Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
It’s a man’s world. It’s a woman’s world. It’s a mix of the two. Sometimes it’s just too blurry of a line to distinguish.
While most traditional gender roles have been challenged and subsequently eradicated, there is still difficulty in denying that, when it comes to certain areas of work, there is gender inequality.
More and more, however, in the field of education, and specifically that of early childhood education, there is a changing trend that is seeing more males take on the roles that are ever-important in the shaping of young lives.
In a recent class taught by Dr. Mary-Louise Vanderlee, she brought in a group of men who would help dispel the myth that being an Early Childhood Educator (ECE) is a role designated for a woman.
“I am of the opinion, that children deserve to have both men and women in their lives and more importantly, young children deserve to have educators who are knowledgeable in child development and pedagogy,” said Vanderlee. “The evidence is clear, both men and women have the capacity to be early childhood educators. We need the best people in the field regardless of gender.
“We also need to be more open to accepting that men, as well as women, take great pride in supporting and nurturing a child’s development and that some men as well as some women wish to work with young children because of the pleasure they gain from supporting a child’s acquisition of self-help skills, pro-social behaviours and development of a love for learning about the world around them. “
In her slides prior to introducing a panel of male ECEs Vanderlee noted some of the reasons there aren’t more men in this particular line of work.
On her slide, entitled “Why don’t more men do this job”, with information taken from a PhD thesis from Harvard University, the following were listed as some of the reasons:
• It takes a leap of faith
• What would friends think in the pub?
• Would people think you’re odd?
• You feel isolated an unsupported
• Training is set up to attract females from school
• There had be no motivation to change the status quo
• It doesn’t pay too well
These ideas, while all very much true, proved no match for Michael Folino, John Romano, Michael Vukovic and Cory Jobb – all men, all in the field of early childhood education.
“The group of men who shared their experiences as early childhood educators, talked about how they engaged in their practice and how they do not see themselves as distinctly different from female teachers,” said Vanderlee. “In fact they each provided examples of how similar their approaches were to their female counter parts.”
When describing themselves as teachers and how teaching permeates every party of their lives, Michael, John, Michael and Cory were quite animated.
The men also described how they had chosen their career path intentionally and described some of the challenges they faced as men working with young children. Importantly, these individuals were moved by each other’s stories and students came to thank them after the class discussion for openly sharing their experiences. Their stories made the students laugh out loud and wipe away a tear or two.
“These men love their life as teachers of young children and told the Brock concurrent and BECE students, that there is no better job or more important job in the world than teaching the young,” said Vanderlee. “They also emphasized they have no regrets in making their choices.”
What they do regret, however, is that others continue to ask,” why”?
Perhaps as individuals become more accustomed to male early childhood educators, this will no longer be questioned.