Wednesday, 2 May 2018

People in Childcare

Last week I presented at FSO-Dagen in Gothenburg, sharing wisdoms learned over the years doing philosophy with children. I also took the time to listen to Mats Olsson talk about Men in Childcare...

It was not one of those sessions listening about WHY there should be more men in childcare - as he said why talk about that, how often do we talk about why should there be women in childcare? Which is true... why do we need women in childcare.. what do they offer that is so important?
He also talked about his days working in preschools and the feeling of being the male representative - and also aiming to be a certain kind of masculinity.
Masculinity was not something that he wanted to define - I mean why should he, it is as broad and diverse as is femininity.. the problem is that often we get locked by the stereotypes of those roles rather than being free to experience the reality.

Mats is concerned about the dwindling numbers of men in early childhood settings... the number of men applying to teacher training for preschool has dropped, a larger percentage of the men drop out before completion... I think there needs to be more research into why this is the case.

In Sweden at the moment about 4% working in preschools are males... what I found interesting is that 10% of directors/headteachers are male...
If we look at male dominated professions we can find that there are often more women working in the branch, but less than that are represented in leader roles...
for example women make up 10% of the work force in the building industry and there is 10% females in leadership roles.
The reason why I point this out is that despite there being more women by pro cent in the building industry than there are men in preschools, men have a much better chance at getting leadership roles. Is this because the women do not want leading roles, or because they are not proactive in getting these roles or that this is one of the ways to keep men in preschool...

In the UK 2% of those working in the early years are males... I was unable to find the percentage of men running nursery and early years settings.. but statistics show that in primary schools (4-11 years) 14% of the workforce is male and 38% percent of headteachers are males. And in the UK as in Sweden males tend to get paid more than their female counterparts.
In my own career I have worked with men that have been given a larger wage just because they were men... they did not bring anything more to the work with children than did their equally qualified and equally experienced female counterparts... and in some instances I have worked with men with less experience and qualifications that were paid more than trained teachers with half a life time of experience... that particular person was not worth the money, his lack of experience and education was a hinder for him.
I have also worked with some talented males some without any education that I pushed to get qualified - others qualified and passionate.
The diversity amongst the male workers has been pretty much the same as the diversity amongst the females... from amazing educators to why the hell are you working here?

Mats brought up the problems some men face working in preschools and with young children... this irrational fear that they are going to do something inappropriate. in 2016 a preschool director had her life threatened because she refused to meet the demand of a parent that the male teacher at the setting should not come in contact with their daughter.  This sort of behaviour is not conducive to men feeling self confident to have a natural relationship with young children, where comforting, holding etc are an essential part of building relationships and children's self-esteem. If men are continuously stressing over "how will others perceive this" then it si not going to be natural and children will miss out on the fact that men, like women are filled with empathy, love, comfort and that these are not female traits but human traits.

Mats mentioned something about men being bossed around by the women... this is something that I have only ever really experienced once (but being female I might have missed it too) but at that particular setting I was the only staff member of 10 that had any training within early childhood education or teaching - could it be that the women, without training felt threatened that the men would take over (3 males)? I remember sitting down with two of the males and them telling me (after working there for 4 months) that they felt I was the first person that actually listened to their ideas and helped them implement them - ie we developed the ideas together into a more pedagogical form, that they would have been able to do themselves with more education and experience.

Is there a hidden need amongst (some) women to protect this female dominated arena from men... especially when they can see that men soon ascend the ranks and get paid more.
My own children went to a parent co-operative and my husband and I were the parents responsible for the staff... the hiring etc... it meant I knew what everyone earned and also meant that when my husband suggested that a new male pedagogue be given a certain wage I reacted that it was unfair to those that had worked there longer and had more education and training. My husband responded, but this is a good way to get everyone's wages up...
But really should we be relying on men to increase the wage? Shouldn't the work be worth more in itself? Why are female dominated professions paid less than male dominated... I looked into some of the wages In all these areas... and noticed that there is a difference across professions and even within professions... the biggest differences are women earning a lot less than their male counterparts in male dominated professions.
But does all of this matter, is it part of a dialogue even when we are thinking about getting more men into early years settings...

well I think it is. If women are always deemed as less worthy, are men going to be encouraged to engage in a profession that is female dominated by the rest of society? If there always going to be that sense of why are you working there, that sense of suspicion because it is seldom a profession that is held in high esteem or rewarded financially as are other professions... this is something that needs to be addressed.

We can make change in society by more males working with young children from preschool and up... not just because we need male role-models... as I am totally with Mats on this - we are not female or male role-models... we are humans first, and we should be role-models of good behaviour that improves our social chances at interacting with others, learning with and from others etc... men are needed in preschools to show that it is allowed. That we are human, we are people in preschool just as we are people in society. That there is just as much diversity within men, and within women as there is between them... and there are those that choose not define themselves by this binary system.

Both males and females in early years settings need to challenge the ideas of what is male and what is female - so that the children understand that do not have to do or wear or say certain things to be in tune with their gender.
A five year old once told me that I was a boy because I was wearing a spiderman t-shirt. I told her I was most definitely a girl. She changed her argument... only boys can wear spiderman. I pointed out that this was obviously not the case, that I had put on the t-shirt as a girl, and that I was still a girl and that I simply really liked super heroes... the following week several of the girls started sporting spiderman caps and other superhero clothes...

Interestingly I did a Mona Lisa art project with my group of 5 year olds, at their request, where I put their faces in the place of Mona Lisa's and they then painted using colours connected to the original artwork - one of the children asked one of the boys if he had now become a girl (since he was painting himself as a girl) The boy paused  - looked at his painting, then looked down at himself and then answered - still a boy. I also remember my son, at the same age, asking me that if he put on the Robin Hood dress-up clothes if he would still be Michael... (this totally explained why he did not like dressing up - this fear of becoming someone else)..

so maybe for preschoolers we need to think so much more about how we dress, how we communicate how we are dressing and that we can still be ourselves. Is there a genuine fear of changing into something else, or the opposite gender if putting on a garment.?

At this point I think of a male colleague who I had the honour of watching his own realisation of his power as a male educator in a preschool... I have been planning to interview him for some time... it feels like that time is close...

Have I answered any questions? No, it just feels like I have more.
What we need is acceptance that all are welcome in preschool.. that it needs to be a safe, stimulating place for all genders and all ages... adults and children alike. Society really needs to catch up...

fairies are for boys too, all emotions and empathy belong to all genders, and yes my family created quite a stir in a small French village when I allowed my son to wear a pink skirt to dance in...
I am by no means an expert in this area... just a person who wants equality.

Fler kvinnor i byggbranschen
Förskolan - sällsynt med män
Constructing identities: perceptions and experiences of male primary headteachers
should men work in early years

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