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ECEnet

male teacherRole Models and Super Heroes:
Men in the Early Years

“Will I be able to support my family on the income?”

“What will parents think of me?”

“Is the profession one that will encourage and support me throughout my career?”

“Can I really make that big of a difference?”

These questions, and likely many more, are ones that potentially fill the mind of a male considering a career in early childhood education. In a society that considers earning high incomes and professional status evidence of success, many young males might reconsider becoming a preschool or kindergarten teacher. Coupled with negative stereotypes and issues of poor and often insensitive publicity in the media, many men steer away from the field of early childhood education.

More than 33 percent of children in the United States today live in a home where the biological father is absent. This is disappointing. While the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) shares that fewer than 3 percent of the country’s preschool and kindergarten teachers are men (and, when considering all ages of the early years, the percentage is likely even less), there is the more startling figure that more than 33 percent of children in the United States today live in a home where the biological father is absent (Kreider & Ellis, 2011).

male teacherThe media regularly reports violent incidents, not only in urban areas, but also in rural communities. While the number of violent crimes committed by youth has dramatically decreased in the past two decades, young males between the ages of 12 and 17 still commit a majority of those crimes (Statista Research Department, 2020). Some scholars connect this high level of crime to lack of attachment to a father figure or similar role model in a child’s younger years. A 2017 article by Hollie Deese published in USA Today lists a lack of male role models in America’s primary, elementary, and middle schools as a grave concern. This concern negatively impacts boys who need such role models in their lives.

Compassion and Caregiving

In a profession that considers women highly skilled in offering compassion and gentle caregiving, men may be considered less effective, or perhaps even unskilled. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (2019) published findings of recent research citing that “when young children do not have relationships with male teachers and caregivers, traditional gender stereotypes are reinforced, particularly as they relate to children’s understanding of who is responsible for their growth and learning.” Young children should not have to grow up thinking that only female teachers can be nurturing and caregiving (Aina & Petronella, 2011). Young boys can learn much from male role models about how to treat peers, both girls and boys.

For young boys … a secure relationship with a supportive male figure in their lives can provide the foundation necessary for strong social and emotional learning and lasts into adulthood.In a nation where many children do not have a stable and supportive father figure, the presence of male educators is necessary, especially in the early years. Both males and females can effectively support children in their early development. For young boys, having a male role model can further support and enhance their growth and development; a secure relationship with a supportive male figure in their lives can provide the foundation necessary for strong social and emotional learning and lasts into adulthood.

male teacher with blocksOpportunities for Ministry

In a Lutheran school environment, all teachers are valuable and engage in a unique ministry that shares the Gospel message. God has gifted many educators in Lutheran schools with a variety of gifts and talents that children experience each day. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has worked hard to effectively recruit church-workers in recent years. Personal relationships and encouragement are some of the best ways to recruit males into a field where they are a minority. The church needs many people to support its mission. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Christ indeed desires that many people serve the church and reach others. We need many different people to reach the diversity that is present throughout the country today.

Recruitment into early childhood education is not just for high school or college-aged males; it is for anyone who has the skills, gifts, and talents to work with young children. Patience, empathy, and the ability to foster and support playful learning are all necessary characteristics to have as one considers entering working in the early years.

A Likely Superhero

male teacherWhen young males have a supportive and faith-filled role model, they begin to connect through meaningful relationships and common interests, such as sports and other topics often popular with boys (cars, airplanes, insects, etc.). These connections provide pathways that lead to greater conversation and a connection that may be absent if a father figure is not present in the child’s home (Eisenhauer & Pratt, 2010). These deep connections provide an opportunity for young boys to relate and feel understood. These feelings of value can serve as a foundation for enhanced learning; when boys know they are supported and can see someone similar to them achieving at the same time, it promotes a unique confidence that can last for many years.

What Does This Mean?

We can easily ask the Lutheran question “what does this mean” regarding this topic. Exactly what does it mean for a male to enter the field of early childhood education? What are the benefits to a school or church in having a male teacher in the early years? How can we better recruit and support male educators in such a career choice?

It does take perseverance to be a college male and graduate with a degree in early childhood education. One who makes this career choice early on will be one of few in classes or practicum experiences; there is certainly a need to continue on the pathway with passion and dedication. When someone questions his career choice, he must stand firm—just as he would in defending the Christian faith.

Build each other up; this means supporting one another in career choices, or serving as a support and encourager to consider such a profession when you believe someone has the qualities to do so.A school that has a male early childhood teacher may find unique blessings in reaching members of the community. While all families desire a kind and caring environment for their child, some may find the presence of a male teacher unique and beneficial; it could be something their child needs. From an admissions and enrollment perspective, there could be lasting benefits in having a male early childhood teacher as part of your ministry team.

In Conclusion

Finally, all members of the body of Christ have a faith-filled responsibility to build each other up; this means supporting one another in career choices, or serving as a support and encourager to consider such a profession when you believe someone has the qualities to do so. As the Apostle Paul shares in Hebrews 13:21 ESV, God will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will.” Pray for those young men who are considering serving the church in education. Pray that God would lead additional young men into the field of early childhood education to bless children, families, churches, and schools in unique and special ways.

Dr. Drew Gerdes serves as early childhood principal at Concordia International School in Shanghai, China. Drew has served LCMS schools across the globe for more than 20 years—all in the early years!

References:

Aina, O.E., & A.C. Petronella. (2011) Why Does Gender Matter? Counteracting Stereotypes with Young Children. Dimensions of Early Childhood 39 (3),11–19.

Cole, K., Plaisir, J. Reich-Shapior, M., and Freitas, A. (2019). Building a gender-balanced workforce: Supporting male teachers. Young Children 75 (4). Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/sept2019/building-gender-balanced-workforce-supporting-male-teachers.

Deese, H. (2017, July 22) Male teacher shortage affects boys who need role models. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/07/22/male-teacher-shortage-affects-boys-who-need-role-models/103585138/.

Eisenhauer, Mary Jane & Pratt, David. (2010). Capturing the image of a male preschool teacher. Young Child 63 (3), 12–16.

Kreider, R.M. and Ellis, R. (2011). Living arrangements of children: 2009. U.S. Department of Commerce: Economics and Statistics Administration.

Statista Research Department. (2020) Number of violent crimes committed by youth aged between 12 and 17 in the U.S. from 1980–2018. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/477466/number-of-serious-violent-crimes-by-youth-in-the-us/.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor. 2019. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm.

Photos iStock/MonkeyBusinessImages, Solstock, Vadinguzhva, MonkeyBusinessImages.