Schools of Indiana”, and is a choronicle of day to day life in an Indiana Amish school since the 1940’s through today. The link to the book is above.

    5. Not an Amish schoolhouse

      This is the Marantette House in St. Joseph County, Michigan.   Just on the other side of the house is the St. Joseph River.  It was built just after the Black Hawk war of 1832.  At the time of the war scare there was a double log cabin here which …

    6. Tried to trackback this one from a post over at spokesrider.com, but must not have done something right.

      Do you think that low percentage of male teachers holds in all communities? I had the idea that the Amish didn’t necessarily approve of female teachers, though maybe that was for religious education.

    7. Requirements for English (non-Amish) teachers in Amish schools

      On prerequisites for Amish teachers, and curricula…as far as prerequisites the person would undoubtedly need to be of strong Christian background…don’t know that there would be the strictest requirements concerning teaching credentials, considering the fact that most Amish schoolteachers have just an 8th-grade education themselves…

      I cannot say too much about specific curriculum–though I know that the Blackboard Bulletin, a monthly publication, is popular among teachers.

      Thanks Michelle, and thanks amanjo for putting me up!

    8. Reminds me of when I was a teacher in Lutheran schools in the very early 70s, in Danville IL. At a basketball game with a Catholic school, one of the male parents from the other side was going on about how it was getting harder to keep the schools going. “You can’t get nuns for $1000 a head any more.” (I’m not sure the number was $1000, but it was certainly no more than $2000. But yes, he said so much a head.)

      I was surprised to hear you say there are Amish sunday schools. I had read somewhere that the Amish didn’t care for sunday schools in which children were taught by women who were not their parents. They thought religious instruction should be a family matter. I believe there was some similar anti-sunday school sentiment among Protestants in the early days of the movement. So when you said there was not much religious education in the schools, that seemed to be partly confirmed.

      But as your blog is good at pointing out, there’s quite a bit of variety among the Amish, and time doesn’t stand still for them, either.

      In Lutheran schools we used to have the same phenomenon whereby you’d hire women because they were cheaper. I’ve been away from it for over 30 years, and that was changing even 30 years ago, so you won’t get much up-to-date information about it from me.

    9. Amish gender roles in occupations

      John that low percentage definitely is typical. Men, having families to support, just typically go for higher-paying jobs. There may also be a ‘gender role’ element at work here as well–many males are likely biased towards more ‘masculine’ jobs in construction, farming and shops, the same jobs their fathers and uncles and big brothers perform.

      Young unmarried females are by far the most common category of teacher in the Amish schoolhouse.

      Cost is a factor, since the Amish schools are funded by tuition paid by parents (and sometimes funded with revenues from a benefit auction, for example).

      It seems most feel that the typical young woman can handle the job.

      They often teach only a couple of years however, usually ‘retiring’ upon getting married.

      The drawback is that this results in a lot more turnover, something I’ve heard complained of also by business owners who hire young girls to work in other environments such as shops. This may also be why males get paid a premium–they would tend to stay longer in the profession without the social expectation of giving it up upon marriage.

      This has been my experience in the dozen-plus communities I’ve visited. In fact, you shouldn’t quote me on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Holmes was on the high side as far as male employment in teaching goes.

      The Amish tend not to get into religious education in the schoolhouse. Some Amish, particularly the New Order Amish, hold Sunday school on alternate Sundays from those scheduled for church service. Otherwise most feel that it is best handled outside of the formal school environment. Many often do Bible study at home on ‘off’ Sundays.

      Thanks for the great question!

    10. Sunday School among New Order Amish affiliation

      Sunday School is primarily a New Order phenomenon. The New Order is a bit of a mix compared to lower affiliations–generally speaking you could say they’re techonologically more progressive but morally more conservative–ie allowing tractor farming and often some lighting and telephones in the home, but staunchly against smoking and immoral dating practices (bundling, petting, etc).

      I wonder how it is today in Lutheran and other Christian parochial schools, as far as women and pay is concerned. Something tells me the disrepancies may have vanished by now. But I wonder.

      John, thanks for weighing in.

      1. James Kramer

        As someone who was the last organist in the 2 remaining churches in Pittsburgh where German services were offered since the time of their founding (the last one stopped in 1990)–I can tell you this: we had members who weren’t German from birth, but who grew up in Lutheran Schools–Mr. Zadoch was completely bilingual although his High German was accented American, he knew every word in the Bible and Hymnal and preferred German because “it felt like home”–same for me!

    11. Robert Rosen

      I am 9interested in applying to teach for an Amish community. I have taught for private schools in the past 40+ years.

    12. James Kramer

      Men in the Schoolhouse

      If I thought I could live on what they could pay I’d go and teach in an Amish school–I’m a “recycled German teacher” to start, and I could have them reading the High German Bible (I have several in our beautiful old Luther version in our Gothic Script–I read it as well as the Latin and as easily)as well as English, and it is not only possible, it’s DESIRABLE–anyone who knows more than one language and is fluent in more than one can tell you, it opens the mind, allows for more variety in expression and thought–and it’s just plain good fun! Seriously, I also have my teaching certificate, so if they could pay a living wage I’d sign on 🙂