When Soner Uygun was a pupil at elementary school, he did not have one male teacher. Also in the first 2 years of secondary education, only women were in charge of classes. It wasn’t until his third year of secondary school that two male teachers eventually showed up. Today, Soner Uygun is a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Pedagogy and Educational Science of the University of Bremen. Being supervised by Professor Robert Baar, his dissertation topic is titled “Gender-sensitive Sex Education in Intercultural Elementary Schools”. Among other things, he addresses the question of what effects the predominance of female teachers in elementary education has on boys
The 26-year-old doctoral student, whose parents are of Turkish-Arab descent, grew up in a Bremen suburb and studied teacher education at the University of Bremen. He first trained to be a teacher at elementary schools and junior high. Later, he also studied for the senior high school subject of Economics, Work, and Technology. During his studies he became aware of a project initiated by Christoph Fantini called “Rent a Teacherman”, in which soon afterwards he worked as “a rented teacher”: In the framework of the project, elementary schools can “borrow” male students. They take on tasks at the school for four to six hours a week, from overseeing work groups to substituting for absent teachers. The project, which has been running successfully for five years now, is supported by Bremen’s Senator for Children and Education—and it is attracting considerable media interest. It has found imitators all over Germany.
Back to Soner Uygun. Our teacherman believes in getting to the bottom of things. “It is constantly being said that we need more male teachers in elementary schools; So far, however, there has been scarce research on why exactly this should be,” he says. During his period of school practice, though, he made several moving experiences which caused him to think in this direction. Male students often confided in him, saying “You’re a man, you can understand me”. He was also asked some very specific questions about masculinity. The trigger for the teacherman’s doctoral thesis was a conversation with a fourth grader during a school excursion. The student took him aside. “He asked me if it's okay that he likes to touch himself, or is that forbidden. He also wanted to know why he did that. “Soner Uygun did not want to give a spontaneous answer to such sensitive questions, because he was a little afraid of saying the wrong thing. He therefore first consulted the experts in sex education at pro familia, and later talked to the boy about his problem in peace and quiet.
In addition to his position as research assistant at the University of Bremen, Soner continues to work for “Rent a Teacherman”. He meanwhile holds classes on sex education together with his female colleagues at the elementary school Andernacher Straße. He has specified the question for his dissertation: “How do male adolescents with migrant backgrounds wish to have sex education in elementary school?” Many of them come from a culture in which conversation on sexuality is an absolute taboo. “Nevertheless, also migrant adolescents must be prepared for the changes they experience during puberty,” says Soner Uygun. These encompass both physical changes, such as body hair or beard growth, but also emotional feelings like the first love. Girls in elementary schools have significantly more possibilities than boys to discuss such things with members of their own gender.
As a teacher, he also wants to break down stereotypes: “I like to show that caring is not just something for females.” When the boys ask him if he plays football, he replies: “I like cooking and dancing more”, and initially reaps incredulous amazement, “but I'm also keen on boxing!”