Standing up to Stereotypes in Our Classrooms

February 5, 2020

You can choose any career you want when you grow up, except for early childhood education.

Whether explicit or implied, this is the message that our society — and to some degree our own profession — sends to men, even in the 21st century.

What a missed opportunity this represents to bring smart, nurturing, energetic individuals into a field that needs them as educators, caregivers and role models.

In a recent white paper titled “Supporting Men as Early Childhood Educators,” we explore the barriers that men face in gaining employment in early childhood education settings and how encouraging men to be in these roles benefits the workforce, our children and our social fabric.

Consider this: Since the 1970s, the percentage of men working in early care and education has ranged from 2.1 percent to 5.9 percent of the total early childhood workforce. In 2018, the number of men in the field reached 6.3 percent.1

This data point conveys two important truths: First, men want to work in early childhood education. Second, we have not opened the door wide enough for more men to do so.

As the white paper explains, the cards are stacked against men for a few reasons. Low pay, low professional status, and the potential for suspicion and accusations top the list. While external economic forces are in play for the first two reasons, I challenge us all to consider how we can collectively overcome the third.

We know that men can and do thrive in early childhood education. We know male teachers serve as important role models that can contribute to boys’ development and growth.

We also know that some people — parents, administrators, perhaps even some teachers — may still have outdated notions of what a teacher should look like.

The good news is that we are paying attention to this issue, and a shift — even if it’s a slow one — appears to be on the horizon, thanks to programs nationwide that are inspiring and training men to enter the early childhood field.

From California to the Carolinas, programs are tackling the disparity from different angles:

  • Encuentros Teacher Academy at California State University San Marcos brings high school students together with Hispanic education leaders to introduce teens to the possibility of becoming teachers themselves.
  • A group of state educators in Illinois created the Men of Color program, which combines coursework toward a certificate or two-year degree with paid internships and mentoring.
  • The Call Me MISTER® (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program in Clemson, SC, is a teaching and recruitment scholarship program that offers tuition assistance (loan forgiveness programs) and academic, cultural and social support to male students enrolled in participating colleges.

The Council is likewise doing its part to build an early childhood education workforce. Men can train for a career in early childhood care and education, as well as increase their credibility with parents and the field, by earning our Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™. Since credential earners must complete 120 hours of coursework and 480 hours of experience working with children, the CDA builds essential competency.

If you want to learn more about the CDA, I encourage you to visit us at www.cdacouncil.org/credentials/apply-for-cda.

Can we flip the script on long-held biases toward men in early childhood education? From where I sit, it would be a tragedy not to try.

Please read the full white paper at www.cdacouncil.org/white-papers.

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