Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We're Not Alone

Incoming message.....

No long-winded post here. Just a timely reminder that just because there are not that many guys working as educators in the early childhood field, doesn't mean we are fighting to increase the numbers on our own.


There are countless number of our female counterparts who not only support the idea of more men working with young children, but who are actually out there actively advocating for it.

 Together we can make anything possible, but if we go out there thinking that only guys can understand our position and therefore are the only ones who can speak on our behalf we are defeated already.

So Brothers and Sisters unite for the good of our profession, our children and our society.

.....message ends.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Wish List of a Male Infant/Toddler-Preschool Teacher

In an earlier post I mentioned a man who had left the early childhood profession because of his negative experiences. That post focused on No Touch policies. Here is that same man's wish list he compiled. In it you get a sense of his frustrations and an insight to the many inequitable experiences he had. Now while it may be a bit lengthy, I feel it is important for us to take a little of our time to read and try to understand what has troubled him. He took the time to compile this list so it's the very least we can do. This is his 'Wish List'.

  • I wish I could complain about pay, vacation, time off and worry about my students. The normal things that all teachers complain about. Instead of having to worry about who is going to stab me in the back or what I am doing wrong or what everyone is thinking of me.

  • I wish my co-workers treated me equally and not by my gender or gossiped as if they had a problem. I wish they came to me.

  • I wish I could focus on doing my job instead of having to worry about the fact I might be fired for simply allowing a child to sit on my lap during story time, changing their diaper when needed, returning a hug with a REAL one. And the rule about not touching children is enforced for males but when a female does it they get away with it. Much like how in many countries women are beat and if a woman beats a man she gets punished.

  • I wish my director would step up and defend their employees when a parent says they are concerned about the male in the room and do not want them in there or they will take their children out, instead of blaming it on the employee who is doing their job perfectly and can clearly see that all the children like him and is an exceptional teacher. If the parent has a comfortability problem, they should tell them to talk to me.

  • I wish I did not have to do over 100 interviews and have to end up with a job that is 100 miles from home, pays only pennies and I am forced to think, “Hey it’s a job.”

  • I wish I was treated equally, required to do every job my female co-workers are expected to do, and not have my duties separated because of my gender.

  • I wish I could complain about changing diapers, potty training, tantrums, spit ups, and all the usual things that infant toddler teachers-age 3 deal with. Instead I'm being put with the older groups because of the excuse of “It's for your own protection,”  even though my niche is with the younger ones and I struggle so much with the older ones.

  • I wish parents and ECE administrators could see or know that sexual abuse is not about gender. It is about control.

  • I wish that ECE administrators would stop firing males particularly for things that could get them sued at other places. I also wish that it was not so easy for them to hide.

  • I wish I did not have to worry about getting fired for nothing.

  • I wish I was not forced to change careers because I cannot find a preschool that will hire me like they would any other teacher and require them to do all aspects of their job. Especially when my heart is where it's supposed to be.

  • I wish directors when hiring will see the hardships male teachers go through and give them a chance and not be so strict on hiring processes due to it being a special circumstance.

  • I wish more directors and preschool teachers looked back at how women were treated in the 20s up to sometimes even now and how they had/have to fight discrimination and sexual harassment to get their rights heard and met to be treated equally.

  • I wish I did not have to delve into alcohol, food and have my life torn from me and have people tell me to get off my lazy ass and get a job, when I have been through over 100 interviews and I am not hired simply because I am a male and not how I dress, etc.

  • I wish I did not have the paranoia I do of wondering if a job will be like the others where I was mistreated because of my gender and end up quitting sooner. Only to find out that that place was the perfect place.

  • I wish I did not have to spend over $1000 on gas for my car along with maintenance to drive to interviews which are sometimes over 100 miles away when there are jobs nearby my home, but will not hire me because I am male

  • I wish administrators would tell me the truth about why they would not hire me instead of being passive aggressive about it.

  • I wish the ECE community would look at the deeper aspects of why males do not go into the field. It is not about the pay.

  • I wish I could concentrate on exchanging ideas and utilizing them with my students.

  • I wish I could use all the talents and abilities that I have as an amazing teacher instead of having to worry about job security for doing nothing more than engaging, bonding, and doing everything that my female co-workers do and that all preschool teachers are expected to do.

  • I wish I could experience the rare magic that some male teachers who have found a place that only I could wish for have.

  • I wish I could focus on doing what I love, and not be forced to do what I hate.

  • I wish I was allowed to break the stereotype, instead of being pushed down and looked at as second class.

  • I wish I did not have to worry about not being hired because of my gender or my weight or how scary I may look.

  • I wish I did not have to go into an interview wondering if I will be able to do all my duties, in other words, being treated equally.

Now while there are some repetitions in this list, perhaps that indicates that certain issues are more prominent or of paramount importance to this individual. None of us know exactly what he has been through, but can try to understand the general frustrations expressed within those lines.

This is one man's attempt to put into words what he has been through. We can wonder at how many others are out there going through similar experiences who don't speak up. Perhaps someone else out there will be inspired by this man's willingness to share to speak up themselves.

It would be healthy for the entire profession for such matters to be out in the open rather than hidden away. This discussion needs to be open, but it also needs to be widespread so for that reason I am asking something that I rarely do; for you to share this story and spread the discussion.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Screen Time or Scream Time?

With the holiday season not far behind us it's a good time to visit one of the ongoing issues surrounding young children. Screen time. Each year it appears more and more children, at a younger and younger age, are receiving gifts such as smart phones, visual media players, tablets and even their own televisions.
Researchers are almost unanimous in their findings that screen time for children under 2 years of age should be minimal. For children aged from 2-5 years the recommendations are for no more than an hour a day. Yet in the real world the reality is far different from this in most cases.
Aren't there many other much better options for children to feast their eyes upon?
My view on the matter is we as a society (that includes parents, family members, educators and other influences in children's lives) should avoid introducing multiple screen options for children under 5 and even limiting it until age 10 at least. Now that may seem a little extreme to some and it's very dependent on individual circumstances, but my reasons are fairly simple. Most activities that involve children watching a screen of some description these days involves a form of immediate gratification, whether that be an 'award' for successfully completing a problem or level on an 'educational' program or simply lots of loud noises and bright colours. Also, many of the applications, shows or add-ons are advertised as educational or assisting children's development which is often a false prophecy. there may be aspects of the product that educate or develop various areas of the child, but for the most part they are more marketing gimmicks than factual realities.

I have much more to say, but I'm using this post more as an avenue to open up dialogue on the subject. For that reason, unless you request a response from me I'll be leaving the discussion to my followers and other readers. This is society's issue and therefore everyone should have their say if they choose.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No Touching! Really?

A more detailed post will be forthcoming on this topic down the track, but for now let's just focus on general practice rather than a specific case.

A friend of mine recently 'retired' from early childhood education because of encountering constant policies that prevented him from being an effective carer and educator to young children.

Services in which he had worked had 'No Touch' policies and some even prevented him from changing diapers or soiled clothes because he was a male.

Now we can argue till the cows come home about the inequality of practices that define different acceptable roles for female and male professionals. And I will argue that, but that is for another time as I said.

For now let's concentrate solely on the alarming 'No Touch' policies that are far more common than I dared think it would seem.

Over the years I have heard of individual accounts of centres having such policies, but anecdotal evidence points towards a far more widespread incidence then was first thought.

Now I have read several justifications for such a policy. Some of these include protecting the children from inappropriate touching by adults; ensuring staff are protected from allegations; presuming a child does not want to be touched unless they can tell you otherwise and then written permission from parents need to be obtained; our job is to teach, not to cuddle, canoodle or play.

To me, all of these justifications are blowing smoke up our collective anatomies. While on the surface some of the concerns can be understood, they all fail in one crucial area. They neglect the inherent need of all humans, not just babies and young children, for personal contact with a caring individual.

If I am not mistaken, all services that propose to care for young children have to include touch as part of their daily practice. As a man who works with young children I can't even comprehend the idea of protecting me against accusations. For me, it is far more inappropriate to refuse a child a reassuring hug, a playful wrestle  or a congratulatory high five or handshake. In fact I would regard myself as derelict in my duty if I didn't engage in touch with children every day.

And if nothing else, an environment that enables touching promotes caring, empathy and understanding whereas one that does not allow touching is teaching our children that personal contact is something to be feared and avoided.

What sort of world would it be if touching wasn't allowed? A pretty sad one I would say.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

From the Unbelievable to the Ridiculous

For those of you who don't know, Lenore Skenazy is a trailblazer in the world of enabling children to have the freedom to explore their world and do things for themselves. Check out her site if you haven't already by clicking here.

There have been all sorts of reactions to the massacre that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, including this post on this very site. Now I know there are many who would disagree with what I had to say in that post, but surely there are very few who could agree with this ridiculous situation that Lenore posted about.


Instead of trying to stop children doing what comes naturally; ie play, we should be encouraging them to explore the world around them and experiment with different ways of being and doing. In this way children learn about context, consequences, others' perspectives and the own and others' boundaries.

Too much is being taken away from young children. Don't let their natural curiosity and creativity be amongst them.