You don’t see them that often in Early Childhood, but they do exist. And if you ask me, more of them are greatly needed. What am I speaking of?
- Early Childhood Male Teachers
What to do when you show up to your preschool and you discover your teacher is a male? Well, you say hello and you ask where is your child’s cubby, of course. Don’t be rude for goodness sake.
But seriously, because male teachers are not that plentiful in preschool, what do you do when you must face apprehensions and angst about leaving your preschooler with a male.
During a conversation with an amazing Early Childhood Educator that I had the honor of working with for a short amount of time, I had the opportunity to hear from the his perspective of males in ECE.
- The Role of The Male Teacher
11 year veteran preschool teacher, administrator and father, William Alvarez shared with The Circle, his experiences of working in Early Childhood and what he wishes Administrators, Teachers and Parents understood about the invaluable role a male teacher can contribute to an early learning program.
Tackle the elephant head on from the start.
“Male Early Childhood Educators can offer children a respectful, loving and supportive role in their lives” stated William. I wish administrators understood we are capable of doing the job we are hired to do and has no correlation of whether we are male or female.”
Are we accounting for the extreme value that a man brings to an early childhood program where children that attend do not have a positive male role model at home or in their community? The child that is enrolled in an early learning program that staffs males as educators or assistance will benefit from the tremendous modeling of positive interactions. The child will get to observe the male and female teachers engagement, thereby enforcing positive interactions and adult educational relationships.
- Left Out On An Island Alone
William further emphasizes that challenges can often begin when a male education student is preparing to enter the workforce of early childhood education. He states, “For instance, hugging children, is an issue even with professors as they are preparing male students to become teachers in ECE. Once a male teacher begins interviewing, topics such as changing diapers especially with girl babies is a taboo topic. Male teachers are warned or discouraged against allowing children to sit on their lap during reading time. These and many more topics are controversial with administrators, other teachers and parents.”
“It’s a difficult topic to speak about especially not knowing where the administration/parents stand. I’ve had several wonderful administrators in my ECE career that demonstrated a strong understanding and support of my role in ECE programs. These administrators expressed confidence in my abilities to do the job and supported me when challenged by parents.”
In addressing the challenges that males often experience in the field of Early Childhood, William shared an experience he had at an early childhood program. “The most noticeable experience I had in child care is the lack of confidence and support from colleagues. When I initially started in ECE I worked with infant teachers and one of them casually said, “You’re the first man we ever had and I don’t think you’ll last.” To be honest I didn’t know how it would turn out for me either but the lack of confidence in the beginning wasn’t reassuring to say the least. Through the years, I’ve always noticed how parents were hesitant in approaching me to ask for advice or developmental updates of their child. It felt like I wasn’t part of the culture/team and just a body, nothing more. It wasn’t all negative but the transition has been rough for sure. In that program, after a couple of months I had parents becoming more open. This was especially true when the parents realized I connected their child’s play observations to the developmental domains and how play aligns with assessing a child’s progress.
- Males Come Up Short
The College of Early Childhood Education indicates that there are only 1.4 percent of males in the early childhood education field. This translates to 599 males out of 41,7000 certificates issued in Early Childhood Education. The number of men graduating from ECE programs remains low despite the need for more men in the field.
So, why is it a big deal we’re not seeing many men on the ‘floor’ in our programs?
Early Childhood is largely considered to be a woman’s job since women are assumed to be natural caretakers. The stereotype of women caring for the children in the home and men going outside of the home to make provision for the family is evident in the ways males are seen as an anomaly in the early childhood field.
A second false belief in the reason for men being absent from the ECE program is that men are the breadwinners and with the low wages typically associated with early care, men can’t afford to be preschool or infant care teachers.
The most saddening belief of them is is that men are systematically viewed as predators which fuels the discriminating belief that administrators and parents should be suspicious of male educators. Every move a male makes with a child is heavily scrutinized. Men are automatically assumed to be suspicious or assumed likely to prey and/or harm a child. This is even more compounded in preschool programs where many children are still at the language emergent stage. Parents fear that if a male were to attempt to harm their child, the child would not have the language to come home and tell the parent.
“In reality, it’s a huge risk for a man to enter a career where the environment around him is so prejudiced against him from administrators, teachers and parents that that he could potentially see his career ended by accusations or innuendos that aren’t true and little effort is put forth to refute. All these things need to be changed at a broad societal level.”
- How Can Centers Become Advocates for Men in Early Childhood?
William urges center leadership and college level instructors to support their male educators by making them feel welcomed and taking a supportive stand against parents that assume male automatically equals problematic.
William chimes in, “Have a conversation and get to know your teachers. ECE is a community and we have to be a team. It doesn’t fall solely to the male teacher to bare the weight of uncomfortable parents without the backing of the Directors and Administrators. Directors and colleagues need to step up and encourage positive interactions within the programs. Just as it would not be acceptable to place female stereotypes on the women educators, this is also not acceptable for male teachers as well. When a male teachers joins an early childhood program, they should not be expected to engage in what is considered as male roles such as moving the furniture, engaging in physical rough play with the boys, block and sports play or removing the trash.
- 5 Ways We Can Support and Encourage Male Teachers in This Field
- Ensure that male new hires actually love working with children
- Test their actual knowledge of Early Childhood Education
- What interpersonal skills do they possess
- How distinct of a team player will they be if hired
- Realistically, have a sincere conversation to determine if they possess the tough skin it may require until parents and staff warm up to them (with the support of the administrator, of course!)
What are other ways that male teachers can feel supported in their programs?
- A director or administrator that is knowledgeable and understands the unique and valuable role this teacher will bring to their program can share these positive qualities with parents. Directors can host Coffee and Convo events in their programs, for the parents to come and engage with the teachers under engaging social interactions. The male teacher can also become the teacher highlight of the month in the parent newsletter, website or social media page, discussing the work the teacher does in the community, their likes and dislikes, and some little known personal facts.
- Arrange monthly or bi-monthly team meetings for teachers to get together, discuss what is working and not working and resolutions to improve. Teachers can build community with their colleagues, establishing an open and friendly professional relationship. When parents share concerns with other staff regarding the male teacher, having shared positive experiences with the male teacher, staff can highlight his strengths more than stereotypes and prejudices.
- Administrators can schedule regular Check Ins with all staff to discuss any challenges they may be experiencing regarding children in their program, implementing curriculum or parent engagement. This provides an amazing opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the ethic and heart of each teacher.
What are your thoughts on this hot topic? Chime in. Leave your response on the site or send emails to bit.ly/contactmissindrea.
Statistics taken from: https://www.geteduca.com/blog/male-early-childhood-educators-shortage/2018
William Alvarez is an 11 year veteran in Early Childhood Education. William has worked as an Assistant Teacher, Associate Teacher, Lead Teacher and Site Supervisor of Early Childhood programs in both Southern and Northern California. William is a husband and father and enjoys photography in his leisure.