Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time to Pay Homage

With the end of year approaching I thought it would be timely to pay tribute to those who got me started in blogging. Well those who inspired me to get started anyway.

The ladies, Donna and Sherry, at the aptly named Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning were the first to get my attention. Before I even contemplating blogging myself I would visit their site and Facebook page regularly for ideas, inspiration or just to simply catch up on what was the latest topic of discussion within the EC world here in Aus.

Not only do they continue to inspire me and countless others, but they have come to be very good friends personally and esteemed colleagues professionally.

Well before I got into blogging, or even had the first hint of a thought about blogging myself, I was aware of the excellent work the Menteach organisation does worldwide for males in the education field.


The MENz group in New Zealand and the World Forum Men in ECE working party were also instrumental in inspiring me to want to do more to encourage blokes to consider this as a career.

Teacher Tom was the first Male EC blogger I came across, but thankfully he was far from the last. For an incomplete list of men who blog about Early Childhood Education check out our More Male ECE Bloggers post.

Of course I discovered these and many other relevant sites through my participation in the Males in early Childhood Network Group. We use to meet regularly and discuss issues that were important to us as individuals and as a group. Most of the guys from that group have moved on, but I still hold close all that they taught me and their passion, support and desire to make a difference will be with me always.

So to those people and organisations I have mentioned I would like to say a huge thanks for lighting the spark within. There are many others who have and continue to inspire me, but that is a post for another (not too distant perhaps)time.

There are so many wonderful people out there trying to make a difference and through their efforts this world is a much happier place. Thank you to all and I hope I have ignited a spark or two myself.


Monday, November 19, 2012

There's Only One Reason That Matters

There have been many reasons touted as to why we need more males in the early childhood education profession. Now while most of them have some validity, there is still a part of me that reasons that women can fulfill those roles too. Let's look at some of the more common ones, shall we?
"Men are needed to be role models for boys."
While it is true that many men would be positive role models, they would be so for all children, regardless of their gender. Likewise, there's absolutely no reason why women cannot also be positive role models for boys. No they can't be a masculine presence, but a positive role is beneficial end of story. Are boys in single mother or lesbian parent families disadvantaged in this area? I don't believe so. Unless their family is painting a landscape of men as evil or to be avoided then I'm sure the loving relationships would provide all that is needed.
"Boys and men are more likely to engage in rough and tumble play."
Yes, rough and tumble play provides wonderful opportunities for children of both genders to develop skills related to interpersonal and intrapersonal boundaries and understanding limits, gross motor development, and exploring real role play in a safe environment. Yet I would argue that women are just as able to participate in this as men. I have often seen females lift children upside down and wrestle with them on the ground. Granted it's not for all women, but not all men would be willing to engage in such play either. Some men, rightly or wrongly, fear that putting themselves in such positions might open themselves up for suspicion.
"Men are better disciplinarians."

This one really gets me. I think people who use this think of discipline only in the form of punishment. That is clearly not the case and even if it were I have no understanding why women are not as capable to enforce said punishment. back to discipline though. I believe people are under the assumption that children listen to men more readily because of their louder and lower toned voices. There may be some truth in that, but I don't have access to relevant research to categorically one way or the other. For me personally, it's more about the way you talk with children. Maintaining their dignity and respecting them throughout any interaction. Children are smart and can read us better than we give them credit for. If we are not respecting them why should they listen?
"More men will raise the profile/status of early childhood education."
Whether or not that is the case, is that really a good reason to employ anyone unless you're in advertising? This in itself is fuelled by another misconception in my opinion. That one reason men don't consider childcare as a career option is because of the low status/pay. Raising the pay for early childhood professionals is an important issue, but should not be linked to attracting more men into the field. They are separate issues and I doubt too many men would be 'lured' by better wages. Few men who would consider early years education as a career option are only holding out for a little more money. I also believe that encouraging more males into ECE won't necessarily raise its status in society.

In my humble opinion, the only reason why more men should be encouraged to enter this profession that matters is that children deserve it. All children. Gender should never be a factor when employing anyone in any position in any industry. However, when children are part of a society that consists roughly of the same number of men and women, yet their prior-to-school learning environments only have a 2-3% male representation then there is some serious imbalance happening in their lives. How can children develop a respect for men and women being able to do anything; building a house, cooking a meal, driving a truck, changing a nappy/diaper if they have limited or no opportunities to see these in action?

By all means get more guys working with young children, but do it for the right reasons and not just to prop up the numbers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Germany Leading the Way

Last month a groundbreaking conference took place in Berlin. The "International Conference About Men in Early Childhood Education and Care." Men and women from all over Europe and around the world converged on Berlin to discuss the many issues that surround this very topic.

MenTeach has provided a list of in-depth articles arising from this conference and these articles can be accessed here.

Moreover, if you would like to check out the speakers involved and the topics covered check out the conference's actual site here.

While there were a few familiar names there, such as Mick Kenny from Men in Childcare Ireland, Sarah Farquhar from Child Forum and Kenny Spence from Men in Childcare, there were quite a few new names I didn't recognise.

Now while this was a great initiative I am disappointed that I didn't get the opportunity to attend. It would have been wonderful to meet and network with some leaders in the field. I will have to wait for the next event to do so. Hopefully it won't be too many years away and perhaps a little closer to these shores.

Here's hoping.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is That Man Creepy?

On the weekend I accompanied my son to one of his ever increasing athletic carnivals. These are usually the event I enjoy the most with him as I help out at his events, but for the rest of the time I am merely a spectator like most of the parents. I'm not in the sun all day running an event for every age group for the entire day/weekend. Just for the record, I will be doing just that in a little over a week.

No, this time I was able to relax in between events. having time to just be at those times enables me to bear witness to many things that would otherwise pass me by, or I would only hear of them second or third hand.

There were some very interesting developments that really are side stories to the main reason for my writing. Perhaps I'll get to them one day, but don't count on it.

While sitting in my chair watching the action going on around the ground a little girl, no older than 2, who was sitting nearby with her family began approaching me. First it was to show off some Lego characters she and her siblings/peers had been playing with. Some of them had no heads so that lead to a discussion between us about where their heads might be. She soon returned to her Lego and I went to help out at another event.

A while later the girl returned and gave me a piece of paper. On it was a single blue line drawn in crayon. She told me it was for me and it was the sky.

Near the end of the day she stood nearby with a very small bouncy ball in her hand, shaping up to do a very accurate simulation of a shot put technique. As her mum was busy elsewhere the girl shouted towards me, "Hey, look at me! Look what I can do!" After several demonstrations mum finally came over, scooped her up in her arms and told her it was time to go.

Throughout these interactions and thinking back on them later, the thought kept creeping into my head what people might think of the man engaging with this young child so. Such thoughts never cross my mind on the job. It's what I do and people need to accept it. In public however, it's a different matter. I am naturally drawn to young children and it often seems they are likewise drawn to me. They must sense some sort of affinity between us. Not that I go out of my way to interact with them or anything. I might pull a funny face, wave or simply smile.

Anyway, in the public sphere people will generally not be aware of my occupation and therefore have no context in which to place the behaviour they see, other than there in front of all those people.

My question to all you readers out there is this. Would you think it was creepy for some strange guy to speak with, interact with and even engage in mild play with a young child? Would it make a difference if you knew the child/if it was yours? I am not fearful of such interactions and relationships, but I am mindful of what others may think.

Of course, the whole scenario would more than likely be thrown into a completely different light if I was a woman, but that's a debate for another time.

So is what I did creepy to you? Would you be comfortable with any adult engaging similarly with a young child or are there limits to what you consider acceptable?

I would greatly appreciate your feedback.