Administrator · Director · Family Child Care · Parenting

YIKES! We Have A Male Preschool Teacher

baby-child-father-fingers-451853You 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.”

man-in-gray-shirt-holding-baby-in-white-onesie-3536630In 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.”

  • photo-of-father-carrying-newborn-baby-3617855How 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
  1. Ensure that male new hires actually love working with children
  2. Test their actual knowledge of Early Childhood Education
  3. What interpersonal skills do they possess
  4. How distinct of a team player will they be if hired
  5. 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. 

Administrator · BLOG · Director · Family Child Care · Home School · Infant · Parenting · Pre Kinder · Preschool · TK/Kinder · Toddler

5 Early Learning Domains

5 Learning Domains

Children learn best through play. It has taken us some time to finally realize what children have been trying to tell us for a while now. Toys are fun and colorful, but is play actually learning? Children have a natural ability to explore and interact with their environments whether there are toys in it or not. Have you ever had to pull a toddler away from the light outlet or redirect the precocious 3 year old away from sticking the end of their shoe lace into the sleeping dog’s ear. This is not because the child wants to be a nuisance. Children are natural explorers and they learn about the world around them through their interactions.

So what does these interactions look like in educational terms?

Approaches to Learning:

  • Children will demonstrate interest and curiosity as they actively explore people, things in their environment. The child will demonstrate their unique learning style and preferred method for engaging in their play environment? When this area is at work, the child is at his best when the educator will allow them to explore and teach the teacher what they are interested in learning and how that should play out.

Cognitive & General Knowledge:

  • Children will increasingly demonstrate skills such as spatial relationships, and cause and effect. Children learn to problem solve such as how to retrieve the ball that rolled under the table. This is also evident in a child’s ability to carry out multi step instructions as in putting your clothes away and then start your homework. Memory and recall of information also falls under this domain.

Language & Literacy:

  • Children will increasingly demonstrate use of words for reciprocal communication with caregivers and peers. This begins with parents reading to the baby while still in the womb. Once the infant is born, making cooing sounds and speaking to your infant in conversational tones before they have developed language facilitates healthy language development. Providing print rich environments with labels on house and classroom items, as well as books that the child can ‘picture read’ to their stuffed animals is excellent for emergent reading.

Perceptual, Motor, & Physical Development:

  • Children will build awareness of their bodies, increase gross and fine motor skills by navigating their environment. These skills are learned as children develop through skills such as reaching, rolling over, crawling, running, skipping, kicking, tossing, bending, and lifting. This domain also covers a child learning to balance and complete actions that cross their midline.

Social Emotional:

  • Children will regulate emotions by establishing positive relationships with familiar and non familiar adults. For example, children adjusting to being left with a new care taker or teacher would be a familiar adult. A child remaining relaxed but moving closer to their teacher when another child’s parent enters the room is an example of unfamiliar adults. Learning to cooperate, take turns, positively express emotions involves social emotional development.5 Learning Domains

The Parent and The Educator’s Role:

The best learning activities will engage the child in each of the 5 learning domains inclusive in one activity. This is what we know to be developmentally appropriate. For example, if the child is in the Book Area, the child should not just engage in language development. There should also be social engagement with engaging with other friends in the same area, the physical development of holding the book and turning the pages, approaches to learning would cover how the child interacts to the events of the story or pictures and cognitive development of recall of story details, order sequence and counting items should all be taking place at once.

Tour your learning areas and review your learning activities and resources to determine how many learning domains each will cover as the child engages with it. Challenge your staff or environment set up to find creative ways to incorporate all 5 learning domains in each interaction.

Parents and Educators should engage in learning through exploration, however it is important to come into the child’s world instead of insisting they maintain yours. The rules and roles of play are determined by the child in that moment. Adults must not be afraid or feel awkward with immersing themselves in the pretend but very real world of the imaginative play of learning. Release the idea that a boat must always be used as a boat. A child may determine it is a telephone in the dramatic play area but it can also be a water squirter in the water table area. Just go along with the child and observe their approach to the type of learning they would like to engage in.

If you are interested in facilitating a training for your staff, creating assessment tools and observation checklists on the 5 Developmental Learning Domains, contact Miss Indrea’s Circle at bit.ly/contactmissindrea with your inquiries and availability to create learning resources for your education program.

Administrator · Director · Family Child Care · Home School · Infant · Parenting

A Parent Conference In An Infant Program?

Your infant teacher would like for you to schedule a time to come in for a conference. Your little one is 3 months and sleeps most of the day. What could there possibly be to discuss?

No need to fret. Early connections with your child’s teacher is so essential in forming bonds and determining how to best partner with the care takers that spend a great deal of time with your child. School and home working together will provide an opportunity to bond, understand your child’s development and help your child feel nurtured and form secured attachments. All of these aspects are critical to the care and development of the infant in early years.

Forming Bonds

apple book business calendar

Caring for young children is a delicate responsibility, whether you are on the school or home side. Parents and teachers play a valuable role in the development of the little one. Consistent informal communication is one of the important keys toward bonding as partners in care taking.

Drop off and pick up times are excellent opportunities to speak briefly about something cute their child did the previous day. This is also a wonderful time for the parent to share that the child did not sleep well the previous night and may be cranky at school. The teacher can create a simple notebook or journal to jot down changes in eating habits, a need to replenish diapers or that the child did not enjoy trying pureed asparagus. During informal communication, it is always a plus to just let the parent know you believe they are doing a great job or you noticed they’ve seemed overly concerned about their child’s crying at morning drop offs.

Parents also need just a “Have a great Day or Evening” message left for them. Likewise, as parents, your child’s teacher needs to know you value the work and patience they provide for your child each day. Having this open line forms deeper bonding opportunities and creates a space to build trust between two of the most important people to your child.

It is important to remember and respect the fact that parents are the child’s first teacher. Educators are never a replacement to the parent, regardless of the amount of hours the parent must leave the child in the program daily. The educator is always a partner with the parent and should make it priority to respect the concerns, desires and position that the parent holds in their child’s life. Likewise, the teacher has invested a great deal into mastering best practices for the care of infants. A parent that acknowledges this level of mastery and not view the teacher as simply a babysitter will send such a strong message of respect for their position.

What are topics that a parent can share in a parent conference? Has there been any transitions at home or in the family recently? A parent that feels connected to the teacher may feel comfortable sharing a few details about changes at home. A parent providing insight of what is taking place at home will aid the teacher in understanding any behavioral or engagement changes being observed at school. A family moving to a new house and the child’s toys are still in the box, a relative moving in and sleeping in the child’s room, or a parent’s change in work schedule can all contribute to behavioral and social engagement shifts at school. Parent and teacher partnering together will form a stronger bond to support not only the child but the family as well.

close up photo of baby girl

Understanding What My Child Does All Day

The parent will often view the teacher as the expert in most areas related to children. The parent can gain valuable knowledge from understanding the activities that their child engages in each day and the objective for the teacher choosing those activities.

Typically, parent conferences will take place 2-3 times in a school term unless your center program follows a different model. The teacher will spend time getting to know the child at school, observing their social and learning interactions through observations. Observations are typically documented and this data is used to develop individualized developmental goals for the child. The conference is an opportunity for the parent to discuss the milestones their child has been achieving and better understand what the teacher has been observing with the child.

Likewise, if the parent or the teacher notices that a child is not yet rolling over or is experiencing digestive challenges with their current formula or breast milk, this would be an excellent time to discuss possible solutions. The parent and teacher can discuss any concerns and recommend to possibly schedule a time to speak with a family physician if further discussion and evaluation is needed.  In any perceived milestone delay, it is always important to remember that all children develop at different rates. If an infant is not meeting typical developmental stages, this delay is not an absolute indicator that anything is wrong. The teacher is a first source of  information regarding your child, but is not qualified nor should ever attempt to diagnose a child. Having these conferences during the infant stage can be a valuable tool towards early indication that further evaluations could be beneficial.

adorable baby boy child

What are examples of frequently overlooked moments in your child’s day for meaningful learning and observation opportunities?

Hellos and Good Byes: The morning drop off and evening pick up are excellent times for a teacher to use as learning moments in social emotional (learning to regulate emotions and manage transitions), physical motor (reaching for or crawling toward a familiar adult), cognitive (a child’s ability to understand a parent always returns and the teacher can be trusted), language (learning to say good bye or respond to a wave hello).

Feeding and Soothing Routines: During feeding or moments when a care taker is helping the child to relax, the child is also experiencing development in social emotional (learning to self regulate emotions to calm themselves from crying or outburst), physical motor (learning to grasp at the cheerios or hold their own bottle with two then one hand), cognitive (determining how to solve the issue that the slippery food continues to fall right before going into their mouth), language (understanding the pace of taking turns during conversations).

Diaper Changes and Tummy Time: For infants experiencing all of these new movement interactions with their own body, also taking place is social (following along with the rhythm of a nursery rhyme the teacher is singing), physical motor (learning to relax the body as the teacher raises the legs or balance the coordination of the head and neck), cognitive (tracking the ball, which is also pre-reading skills, as it rolls under the table and understanding how to retrieve it), language (when a teacher stops singing at the last word of the finger play, the infant recalls the sound of the word and mimics the teacher)

Form Secure Attachments

Megan R. Gunnar shares in her article on Secure Attachments, that children must form secure attachments in early development in order to understand how to respond properly to stress later in life (Gunnar, M.  2016).

In the article, Dr. Gunnar goes on to say that people involved in healthy relationships tend to have healthier lives and development. When the teacher and parent have taken the steps to form bonds and communicate regularly, the child benefits from two individuals that are at peace and share a genuine single focus of what is best for the child.

We can view the parent teacher relationship as similar to a co parenting arrangement. One person has custody and care of the infant during the day and the other during the evening. If either person is experiencing emotions of feeling left out of the loop, disrespected or disregarded, what quality of care will then trickle down to the child caught in the middle? However, when there is open communication, an awareness of what the child is experiencing at home and at school, and both are vested in the overall care of the child, this is a win win arrangement.

Parent Conferences are simply opportunities for the parent and teacher to come together to discuss their plans, concerns and to determine what is best for the little one that they both care about. If your child’s program does not offer opportunities for parent conferences, perhaps the parent and teacher can decide that having a periodic informal discussion on the infant’s development would be beneficial and sharing this with your program administrator.

Please leave a comment below on your feelings or experiences with a parent conference, positive or negative. For more support in all things early childhood for the parent, educators, home-school, providers and administrators, please subscribe to this blog and you will receive up to date notification when a new article goes live.

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Thanks for reading!

Miss Indrea