Sunday, April 7, 2013

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same (It Would Seem)

You don't have to go far to realise that the Early Childhood profession and society in general are becoming far more accepting and supportive of men working with young children. Personally I get countless comments from parents and colleagues on a daily basis about how wonderful it is to see a man with the children. How 'good' it is for the children (their words, not mine). What a breath of fresh air it is. How much the children (often boys) love having me or some other guy around.

Just last week a neighbouring centre's preschool room visited us for a picnic lunch and a male casual was with them. Now I was not present on the day (most unfortunate for me), but I heard several account on how marvellous he was with the children. He had them engaged with an impromptu group experience where he took a number of various types of gloves, gave them a personality according to their appearance and 'spoke' to the children and the other gloves through them. He also fully engaged with them during their play and exploration of the playground. I have been told that his interactions are to be held up as examples of how to engage with children authentically.


Now that is a wonderfully positive story and it is not a lone account. However, thee are still worrying incidents occurring out there that I have seen or heard first hand, or have been told about.


Things such as female colleagues telling male counterparts outright that they don't belong because of their gender. Instructors at training/educational institutions showing a bias against the males studying. Parents requesting that the man not be in their child's room or be present during toileting/nappy changing. Only employing men to work with older age groups. Men from outside the field viewing those who work with young children with suspicion, disdain and often hatred.

All these instances are regretful in the least and completely unforgivable to many. In the present day, how can a so-called professionals, and even academics, have such outmoded views? How can a women, for example, think and express a feeling that men are not capable of being in the Early Years field when they would scream blue murder if the same stance was taken against a woman wanting to enter a male-dominated workforce?


There are so many other questions that need to be asked, but I would need to write a mid-sized book to cover all areas comprehensively. My main question is this. How can such views and attitudes be allowed to exist, and even prosper in today's society? Have we really not progressed that far?

I would like to think that I have access to a skewed example of what is really representative of the Early Childhood Education and Care world.

8 comments:

  1. Good post Greg!

    What are the stats for male teachers in Oz? In Aotearoa we have dropped below 2% again this last year after a few years of slowly rising. Childforum has just released a survey of which companies are hiring males which is interesting in the light of the corporate dominance these days (google should find it).

    In answering your main question I would say that these attitudes exist and prosper because they are now structurally embedded into our sector and centres - we have become what we fear.

    I've written about a lot so rather than blab on come read:

    http://akoanarchy.blogspot.co.nz/2012/01/men-in-early-childhood-education-again.html

    http://akoanarchy.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/married-with-kids-sweet-come-teach.html

    @ko

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    1. First of all I want to alert you to the comment in the "Men in early childhood education - again" post with the links. It seems to be spam to me. Although it mentions EC it is very broad and doesn't mention anything specific about your blog or post. Have you had any issues since you visited those sites?

      There are some great point you make in both about gender identity and expectations. Of course men could be great 'role models' for boys, but that is not the sole domain of men, nor should it be just about the boys.

      It is a little different here as we haven't had a high profile case that lingers over the profession like you seem to have. nevertheless, there remains some who will always assume the worst in any given situation or plan for the worst case scenario. This goes as far as not letting children play in the rain as they will get wet and might become sick.

      Unfortunately there will always be people in society with a skewed view if the world and nothing anybody tells them is going to change their mind. This could be due to bad experiences earlier in life, who knows? All I can suggest and all I can do myself is continue to be a positive influence on children and their families, provide encouragement and support for other guys in the field, and try to educate those willing to learn through words and actions.

      As for the figures here, I am unsure. I think there has been a slight increase in recent years so that we are now at 2.5-3%, but I am unaware of any official figures. I do like ChildForum's idea for male scholarships and think they will help increase the number entering study, but whether they remain or leave the workforce after a short time is yet to be seen. Anecdotal evidence points to higher attrition rates amongst men in ECE, and given our low numbers to begin with that is worrying. It might explain your recent drop in numbers.

      Greg :)

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    2. No issues with the links Greg - just the website of an Indian ECE company which is a real interesting read - but I run on linux so rarely get virus-type problems :)

      Yes, New Zealand is unfortunately cursed with the Civil Centre Creche affair and despite the best efforts of the industry to lay it to rest, it is built into our systems as well as being firmly embedded in the public's mind.

      Yeah I think men tend to leave early as well - by climbing the ladder usually - as the wages are too low if you're the primary-earner for the family. I'm working on an exit strategy myself for exactly that reason.

      @ko

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  2. Its sad indeed - and I think the reverse is still true - there are many male-dominated professions where the women are told they do not belong...

    Voices need to be raised all the time to make these injustices seen and heard so that one day there will be genuine equality... sadly I do not believe it will happen in our life-time, but bit by bit we can positively influence the children, the future so that there will be a feeling that everyone has the right to do all jobs regardless of sex/gender

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  3. A couple of weeks ago I was at a professional development training session for elementary teachers. We divided into small groups to do a particular activity. One woman asked what age I taught. I told her first grade (6 year olds). A little later we were talking and she said, "It's surprising to think about a man teaching such a young age." There were 4 men in this training session (out of about 20). Three men taught first grade - the other taught PreK (4 year olds). She wasn't judging, just surprised. I was surprised that she was surprised.

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    1. Yes Scott, it is a little worrying that even those who are not opposed outright to men working with young children are still 'surprised' and even taken aback when they encounter them. I think it highlights that while wee may be aware of the many that are out there, many educators, families and children often never come across males in early years education. Now that is a sad fact.

      Greg :)

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  4. Hurray for male teachers! Thank you! And I'm sorry you have to deal with prejudice.

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    1. Thanks Jess, but we all have to deal with prejudice of some sort from time to time. The real challenge is how we deal with it. Like I said, I've generally been fortunate enough to not experience too much of it myself.
      Greg :)

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