In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to reflect on the need for positive male role models in education and the early educational environment. Preschools and early education have primarily been a female dominated industry but as times have changed, more men are drawn to contributing to early education by becoming teachers or helping out more as volunteers in their own children’s classrooms.
When speaking about the qualities of a positive male role model, I would like to suggest that in a perfect world we would not need gender specific traits associated with role models but it cannot be denied that a positive male presence in early education is needed for the holistic educational experience of our children. Men who are educated and emotionally connected assist in guiding children on how to positively channel their emotions without suppressing them (i.e. girls being taught not to show anger and boys being taught to never cry); how to conflict resolve; how to properly channel social anxiety; or how to communicate effectively with the opposite sex.
The Journal of Education and Human Development published an article by Joseph, Wright, Phil (2016) entitled “Men as Early Childhood Educators: Experiences and Perspectives of Two Male Prospective Teachers.”
“Notwithstanding negative public perception about men in early childhood education, the Trinidad and Tobago society stands to benefit from greater male participation in the education of young children. Carrington and Skelton (2003) remind us that such individuals can make a positive contribution to the ethos of the school through their role as mentors. Findings of the study also suggest that fathers and other male caregivers should find information on early childhood care useful to their own practice as parents and guardians.”
In general, addressing the needs of positive male role models in early education also impacts the way that we embrace gender roles in education. The University of Cambridge outlines several characteristics that, I believe, are universal to any role model; male or female
Integrity - Demonstrates self-awareness with insight into their own values, sticks to principles, consistent, kind and courteous.
Relationship-focused - Strong interpersonal skills, empathetic, with the ability to communicate well.
Leadership - Influential change-maker, able to challenge the status quo as well as to be diplomatic.
Inclusive - Exercises influence and demonstrates a commitment to gender equality and overall diversity.
Pioneering - Inspirational in showing the way and proving what’s possible. Demonstrates different routes to becoming successful and from a range of backgrounds.
High-quality work and attitude - Determined work ethic, highly competent with the ability to prioritize.
Confident and Authentic - True to themselves, who they are and what they stand for, a strong sense of self, at ease with and able to co-exist alongside others.
Resilient - Courage to take a stand and put a head above the parapet for important issues.
As long as we start to change our collective view of men having the ability to be nurturing and caregiving then there can more of an acceptance for men as early educators. With more men in the early education field, our children can openly experience the positive change in gender equality that we are all striving for.
Happy Father’s Day to all the men who support the growth and education of children!
I would like to hear what you have to say about this topic! Please share your thoughts and comments below.
M.S. Human Services