Men in ECE Speak Up: Ugly stereotypes, the importance of male teachers and why we love this field of work
Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey attached to the last blog on Men in ECE. Without your open and honest responses this second post would not be possible.
Your feedback from the survey has been incredibly helpful to me in formulating this post and has provided Clayton Early Learning with valuable data as we continue to advocate for excellence in the field of early childhood education.
Since my last post, I had been eagerly awaiting the results of the survey in hopes of gaining some new insight and perspectives from other teachers, both male and female, parents and community members. Some of the responses solidified my predictions from the last blog, while others presented a perspective I hadn’t heard before.
We will not necessarily try to debunk or support any specific point of view or stereotype here. My intention now is only to initiate conversations surrounding societal perceptions of men in this field so that we can support professional development and growth for all educators and to celebrate the contribution that men can make as ECE professionals.
Now, I am eager to share some of the responses that I received to the survey questions posed in my first post. For brevity, I have paraphrased the collected responses to provide a general sense of how those surveyed responded to each of the prompts.
Do you feel men in ECE are more sought after by employers?
A slight majority of replies to this questions suggested that yes, men are more sought after by employers to work in this field. However, this question received a variety of perspectives that suggest that employers attempt to remain unbiased in selecting their teaching staff. One respondent stated that the current trend in ECE is to advocate for more men in the field, therefore employers feel more obliged to hire men.
In your opinion, what importance, if any, do men play in the field of ECE?
Predominantly, the responses indicated that gender balance is an important benefit of having men in ECE classrooms. This balance can support positive modeling of communication and collaboration between male and female teachers. Responses also illustrated the benefit of having male role models for both boys and girls and the differences in communication styles, creativity and interaction that men display.
In your opinion, are there currently any stereotypes about men working in ECE?
This question elicited a variety of answers that many of the respondents were quick to include that they did not subscribe to. Some of the responses indicated that society perceives men in ECE as unambitious, that men choose to work in this field because they weren’t adept at working in upper level education classrooms, or that men in this field are choosing an easy job.
The majority of the responses revealed that ECE is still not considered a masculine profession, regardless of the push to employ more men in the field. One person stated that society believes “men should work with older children.” This leads into some of the more harmful stereotypes of male ECE educators. Several of the respondents wrote that society views men in ECE as predators. This stereotype is particularly harmful to the field as it often serves to discourage would-be male candidates from pursuing a career in early education. Conversely, a looming stereotype that male teachers have inappropriate interests in their work can be extremely harmful to the parent-teacher relationship. Knowing that a trusting relationship is critical in partnering with families, this stereotype is one that must be acknowledged and debunked.
It is disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, that the bulk of our responses indicate that those who participated in the survey believe men in ECE are generally viewed with skepticism and suspicion.
While the daily professional work of an educator is challenging in its own right, men in the field of early childhood education face the additional test of overcoming gender stereotypes that may impact their sense of efficacy as a teacher.
Despite the sometimes harsh reality of stereotypes of men in early childhood education, I was inspired to read the responses that men offered regarding their choice of profession. Though this is a small sample of what was received, it speaks volumes to the diversity of men in the field - their approach to teaching, philosophies on education and motivations for working with young children and families. The responses below have been edited for clarity and brevity, but are completely authentic in tone and message.
Why did you choose a career in ECE?
“For the joy of working with young children.”
“I have taught secondary, primary and ECE. It is the most important age for children's learning, and the development of their dispositions. My teaching philosophy and mission is to empower all through education.”
“I wanted a job that would be nurturing in nature and where I could use my talents for communication and working with children.”
“Because I'm good with children and I enjoy their company. Children are very intuitive. I am successful in my work as a teacher because children can sense that they are safe with me and that I genuinely enjoy working with them.”
“To inspire and tap into little minds. I believe children can do far more than the general population believes they can and so I push my students to show the world what they can do.”
“It was exciting to discover that I was good at teaching preschool students. Being confident in my ability at work is a great feeling.”
“I wanted to make an impact on the lives of young children.”
As I wrote in my last blog, male ECE teachers are a diverse group with many reasons for educating, impacting and improving the lives of young children. If you know a male early childhood educator, I encourage you to ask them why they have chosen this field. I guarantee you that their answer will inspire you with a new respect for their work.
We will continue sharing these stories, challenges, barriers and celebrations of men in early childhood education and hope that you will too. This is the first important step in overcoming harmful stereotypes and encouraging gender diversity in the field of ECE.
As Clayton celebrates National Nutrition Month this March and all the ways we promote healthy lifestyles to our children and families on a daily basis, we also seek to acknowledge the challenges many people living in Denver face with having the resources for appropriate foods for a nutritious diet., Professionals define food insecurity as a social and economic condition that stems from “the lack of consistent access to adequate food” (Coleman-Jensen, McFall, & Nord, 2013). The Department of Agriculture states that this varies from hunger, a physiological condition, but can exacerbate into hunger if prolonged (Coleman-Jensen, McFall, & Nord, 2013).
Hunger Close to Home
In 2011, 17.9 million families in the United States reported food insecurity at some point during the year. This issue rings true right here in our neighborhoods surrounding Clayton Early Learning. Research conducted at Clayton this past fall identified that across our school based and Head Start Home Based programs, 38.6% of families worried about food running out. Food ran out completely for 18.7% of families at some point during the year.
Food insecurity can disturb children’s learning. Hunger affects children’s biopsychosocial development and impairs a child’s ability to pay attention and retain information learned in the classroom. Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that even “short episodes” of food insecurity can cause serious long-term damage to child development across cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical spectrums (Raphel, 2014).
- Clayton Staff Working to Combat Hunger in the Community
The Fresh Produce/Food Pantry Committee has a twofold mission to act as a catalyst in building the capacity of families to prevent food insecurity through:
- Providing emergency access to nutritious food for all families and staff
- Educating families about food and nutrition in three main areas:
- Food budgeting
- Meal planning
- Cooking skills
Throughout the year, the committee maintains the Food Pantry— an emergency resource for families and staff in need of support. During the summer months, we maintain and harvest gardens to provide fresh produce at no cost. We have collaborated with Denver Urban Gardens to offer two Youth Farmers’ Markets in the past year and strive to hold more this year! The Fresh Produce/Food Pantry Committee hopes to reduce food insecurity within our community. When our children have access to consistent and nutritious food, we can ensure that they have the brain nourishment needed to focus, grow, and succeed in school and life.
If you have any questions about the Fresh Produce/Food Pantry Committee or would like to get involved please contact
Coleman-Jensen, A., McFall, W., & Nord, M., (2013). Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics, 2010-11. United States Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service, Economic Information Bulletin 113.
Raphel, S. (2014). Eye on Washington: Children, Hunger, and Poverty. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 27, 45-47.