I hire men to work at my preschool. Correction, since I opened six years ago, I have hired one (little) man, my fourteen year old son Noah. The infrequence of hiring men has not been a conscious or purposeful choice. Men simply do not frequently apply.
Noah grew up with preschoolers in our home. At the age of seven, he dubbed himself the official ambassador of new students, making sure they felt welcome and like they had a friend from the moment they arrived. He has picked up on a lot over the years, he knows the importance of being kind and patient, and giving the students limits for their health and safety. He assists the other teachers, and is an all-around asset to our program.
I have had parents ask me in the past “You don’t have any men on your staff do you?”
We don’t question a male kindergarten teacher, so why is there a double standard for males in pre-education in the state of South Dakota? Does my son love an industry in which he will not be welcome? Of course, he can always work for mom, but why should his options be limited?
There are men and boys in early childhood education in South Dakota. There are a small handful at large centers in Rapid City and other towns. It would be illegal for anyone to admit that they try to avoid hiring men (and also very wrong). There is also a small group of male center directors. I can name two.
The disproportion of males and females in education is nothing new. Taken from the National Center for Education Statistics in 2012, public schools in South Dakota have 23% male teachers, and 77% female. This is close to the national average for male to female teachers. The difference in early childhood education is far greater. Out of all of the courses I have instructed for early childhood educators, I have had only one male in class twice. This is compared with hundreds and hundreds of women.
There are several factors causing the lack of men in our field. Many of them are based on misconceptions and biases. Early childhood educators need to support and advocate for each other. Equally important, men must be supported and welcomed to our field. Just as our field can be judged as unprofessional, men are being unfairly categorized as unfit to be in the early childhood education classroom.
Battle Misconceptions of Men in Early Childhood Education
Men can be pivotal role models for the children in our care: Positive male role models are important to all students. It creates a healthy balanced classroom culture to provide diversity (this extends to cultural diversity as well).
Inclusion of qualified men will create more equality in our field, and may lead to increased recognition of our profession and increase pay. Any profession that shows a balance of males and females is more revered and progressive. Early childhood educators push to break away from the label of “babysitter”, but then some support the idea that it is “women’s work.” This is a bizarre double standard.
Men undergo all of the same background checks: Male teachers complete all of the same training and background checks. To assume children will not suffer physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a female instructor based simply on gender is naive and dangerous. All staff should be screened and then supervised to ensure the safety of students.
I encourage you to welcome men to education. Whether you are in early childhood education, or are a member of the community, support and encouragement are key to growth. It is unnecessary to point out, the “token male” in the room. That is just as inappropriate as men pointing out the only woman in the room, or pointing out anyone’s racial or religious background. Anytime we try to support others by saying, “I’m so glad to have one of your kind here.” it is counterproductive and unsupportive. It should always be, “I am so glad you are here.” You as in, an individual person with skills, talents, and ideas to bring to the table.
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