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.