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Exploration of the Lived Experiences of Men Who Teach in Elementary Special Education Programs: A Path Less Taken Open Access

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Research on male participation in education conducted by the National Education Association (NEA, 2003) states that the percentage of male teachers in primary and secondary-level education ranks at a 40-year low. In 2003, the NEA identified that 24.9% of the nation's three million teachers in K-12 are men; by 2008, this number had dropped to 24.5% (NEA, 2008). Furthermore, the percentage of male teachers in elementary schools has decreased steadily from 18% in 1981 to 9% at present. In addition, the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education (PCESE, 2002) stated that there is a shortage of adequately qualified personnel to provide special education services to children with disabilities. Thus, the purpose of this study is to explore how men experience their identity as elementary school special education teachers. This exploration will be done through investigating how men describe: (1) the factors that influenced them to become elementary special education teachers, (2) how they view their role as special education teachers and their professional experiences in elementary schools, (3) what it means to be "male" in the context of elementary education, and (4) the influences that enable them to persist in their role as elementary special education teachers. Although a number of unique dynamics and distinctions influenced the participants' decisions to become elementary level special education teachers, four themes surfaced as a result of the research process: (1) a desire to improve the lives of children with special needs, (2) a desire to improve the social milieu of elementary schools for special education, (3) the importance of entering the field with a strong sense of self-confidence in one's maleness to be an effective elementary special education teacher, and (4) the importance of growth and advancement in one's career.

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