More about basketball…

As I increasingly advocate for affirmative action for men in ECE, I find myself a part of the “best teacher for the job” dilemma. The typical questions: “Would you hire the man teacher if a better woman teacher was applying?” “Isn’t it our job to hire the best teacher for the job… period?”
Within these questions are the notions that we can somehow quantify what makes someone the “best” candidate. I often refer back to papers by Marcy Whitebook that explore in depth the child care workforce. She reminds us that linguistic and cultural diversity are components of quality. In the context of the papers, diversity refers to the loss of racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity that accompanies demands for greater formal education requirements for teachers. Nevertheless, it might also serve as a reminder that gender diversity of teachers might also be considered a component of program quality.
Oh, yes, this is supposed to have something to do with basketball… For those of you that are fans of the sport, you understand that the 5 positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center) generally call for different physical attributes, skill sets, and to some degree dispositions.
Let’s look at an example. Many people would say that Carmelo Anthony is the best small forward (teacher) available testing the market (for the purposes of this essay, let’s say he’s looking for a new “school” to work at). Not every team (school) needs Carmelo. Maybe they already have a great player (teacher) at that particular position. Would that team want to hire Carmelo just because he was the best player (teacher) available? No. Every great team (school) benefits most by looking for the player (teacher) that best addresses their gaps/needs. Need more rebounding? Look for a center or power forward. Need better ball movement and distribution? Grab a point guard. Not enough perimeter offense? Look for a shooting guard or small forward/swing man or point guard that addresses that need.
In that same way, when we interview teachers, how well we address our gaps/needs may pave the way for more men in high quality programs. In other words – Is your school garden neglected? Look for a teacher that enjoys the outdoor natural learning environment. Are you hoping to implement more woodworking of mechanical experiences for the children? Hire someone with an enthusiasm and skill set in woodworking or a mechanical aptitude. Are your teachers ambivalent about outdoor physical activities? Science? Hopefully, you see my point.
We tend to hire teachers that conform to the existing program culture rather than looking for teachers that complement or expand or even perhaps challenge/stress the current program culture. And, when we, as administrators do that, we do a disservice to the team. We tend to hire teachers that please the other teachers or satisfy the expectations of parents or match our own (administrator) notions of what a quality teacher knows, looks and acts like. How often do we interview applicants from the point of view of gaps/needs? How often do we interview applicants from the point of view of the children/students/players?
As a man in ECE, I can’t claim to be the favorite teacher of all children and parents. That would be ridiculous. BUT, I am there for a certain group of children and parents that choose me to bond with. A diverse team is CRUCIAL for performance, for quality, for meeting the needs of the children and families. Make men a part of that team. Maybe he isn’t the best teacher testing the free-agency market. But he might be the missing piece that can take your program to the championship! He might be your Manu Ginobli or Boris Diaw. He might be the teacher whose actions don’t “fill up the stat sheet”, but whose unnoticed and undervalued actions make the difference for your team. There are great players and there are great teams. It’s time that ECE administrators look at their staff as a team of complementary parts. A team that can only benefit from the inclusion of men.

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