The 3%

Being a male preschool teacher is a lonely profession.  But there are perks.  For example, during breaks at long conferences and workshops, there is never a line for the men’s bathroom.  And, if a school has a male ECE teacher, they’re probably pretty proud to tell other people.  Having a male early childhood teacher is like a status symbol.  “Our school is so good, we have a male teacher!”  I hope that’s not true, but saying you have a male teacher is part of the school tour.

Male early childhood teachers are a rare asset.  How rare you ask?  Of all the early childhood teachers in the United States, 3% are male.  However, what a male influence can bring to the profession is way more than 3%.

Males do things differently in the classroom, and my style of teaching is drawn upon a different set of preferences.  I like to use the following phrase to describe my teaching style:

As a teacher, I’m like Kleenex: soft, but firm.

My style goes further.  As a guy, I don’t wear an apron.  I just don’t. Unless I’m cooking – and fortunately, for my wife, it’s not that often – I’m not going to wear an apron.  That’s just not me.  Whether that comes from my gender or not, I prefer walking into my classroom with a shirt, hoodie, jeans, with a beanie or hat. During my lunch, I’m checking the sports scores (Go Pacers, Dolphins, SF Giants, and Sharks!). On the playground, I’m playing football, basketball and even baseball with small children (along with tag, obstacle courses, and running around the play structure.)  Sometimes I’ll sing some classic children’s songs, such as ABC, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or Row Row Row Your Boat.  But, I’d much rather sing a song with more of a hip-hop beat, or make up a song that goes along with a cool instrumental version of today’s popular music.

Early Childhood professionals list out many reasons why men don’t get involved in early childhood, and I’ll address the one about perception; the perception being that preschool work is a woman’s job.  This is sad.  Because we’re pretty much saying that a male should not get involved with young children until they are elementary age.  For men who are fathers, do we not want them to be involved with their children between 0-5?  I hope not.  As small children, my dad would play with my siblings and I all the time.  Both my mother and father were involved.

That’s fine.  Fathers should do that.  It’s just weird if a guy professionally works with young children.

To men who feel that working with young children is not “manly,” or that it would challenge their “manhood,” please speak with the children who have no fathers or male influences. Let me be clear: working in preschool is less about “your manhood” and more about providing these children with a male role model.  Early childhood education – and the children – deserve both women and men to be involved.  And, let me be further clear: my manhood is perfectly in tact.

I’m part of the 3%, but I’m also part of a smaller percentage.  Of the male preschool teachers out there, 0.3% are men of color.  As a male and Mexican, I’m a true rarity in this profession.  I get a lot of attention at conferences and workshops because I’m a male preschool teacher.  However, I’d rather not have that kind of attention.  I should not be a rarity.

I would love the day that I could sit back and watch Monday Night Football with a bunch of other guy preschool teachers.

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4 thoughts on “The 3%

  1. You know…of all the ece teachers I know…only two are men. That is sad! The coolest male preschool teacher I know is Teacher Tom. You should check out his blog! It’s one of my favorites!

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  2. Just discovered the site. Thanks so much for reflecting some of my experiences. I am an Australian guy who has been teaching preschool in Malaysia for nearly 10 years. I returned home this year and found Australia is still not ready for men in Early Childhood. I couldnt get work and they are screaming out for Pre school Teachers. Sadly I have accepted a job in Singapore at a Pre School. They were more than happy to have a guy on staff, especially experienced and trained. Austrlian kids miss out. Cant wait to read more on your site, especially sharing tips. Cheers. G

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    1. Thanks Gordie for your kind words. There are challenges everywhere, as most education systems resist males as influencers on young children. In America, we scream for fathers to be involved with their children – whether they are married to the mother or not. However, as a country, we cringe to think of male early childhood educators being with young children. It doesn’t make sense? There is so much good that can happen; and it’s waiting for men to brave the perspectives. Writing these posts allows me to get what is off my mind and out there in the world – and sometimes, the world responds. Happy to hear from you and hope that your time in Malaysia is well spent and, perhaps, you can do good work back in Australia.

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