High Meadows School

770.993.2940

info@highmeadows.org

1055 Willeo Road

Roswell, Georgia 30075

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High Meadows School

770.993.2940

info@highmeadows.org

1055 Willeo Road

Roswell, Georgia 30075

WANTED: More Than a Few Good Men – Tackling the Gender Divide in Early Childhood Education

This article originally appeared in PEN, The Quarterly Journal of the Progressive Education Network.

By Jay Underwood, May 7, 2018

Mrs. Tartak, my beloved kindergarten teacher, was kind, nurturing, and patient – three qualities of a great early childhood education instructor. She was the first of many female teachers who shepherded me through my beginning years of academic and social development.

The first “Mr.” I had taught seventh grade history. My experience is hardly unusual. According to the Department of Education, about 20% of teachers in elementary school are men, which is a slight increase from previous years, but still decidedly low. Why is this? The common belief is one that has dogged the profession forever – that teaching young children brings less prestige and lower pay than traditionally male-dominated careers like engineering and IT.

Additionally, society has conditioned many to believe teaching young children is a woman’s job, based on the fallacy that only women can instinctively understand them and nurture them. Unfortunately, this misperception, and the stigma that comes with it, has led to a dearth of men teaching in lower grades.

Boys learn differently than girls, so the daily interaction of an inspiring male teacher in their learning environment can help them connect better both with their instructor and with the material being taught. Girls also benefit from male teachers by experiencing different styles of teaching that might resonate more, and in learning how to interact positively with encouraging male role models.

Conversations about gender abound, and those who challenge gender stereotypes and enable young minds to ignore gender barriers are essential to the future of your profession and society.

So, what do we do about it?

WHAT EDUCATION LEADERS CAN DO

At the highest level, our education-focused organizations should be actively recruiting the best candidates, and that should include appealing to men specifically.

Start earlier with education recruitment in high school and in beginning of college counseling, noting the intellectual rigor of teaching young children and the opportunity to do meaningful work. Offer internship programs in preschool settings to spark interest.

Work to increase average salaries for teachers in all school settings. Money can’t be a solution unless it’s a solution for everybody, men and women, in all grades and specializations.

Demonstrate the need for male teachers: Male high school and master’s level graduation rates are far lower than female rates and dropping, in part due to gender disparity in the teacher role models.

Highlight the impact that early childhood teachers have on the development of young minds, positioning teachers in this field as true researchers who apply child psychology principles to position students for lifetime success.

Show the non-tangible benefits of an educator’s life, which are especially appealing to younger generations who rebel against long hours and commitment to one job indefinitely. With preschool schedules allowing summers off and shorter school day hours, side projects and pursuits are possible.

Develop fellowships and summer study programs for early childhood educators to add appeal and demonstrate the importance of investing in educators at this level.

WHAT TO DO AT THE SCHOOL LEVEL

Normalize the presence of men with young children participating in learning activities together. Do your training materials, hallway posters, and newsletter photos all feature female educators or helpers? It’s time to revisit the images you’re presenting to your school community.

Hire more male staff members and recruit more male volunteers. Deliberately seek male partners, college students, scouts and seniors to assist with on campus projects when appropriate.

Share articles and updates on the importance of diversity among educators and impact on young children’s development. Dispel gender “norms” by focusing on the importance of both men and women in taking care of and teaching young children.

Create compensation opportunities beyond the teaching salary, like tutoring coaching, chaperoning, etc. Consider offering signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, continuing education stipends and relocation allowances for new hires, like other industries do.

We now know that the early childhood years are the foundation for lifelong learning and socialization patterns. As educators, we owe it to our children to create environments that enable both girls and boys to succeed and have mentors with whom they can identify, connect with and emulate. Concerted efforts on the part of our national education organizations and at the school level can eradicate gender barriers in early childhood education and bring more men into the field. The results will benefit all teachers and students.

This article originally appeared in PEN, The Quarterly Journal of the Progressive Education Network.

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High Meadows School

Address
1055 Willeo Road
Roswell, Georgia 30075

Phone
770.993.2940

Fax
770.993.8331

School Hours
Monday - Friday
8:25am - 3:15pm