I am posting these thoughts for a number of reasons. First, I respect the hard work that many of you have been doing in the discussions in this group. Second, I have gained some insight from the wonderful Mentor Institute in June at Claremont College. Third, I want to contribute toward our country moving forward at a time when tragedies such as in Orlando can occur. Fourth, in light of the fairly illuminating cover story in Sports Illustrated about a single individual – Caitlyn Jenner. But most of all, because I sense that we, as a group of men an advocates for men in ECE still have some work to do.
Part of me hopes that my life experience – I’ve managed 57 years on this planet – can shed some light on a variety of thoughts. You see, I grew up in a rather conservative, upper-middle class (according to my perspective we were upper middle class, although we certainly lived more the middle class lifestyle) family.
By the time I arrived at college, I was a bigoted, misogynist, but not beyond reforming heterosexual, privileged male. And deep within me remain the anxieties, fears, biases, prejudices of that child. At some point during my college career, I was “called out” on my bigotry by a West-Indian-American on my dorm. I’ll forego the details of the conflict, but I will say that before I had turned 20, I had learned that I wasn’t nearly as smart, or kind, or gifted, of generous, or caring as I had imagined that I was.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, and I still remember Raphael, for the lesson he gave me those decades ago. I also reflect upon the extreme privilege of my upbringing that has permitted me the opportunity to “commit the class suicide of becoming a preschool teacher”.
I know that each one of you has a history. I know that each one of you has had disappointments and disappointed others. For many of the men, we’ve disappointed our parents who look at us bewildered at our career choice. Perhaps we’ve disappointed spouses with the paychecks we’ve brought home. But hopefully, we haven’t disappointed ourselves. And that, assumes a certain degree of privilege. We are privileged to be able to survive and hopefully thrive (in non-monetary ways at least) in a career of our choice, of our love, of our passion. And because of this privilege, we must be able to move beyond the perceptions of wrong, or slights to ourselves – and focus on the wrongs to others. How have we as a society wronged others (both men and women) who did not have the privilege to embark on a journey such as ours for the minimum and near minimum wages that many of us receive? How have we wronged the children who never received the mentor, the guide, the nurturer, the disciplinarian, the whatever-the-hell-it-was-they-needed because that intersection of lives never took place?
We can get lost in the slights we’ve received. We can focus on the disrespects (overt, covert, or entirely unintended). Is it harder to be a man in ECE? Is it harder to be African-American? Is it harder to be LGBTQ? Is it harder to be old? Is it harder to be tattooed and a perceived gangster? But when we get lost in the slights we’ve received, we lose focus on the important mandate that our privilege has thrust upon us – to be the best we can be for the generation just beginning their journey in life. These young children (we like to think that they are resilient) are fragile. There is an instinctive, genetic imperative of the “seven year” (some say 4 year) itch. A human child benefits immensely from the presence of both parents for far longer than most other animals. Our young children are fragile. They need our very best.
A toddler named Kylen taught me that many, many years ago. He was a smooth child, the smoothest, happiest, easiest toddler imaginable. Until one day he had crying jags. Desperate, clinging, crying bouts in the morning. Snot dripping from his nose joining the tears that rolled down his cheeks. We requested a parent conference immediately. “Has anything changed at home?” The parents assured us that everything was fine at home. We continued to ask… “anything at all?” Apparently Dad had just started taking a class and left for school early in the morning. Apparently, Kylen and his father were accustomed to playing every morning before Kylen came to school. Dad wasn’t sure it was appropriate to wake up his son so early in the morning. We asked him to give it a try. Within a day or two, Kylen was his good, old, smooth self. Children need us to attempt at least to view the world through their eyes, their hearts, their spirits. They need us to work through our slights and be there fully for them.
Every one of us brings pain and anxiety along with joy with us as we embark upon a new day. Those things are who we are and we have a right to those feelings. But we each bring with us the privilege of being able to do one of the most important jobs imaginable because we choose to do it despite the obstacles. Each of us has made huge sacrifices to be with these children. But each of us has had that powerful privilege of choice.
At the Mentor Institute in Claremont, I learned a new perspective on cultural respectfulness. I learned to lose the notion of “cultural competence” and embrace an acceptance of “cultural humility”. As an older, Japanese-American, straight, male – I cannot somehow channel the empathetic capacity to become competent in the culture of an African-American colleague’s family. I cannot become competent in the culture of a gay, lesbian, transgendered colleague. I can become humble. I can ask how I might become more respectful. I might reflect upon a time when I was somewhere unfamiliar and felt out of place and anxious. I might seek within myself the humility to accept that I don’t understand nearly well enough the pain and anxiety and joy of another – but seek also the courage to do everything within my power to embrace that child, that family, their hopes, their fears.
I want us to worry less about whether it is more difficult to me a male teacher or a gay teacher, or an African-American teacher, or a dyslexic teacher, or a Muslim teacher, or a non-English-proficient teacher, or…. Let’s not worry so much about the languages being spoken in the break room or the suddenly-octave-lower voice of Mr Greg when he greets Marshawn’s dad in the morning.
I want us to worry that not enough children have us all! It wasn’t until college that I got that particular life-changing lesson from Raphael. Let’s not make our children wait. Let our babies be embraced by men and women. Let them be sung to in many languages. Let them taste foods from many kitchens.
In my program (a small State Preschool in Sacramento), I am one of 5 teachers. One is a Muslim woman, one is a Latina from Los Angeles, one is a European-American from a rural part of the county, one is an African-American who has farm animals at home. These teachers speak a variety of languages. They have a variety of teaching styles and natures. The young children have four very different models of what it is to be a caring, nurturing woman. I don’t want to be the only man they see over the next several years of schooling. I desperately want them to know Brian, and Patrick, and Franky, and Tom, and the fellas from Iceland and New Zealand and New England, and Colorado, and Jay, and Rodney and Rick, and Moises, and… I want them to know that there are infinite ways to grow up to be a good man, a caring man, a nurturing man.
Is it harder to be this or that or him or her? I want to gain the cultural humility to know that there is no easy answer. But I do know one thing – I do not want to be the only version of what it means to be a man. I am not that good. I am not that worthy. And for me, that is what the Men in Child Care Movement essentially is all about.

Qualify Versus Quality (part 9 in a series of essays)

How similar those words appear. And yet… you’ve all seen it… the classroom where the assistant teacher is the heart and soul of the program or where the high school student volunteering in the classroom is the model of quality interaction and engagement. Men often enter the ECE profession through non-traditional avenues. They may begin their careers as teacher aides, maintenance workers, kitchen/nutrition staff or housekeeping staff. They may arrive with sociology, physical education, and other tangentially related degrees. They frequently hold the lower-status positions on staff, receive fewer opportunities to engage in professional leadership development, and may be actively, if not intentionally discriminated against. Wardle, 2008, cites a survey “by Tom Masters of 200 directors in Ohio (that suggested) biases toward women staff and against male staff are held by many program directors.”

In this universe, there can be little wonder why men may lack the experiences that qualify them as skilled professionals. As the drive for accountability, led by such iconic initiatives as Head Start, demand ways to quantify quality – there remain subjective indicators of quality that go unmeasured and un-measurable. How can we quantify the headlong rush of children towards the male teacher or the father? How can we quantify the sensations of competence and achievement that coincide with the risk of climbing the slide, jumping from the structure, or the digging of monumental holes in sand and mud?

Borrowing from Marcy Whitebook’s observations regarding the diversity of family child care, “… to intentionally maintain and expand this workforce diversity… (requires) investing in a range of appropriate supports that will truly allow people from a wide spectrum of cultural, educational and financial backgrounds to access professional development… On the other hand, family child care providers (as well as center-based teachers) are virtually all women, and are roughly in the same age group. Both of these issues speak to potential problems facing the early care and education field” (Whitebook, et al, 2006).

It is becoming increasingly clear that traditional methods of assessing qualifications in a profession dominated by women may serve to limit the avenues of both access and success for men.


Wardle, F. (2008). Men in early childhood: fathers & teachers. EarlyChildhood News. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=400

Whitebook, M.; Sakai, L.; Kipnis, F.; Lee, Y.; Bellm, D.; Speiglman, R.; Almaraz, M.; Stubbs, L.; & Tran, P. (2006). California early care and education workforce study: Licensed family child care providers Los Angeles County 2006. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California Berkeley, California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

It’s time to challenge the QRIS movement:

The true cost of developing an effective QRIS system:

The Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) movement began in the 1990s and by 1998, Oklahoma had developed the nation’s first Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS National Learning Network, 2011). NAEYC was fully on board by 2005, with its QRIS Initiative. Early QRIS efforts in California such as Steps To Excellence in Los Angeles County and Los Angeles Universal Preschool both cited NAEYC and NAEYC Accreditation in the development of their respective projects.

In its July 2010 QRIS Tool Kit, NAEYC identified what it considered to be the four “major costs involved in a QRIS”:

  • “designing the system,
  • system administration and accountability,
  • supports for providers and programs, and
  • outreach to families and other consumers (NAEYC, 2010).”

Unfortunately, this perspective embodies the typical, administration-heavy, misguided approach to improving the early childhood education delivery system in the U.S.   In the QRIS Tool Kit, when NAEYC considered “supports for providers and programs” it focused upon the following four strategies:

  • “professional development for providers,
  • technical assistance for program quality improvement,
  • financial incentives, and
  • resources explaining the QRIS and how to participate (NAEYC, 2010).”

In actuality, this approach promises arguably the least effective utilization of funds.

The approach recommended by NAEYC’s QRIS Tool Kit is a top-down design. “Subject experts” create a rating system and design the assessment tools. Well-paid “expert” consultants provide technical assistance that ultimately validates the system design and assessment tools. A marketing campaign is designed. And finally, a limited amount of financial incentives, typically one-time or attached to additional requirements are rolled out. This top-down funding design leaves little room for marshaling political will towards committing the long-term budgetary support necessary for meaningful change.

As an example, an exploration of the professional educator job site, Edjoin, provided some quick insight. A position titled Early Learning Systems Specialist with Merced County Office of Education offered $4,214 to $5,121 monthly. This individual’s tasks include providing technical assistance in program quality improvement. Also listed by Merced County Office of Education was the position of Coordinator – California Preschool Instructional Network, with an annual salary of $80,608 to $98,096 (edjoin.org). Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics places the mean annual preschool teacher salary at $32,040 and median wage at $28,120 (United States Department of Labor, 2014). We can see therefore, that designing a system emphasizing professional development for providers brings classroom teachers face to face with experts who are easily earning 2 ½ to 4 times their salaries. One such training conducted in Sacramento by WestEd on the forthcoming Desired Results Developmental Profile 2015 (DRDP 2015) brought together center directors, site supervisors and a few teachers. The training provided me with two important takeaways. Firstly, the DRDP 2015 is a wonderful tool. Secondly, there are not enough teachers in a typical preschool classroom to implement the tool according to its intended design. Clearly California’s Department of Education has adopted NAEYC’s view emphasizing professional development for providers, technical assistance and resources explaining QRIS without considering the realities of the classroom teacher. During this training, I did a quick ballpark estimate and concluded that in order to implement the new DRDP 2015 in the way it was intended, a 25% increase in classroom staff would be necessary. In the day to day world of the early learning professionals, the singular, most critical expense, however overlooked it may be, is that of staffing the classroom.

Assessment overload:

The DRDP 2010 contains 39 measures for preschoolers to be assessed twice per year (43 measures for English Language Learners).   Even in the most generously staffed classrooms where all adults are teacher-qualified this means a teacher might expect to assess 8 children x 2 assessments x 39 measures = 624 documented pages.

The DRDP 2015 has 52 measures (56 for English Language Learners) – 832 documented pages. Given that the expectation is that each measure deserves multiple instances of documentation we’re now looking at upwards of 2,500 documented events. Given that, on average, a minimally thoughtful example of documentation takes at least 2 or 3 minutes (including the observation or interaction, written or photographic documentation, and associated paperwork) we’re realistically looking at a minimum of 100 hours of labor per eight children (equivalent to six weeks of a full time teacher). Put together a classroom of 24 part day State Preschool (CSPP) children and multiply by 2 sessions and we’re approaching at least 600 hours of labor (15 weeks of a full time teacher). Throw in team meetings, action planning, and annual report information gathering, and it’s easy to realize that even the smallest of programs will need an additional part time teacher if they are to approach even the most limited investment towards actualizing the intent of the assessment tool. Besides the DRDP 2015, teachers in California’s State-funded programs can look forward the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale and parent questionnaires (surveys).

For some lucky teachers that participate in the federally supported Race To the Top (RTT) program, you can add the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), Ages and Stages 3, and Ages and Stages: SE. So while California may indeed be well on the way to addressing NAEYC’s notions of the “major costs involved in a QRIS” (NAEYC, 2010) – we teachers are left out of the equation – overworked, underpaid, and forgotten by our country’s premier professional membership association and by national, State and local policy-makers.

At what cost, quality?

Besides considering the number of teachers in the classroom, one must consider their compensation – salary and benefits. “(T)eacher compensation is directly associated with education quality… teacher qualifications, teacher behaviors, morale and turnover” (Barnett, 2003). Unfortunately, teacher wages continue to hover near minimum wage. Ironically, as California has increased the minimum wage, many teachers have found themselves more impoverished than before. So while NAEYC may see the future of quality in system design, administration and oversight, training, and outreach – the everyday needs of the lynchpin of quality – the teacher, remain unaddressed.

Because there have not been funding increases to provide for the extra staff necessary to collect DRDP assessment data, many teachers struggle to find ways to meet the unfunded mandate of an increasing assessment workload. Some sacrifice the quality of their teacher-child interactions. Others reluctantly rely upon artificial exercises to collect assessment data quickly. Yet others work “off the clock” donating their time to meet the assessment timelines. Some teachers complete the DRDP quickly, relying on hurried, poor-quality documentation in order to get back to the hundreds of other pressing tasks that make up their daily responsibilities. The results are (more frequently than one might think) less than reliable assessment data and compromised early learning experiences.

As a classroom teacher with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Studies, I see the flagging morale of my colleagues. I receive the aforementioned technical assistance and professional development; I see what goes into the QRIS system design, administration and accountability. I’ve participated in focus group meetings and master planning. Yet, at the end of the day there are only three things that drive my commitment to quality in my profession – the fact that I love children; that I believe in the essential need that humans have for a true childhood; and that I love teaching. None of those are adequately or sincerely addressed by QRIS.

A wonderful, yet perplexing system:

California’s child care delivery system is fantastically diverse. And it is this diversity that makes it most difficult to quantify its quality. Currently state-subsidized programs include both Regional Market Rate (RMR) and Standardized Reimbursement Rate (SRR) reimbursement schedules to contractors. The programs with the greatest requirements for teachers are reimbursed at the SRR, while general child care programs typically receive the RMR. Oddly enough, the SRR in many counties in California is lower than the RMR. This means that programs that are required to hire teachers meeting specific educational requirements such as degrees in ECE are often reimbursed at a lower rate than programs lacking such mandates (Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2014). After considering other required reporting such as Food Program (CACFP), Annual Reports, Audits, Enrollment and Attendance reporting, Certifications, etc. the California Department of Education’s contractors endure a significant burden of labor.

It is nevertheless noteworthy that many highly qualified teachers elect to work at programs that are not Federally or State-subsidized (Whitebook, et al. 2006). Such teachers may gravitate to the less restrictive teaching environments of private programs. Indeed, the percentages of Assistant Teachers with Bachelor’s and Associate degrees were higher in programs without Head Start Start or CDE contracts than those in contracted programs, and the percentages of Teachers with Bachelor’s degrees was comparable (35.7% for Head Start/CDE contracts/33% for programs without vouchers or contracts). The percentage of non-contract teachers with 24 or more ECE credits outpaced that of their Head Start and State Preschool colleagues significantly (Whitebook, et al, 2006). Other highly qualified teachers open their own family child care businesses. Many ECE advocates will claim that the requirements of an educated workforce in State and Federally subsidized programs have not universally attracted the best and brightest teachers.

It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to identifying program quality simply will not work in California.

In Conclusion:

Quality will ultimately be found in respect for early educators – for those that work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Respect will take the form of not only salary and benefit improvement – but in respect for the art and heart of teaching – something that is not reducible to measures that have been observed or bubbles that have been filled in or degrees. It will be found in the eyes and hearts of the children and those that spend their days as witness to the wonder of childhood.

It is time for us to challenge the QRIS system for the things it has consistently failed to improve – our abilities to earn a worthy wage, our ability to spend our time meaningfully connecting with the children, and the wonder of childhood itself.


Edjoin. Search for jobs by title, city, state, etc. Retrieved April 11, 2015 from https://www.edjoin.org

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 2010. The NAEYC quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) toolkit.

Barnett, W.S. 2003. Low wages = low quality: solving the real preschool teacher crisis. National Institute for Early Education Research Preschool Policy Matters Issue 3 / March 2003.

Legislative Analyst’s Office. 2014. Restructuring California’s child care and development system.

Office of Head Start. 2014. Administrative cost limitations narrative. Retrieved from https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/operations/mang-sys/fiscal-mang/narrative/Administrative%20Cost%20Limitations.htm

QRIS National Learning Network. 2011. QRIS Resource Guide. Retrieved from http://qrisnetwork.org/sites/all/files/resources/gscobb/2011-12-15%2006:10/QRISResourceGuide.pdf

United States Department of Labor. 2015. Occupational employment and wages, May 2014 preschool teachers, except special education.

Whitebook, M., Sakai, L., Kipnis, F., Lee, Y., Bellm, D., Almaraz, M., Tran, P. 2006. California early care and education workforce study: licensed child care centers, Los Angeles County 2006. Center for the Study of the Child Care Workforce and California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

Teachable moments…

Part 8 in a series of essays

I was once an assistant teacher at a school district preschool. Although I was, by that point, a veteran with almost 20 years experience working with children, it was my first experience in a program that required parent participation. During my first weeks in the classroom, parent participation was incredible. I remarked to the lead teacher how impressed I was by the level of parent participation. She chuckled and revealed that they were simply checking out the man teacher that had been hired to make sure he was okay.
There were days when I wasn’t the only man in the classroom. One of the parents that participated on a regular basis was a mountain of a man. He was the father of one of the “princessy” girls. When he volunteered, he understood that at some point, he would be required to sit on a tiny chair in the dramatic play area with his daughter. Those were some of the most powerful teachable moments in the classroom. Boys, girls, teachers and parents could see this man, this father, engaged in nurturing play with his daughter. Girls received a message of how they should expect a man to treat them. Boys got a message about what it meant to be a man. And we teachers – we got the message that fathers care, that they participate, and that they matter.
Sometimes our messages to parents provide us with an opportunity to re-connect with what childhood truly means – and we become the beneficiary of the teachable moment. Following is a story a parent and friend shared with me:
“Sunday afternoon the kids were running around outside… Nico, Nathan, and our 9-year-old neighbor. They were playing “ninja” and my neighbor figured out how to jump from his yard over to ours. Once he made it over, I saw Nathan try to attempt to do it too. He kept looking to see if I was looking. I was looking but without him knowing. They kept trying. I saw my neighbor doing it again to demonstrate his footing to Nathan. After much trying, Nathan finally got over. Mind you I was dying as I watched. Trying so hard not to run over and stop his exploration. It was an awesome sight to see. My first instincts are to keep him from getting hurt but at the same time I don’t want to be that over-bearing mother. I want him to genuinely play… use sticks as guns and swords… to use his imagination” (Judy Laureano, 2013, in an e-mail to the author).

If I were king of the world… Part 7 in a series of essays

“… teachers’ words and the way they use them create meaning for children as well as for themselves.” – Julie Rainer Dangel and Tonia Renee Durden, 2010

In any place that demographic inequities exist to the degree they do in ECE, power relationships are imbalanced and institutions themselves are to some extent compromised. The potential for bias cuts not simply a wide swath – but the entire landscape. Classroom environments… conflict resolution strategies… communication and team cultures… parent engagement strategies… the professional development, recruitment and retention of male teachers… even the research and reflection that informs our profession are possible victims of bias given the gaping disparity between the numbers of men and women in all aspects of the field.
Peter Moss, 2000, exhorts us, “Taking the question of gender seriously and openly is one way into a deeper discussion about what the work is and the qualities it requires… the current invisibility of gender, not just for staff, but also often in relation to children and parents, precludes an important area of practice and reflection on practice.”
The virtually assumed gendered nature of early education leads to unconscious biases that color research. Consider for example the implications of the “Clark Doll Studies” and their subsequent iterations conducted to demonstrate racial preferences of young children as they manifested themselves through the selection of black or white dolls. These studies, repeated over decades by a variety of researchers have been questioned. Were researchers measuring racial preference or some other attribute of the dolls? Were the child responses informed by the race of the interviewer? Did the gender of the dolls (typically female dolls) limit the validity of the studies as they related to the gender of the child? Were the responses of the children indicative of child preferences, or a measure of larger social relationships? (Louie, 2000).
It is a near reach to extend this line of reasoning to research on gender. How are child behaviors and attitudes related to the gender of the teacher? How are child assessments influenced by the gender of the teacher? Do the behaviors of the children reflect gendered differences alone or do they reflect the interaction between gender and any number of attributes previously described and defined by the gendered nature of the early care and education profession?
While definitive answers to those rarely asked questions lie beyond reach at this moment, there are a few common sense things that we can do to address the gendered ECE world which we currently inhabit. In order to contradict the stereotypes associated with men and children, I would encourage my colleagues to implement a number of strategies.

For the fathers/families:
• Have as an expectation that fathers participate in parent conferences.
• Provide a variety of ways for parents to volunteer and/or contribute to the program, including opportunities to volunteer in evenings and on weekends.
• Pay for the membership in a professional or parent association for at least one parent per classroom, including fathers. This will provide them with resources and information that will support their becoming “experts” in parenting and/or childhood.
• Encourage participation by fathers in your parent council or parent association. Invite them to apply for leadership positions.
• Commit to quarterly Bring a Dad to School Days. These should be promoted widely and valued by the entire school community as important days.
• Adjust the Daily Schedule to provide for arrival and departure times to be conducted outdoors to the greatest degree possible and appropriate. Many teachers report that fathers are more inclined to engage with their children and staff more extensively when arrival and departure times take place in environments in which they feel comfortable.
• Assess the Parent handbook for signs of gender bias.
For the boys/children:
• Invite experienced male teachers to assess the learning environment and teacher practices for gender equity, just as one would assess the learning environment for diversity in matters of race, family form, language, and ability.
o For example, does the dramatic play area have props that support the participation of boys?
o Are there opportunities for appropriate and supervised risk and active play?
o Does language honor gender preferences?
• Encourage local male high school students to volunteer at your program to fulfill their community service requirements. Mentor and respect these students. Seek input from them on their perspectives.
• Evaluate progress on child assessments to determine whether boys were succeeding at a rate comparable to the girls. Make the adjustments necessary to address any gaps that may be identified.

For the male teachers and fathers:
• Post photographs of the fathers and important male role models for the children prominently on parent boards and in the lobby.
• Display posters that promote the value of male involvement such as the NAEYC brochure-posters, Involving Men in the Lives of Children (out of print) and Careers for Men in Early Childhood Education.
• Assess your program using one of the available Male Involvement rating tools. An example can be found at CAEYC’s web site: http://caeyc.org/main/caeyc/proposals-2014/pdfs/Uba,%20Gregory_Sat-2.pdf

For the male teachers:
For those programs lucky enough to have men already on staff, perhaps the simplest place to begin an initiative to increase their participation begins here.
• Post the bios for the teachers prominently so that everyone can see that our male teachers are highly qualified.
• Appoint male teachers to assignments in community activities, task forces, etc related to early care and education.
• Pay for the membership in a professional association for staff, including male staff.
• Assess the Employee Handbook for signs of gender bias and make the appropriate corrections.

For potential male teachers (recruitment):
While the recruitment, retention and development of male teachers will be discussed a bit more later on in this paper, a quick look at some suggestions for their recruitment follows:
• Post employment opportunities in places likely to attract the attention of candidates from related fields such as health, physical education, psychology, recreation, sociology, and youth and family services.
• Whether using human resource search sites or postings on local college campus bulletin boards, include welcoming language such as “men highly encouraged to apply”.
• For those programs with multiple centers, tour candidates through a center with men teachers already present in order to demonstrate your agency’s commitment to men as teachers.
• Make sure to formally introduce new male hires to existing men on staff.
• Let local college professors know if you have experienced men teachers on staff. Let these professors know that your male teachers are available to speak to classes on their experiences as men in early care and education. Men, it’s up to you to make every effort to be available when such opportunities arise.

For Directors, College Instructors, and Professional Associations:
Directors and instructors are among the first formal gatekeepers that a man encounters on his journey to a career in the early care and education profession. As such, it is critical that these leaders in our field have an understanding of the challenges related to the absence of men in the early care and education environment. For these leaders in particular, there are a number of ways to help.
• Consider quality through the lens, not only of educational background and experience, but also through the perspective of diversity and equity. Consider not only your program’s educational goals for children, but the social-emotional and social justice goals as well.
• Directors and instructors, through communication and collaboration can bring expert male educators to the college classroom as guest presenters. This is a particularly valuable strategy when there are male students or when there are few male instructors. An important consideration is that introductory child development and ECE courses often have male students that are taking the course for related majors outside of ECE. A meaningful connection with an experienced male teacher might be enough to interest these students in consider a career in early care and education.
• College instructors, by going into the community and meeting directors and family child care providers, benefit by the opportunities to connect with the very delivery system for which they are preparing their students. During such visits, make it a point to identify male teachers that demonstrate leadership skills and expertise. Extend to these men an invitation to present to your classroom. College instructors and trainers must also reflect upon the possibility that the curriculum, materials/texts, and instructional approach itself may be gendered – and they must take proactive measures to address such biases.
• For communities where directors get together regularly and in colleges where student associations or campus clubs exist for ECE students – explore the possibilities of developing cohort or affinity groups for male teachers and students. Make sure that these groups have opportunities to do meaningful work and to make contributions to the practice of the community.

Professional associations also frequently act as gatekeepers. A professional association that is welcoming and inviting to men puts itself in a position to develop men into widely recognized leadership roles in their community.
• Assess the leadership culture of your local professional association. Is it inviting to men?
• Create a committee that is dedicated to representing the needs and interests of men in early care and education.
• Consider whether or not your association has roles and responsibilities that might be inviting to men, including men that might be in the early stages of their leadership development trajectory. For example, an assignment to development a web page, online social network presence, or position statement might be more inviting to many men (and women) than the more traditional roles and responsibilities.

Dangel, J. R. & Durden, T. R. (2010). The nature of teacher talk during small group activity. YC Young Children. Washington DC. NAEYC.
Louie, T. A. (2000). A study of social issues that influence racial preference: a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Counseling, School Psychology. California State University, Northridge.
Moss, P. (2000). Workforce issues in early childhood education and care. Presented at the Institute for Child and Family Policy, Columbia University, May 11-12, 2000. Institute of Education University of London.

About CQEL

I attended a meeting on January 27, 2015 for a group called CQEL, Californians for Quality Early Learning. It was a gathering of local advocates in Sacramento, although the group is a statewide grassroots organization with members from across California.

I was greatly impressed by the level of advocacy – members were already engaged with legislators and familiar with some important current legislation. Here’s the link below to one of the Bills on their radar:


CQEL with CCDAA, the California Child Development Administrators Association, also led the way in working with Senator Steinberg to gut and amend his Transitional Kindergarten Bill which would have had the unintentional consequences of threatening the early care and education delivery system infrastructure of California (see my February 10 and 16, 2014 posts).

Currently CQEL members represent about 1,400 programs serving some 200,000 children and families. If you want to join a part of something powerful that will stand up for you, give them a look.


Does the issue of male engagement as a matter of gender equity in ECE merit consideration for affirmative action?:

part 5 in a series of essays

“…men who do “women’s” work may be at “ground zero” of a potential chain reaction of change in the gender order, and the consequence of their presence may produce artifacts that we can read and thus gain insights into gender that were previously hidden from us.” – Paul Sargent, 2001

“… (the ECE) gendered work assumes a female workforce and therefore constantly reproduces its own patterns in recruitment and training.” – Jan Peeters, 2007

Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, (2010), list as part of their vision, a world where “children and adults know how to respectfully and easily live, learn, and work together in diverse and inclusive environments.” Certainly it is inconceivable that a program can attain a truly diverse and inclusive environment absent male teachers and father involvement. Likewise, such a program can not claim that its children have access to a diverse and inclusive set of adults.

Even programs that currently employ male teachers cannot claim that its adults work respectfully and easily together if there are different sets of rules for men than for women. Many male ECE professionals have told me that they are not allowed to take children to the bathroom, not allowed to change their clothes or their diapers, and not allowed to let them sit on their laps during circle time. These same men are often called upon to take out the trash, dispose of expired classroom pets and/or pests, pump up the balls, fix the trikes, plant the trees, board up the window broken by the 3-year-old child, set up the computer, haul loads of paper (construction, butcher, copy, toilet), and move the television to and from the resource/media room.

Furthermore, from the point of view of children in general and boys in particular who are children in programs at which every detail is described and determined by women teachers and administrators, can it be said that they have access to a diverse and inclusive environment absent the input of men?
There are those that will say (and it is a reasonable assertion) that a good teacher is a good teacher and gender does not matter. Nevertheless, would these same people say those same things with equal conviction if a K-8 curriculum on civil rights was designed only by highly educated White people, or if a unit on women’s suffrage were written exclusively by learned men? Who better to inform curriculum for boys than men? After all, only men have lived through and survived their boyhoods.

Children are developing concepts about gender just as they are developing concepts about race. Just as with race, class, religion, language/accents, family form and sexual orientation – they may be full of misinformation, stereotypes or fears about men. Perhaps their parents are in a conflict-laden relationship. Perhaps they regularly hear negative things about their father or about men in general. Perhaps there are no responsible men in their lives at all. Children developing concepts about what it is to be male through media sources may likewise be very misinformed. They may view men as mean, demanding, unforgiving, aggressive, threatening, intimidating, inaccessible, disinterested, or violent. Cameron, et al, 1999, describes the self-sustaining nature of the gendered ECE profession this way: “it has had an impact on the historical and pedagogical understandings of why childcare exists, how it is conducted and organized, and what is gender appropriate have evolved through practice and policy over time.”

Eric Hoffman, in an interview for Laureate Education, states, “Children coming into my classroom are fascinated by both similarities and differences in the classroom.” He emphasizes that young children build their understanding about diversity best through “really concrete examples” (Cheung and Hoffman, n.d.). I believe that this crucial observation points out the need to include male engagement as a critical component of gender equity in our early education programs. For how else, can all children construct the concept of a man as a caring, nurturing, involved member of family and community without the presence of such real life examples?

Gender informs our profession across Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems levels. On a large scale, our society struggles with the nature of gender. Today, the assets and liabilities associated with gender are increasingly fluid. When considering an overview of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory as presented by Lepuschitz, 2011, one is faced with confronting the vast and diverse influence of gender upon systems. As gender and wage disparity vanishes, as gender and academic attainment swings in a new direction – society wide we are faced with redefining gender relationships. And while women gain an ever-increasing foothold in once male-dominated professions, men have not adapted. For the most part, men have not re-evaluated their generalized gender roles for the purpose of identifying opportunities to remake what it means to be male.

As a result, while society-wide, gender equity rapidly approaches in matters of sports, economics, and academia – college ECE classrooms, parent associations and ECE professional associations remain starkly gendered. In such a world, affirmative action would provide valuable relief in arguably the most gendered workplace in modern America.


Cameron, C; Moss, P; & Owen, C. (1999). Men in the nursery: gender and caring work. London Paul Chapman Ltd.

Cheung, L. & Hoffman, E. (n.d.). Learning about fairness: culture, language, and economic class program transcript. Laureate Education.

Derman-Sparks, L. & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Washington, DC

Lepuschitz, J. K. (2011). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. Laureate Education Inc.,
Baltimore, MD.

Peeters, J. (2007). Including men in early childhood education: insights from the European experience. NZ Research in Early Childhood Education, Vol. 10, 2007.

Sargent, P. (2001). Real men or real teachers? Men’s Studies Press. Harriman, Tennessee.