Getting men involved in early childhood education

Steve White recently visited an early childhood classroom and observed a male teacher holding a doll to show a young boy how to handle a baby. The experience struck White, senior director of school leadership for Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers, as formative for the boy.

“When kids learn nurturing at a young age it makes a difference,” White explained. “So how impactful is it for this male teacher to show it? You can’t put a price on it.”

White recounted this story during a panel discussion about men in early childhood education with his colleagues from Educare Atlanta and its parent organization, Sheltering Arms, at the recent Educare Learning Network Meeting.

Watch a video of the discussion and read more highlights below

Studies find that children achieve more when they have both female and male role models. Yet most teachers, especially in early childhood education, are women.

Recruiting men into early childhood education

The panelists discussed the challenges to recruiting men into early childhood education. “One of the greatest disadvantages is that our society does not [hold] education as valuable as it should be held,” said Brian Bowers, a family support specialist for Educare Atlanta. Men are reluctant to join a field that is not well respected, he added.

The panelists explained how recruiting men into the early childhood field needs to be intentional. One way to encourage men to work with young children is to emphasize how teachers can inspire them through reading, singing, dancing and other learning activities.

“What keeps me in the field is that I like being around families and kids,” said Lee Shaw, the director of site management for Sheltering Arms. “It’s about having fun and seeing the day-to-day impact you have on the kids and their families.”

Boys and girls learn differently, so it’s good to have role models that are both male and female. “The big advantage [to having male teachers] is when we see boys mimicking the teaching, playing and doing what we’re doing—because we’re hands-on with them,” said Randy Berry, a family support specialist at Educare Atlanta.

Children see a different perspective when they are exposed to male and female co-teachers. “When my female co-teacher and I interact, we treat each other with respect,” said James Hollifield, a preschool teacher for Sheltering Arms. “When a child sees that—and might not see it at home—you’re changing the trajectory of their life.”

Hollifield observed other ways in which male teachers can impact a child’s life. “Male teachers are showing that men can show up to be with the kids on a consistent basis,” he explained. “Men can be role models by showing boys through their own actions of being polite, courteous and smiling.”

The panelists said they hope to inspire more men to enter the early education field.

“We have the power to change lives as men and this is not a gender thing, it’s a real thing,” White said. “I believe that my impact and the men in your programs impact goes beyond the obvious. And we have to allow that voice to be cultivated and be a part of the environment.”

Read more stories of men in early education.