by Daniel Miskin
Being involved in the early childhood education field for the past 10+ years I am well aware of the very small population that males represent in the field. I am also well aware of the need and desire to get more males involved in the profession. For my fellow male early childhood education professionals, as well as my female colleagues, I want to offer a piece of advice to help encourage this and that is to allow male early childhood educators TO BE MEN!
Men in the early childhood field ought to be caring, nurturing, at appropriate times even a little bit silly for the sake of the children they are caring for. In fact, I am convinced that nobody would be able to get into or stay in the field if they did not actually possess these traits/skills. Men in the early childhood field need to be firm yet patient, read stories in an energetic, engaging manner, give hugs as well as high-fives, and many other forms of care and encouragement for young children. It is not for all men. Then again, it is not for all women either.
For myself, I am perfectly comfortable giving hugs, singing with children, dancing, changing diapers, and other responsibilities early childhood educators would be expected to do. I also have brought to the classroom my love of being physically active, strength training, and following and participating in sports, as well. Both aspects of my personality are just two sides to the same coin and I don’t see any reason why both cannot be a part of the classroom curriculum.
While I have a real passion and a knack for working with young children, I have also, equally, a passion for physical fitness. Passionate enough, in fact, that in the Spring of 2014, in addition to being an early childhood educator, I got certified to be a personal fitness trainer. What was nice about this professional pursuit, as many of you know, is that the two fields do not need to be mutually exclusive, and actually can work quite well together. When my co-teacher was busy doing some prep work, or maybe working with a child one-on-one, I could engage the whole group in a PT session, doing push-ups, crunches, reverse crunches, jumping jacks, and stretches. (The push-ups, of course, would always end up with me doing some push-ups with several children on my back.) For myself, the physical part of the job is where I have been able to truly embrace my masculinity.
Other males might have other skills or interest in which they can embrace their masculinity. Some men might try bringing in their tools and using their handyman skills around the center (or whatever environment that they are working in.) Some might want to bring in their trophies or photos of their sports accomplishments to share with the classroom. For others, photos of their camping/hiking trip or of the fish they caught while out fishing. There are many ways in which men identify with their masculinity and allowing men to bring that into the classroom, if done in an appropriate, professional way, should be a huge benefit for the children of that classroom, especially those who do not have male role models at home.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying woman cannot do any or all of these things. I have had female co-workers who were bigger football fans than I am. I have had female co-workers who are hunters. I am sure there are plenty of female early childhood educators who are into weight lifting and martial arts as well. I am not saying that females cannot do these things. What I am saying is that nobody that I know of would consider such activities to not be masculine.
Outside of work I have a group of male friends I hang out with. We go out (though not frequently) to sports bars and cigar parlors, and participate in “manly” activities. My friends all know what I do for work, yet I have never been made to feel like I don’t belong with that kind of group, or that I am less of a man than they are. Also, while such activities must be done in moderation, they can be an enjoyable time and a great bonding experience. We may talk about things like football, or the outdoor adventures we have planned or participated in, but I can also talk about my job, and not have to be concerned about being judged for not being very masculine.
Overall, it is important to keep in mind that children benefit from learning about a wealth of
different experiences. By allowing male care-givers to be themselves, and how they identify with their
own masculinity gives children an enriched classroom experience from which they can gain understanding and acceptance. To allow men to act as they naturally would is beneficial for everyone involved in the classroom. Also, for all my fellow male early childhood educators, I just want to remind you that what you do is no small job. You have been entrusted to be safeguarding, encouraging, and guiding young children in the development of their earliest and very crucial stage of development. Gender aside, that’s a pretty big (and important) task for anyone.