Male Educators Play An Important Role In Early Childhood Care
Armstrong Creek Children’s Centre’s Early Childcare Educator Ricky has been bringing joy to children’s lives for 15 years as one of the industries’ male educators. Beginning his journey just out of high school, Ricky completed his Certificate III in Early Childhood Education & Care, which kicked off his career.
“My mum was always babysitting, and coming from a large family I always helped with my brothers and sisters and the children my mum was looking after,” Ricky explains of his childhood, “this is what started my interest in helping children and grew my love of helping children and seeing how you could teach them.”
According to a 2007 publication by the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC), male educators can be a valuable resource for childcare services, and having male educators in a childcare centre can:
- Encourage children to develop their gender identity
- Promote respectful, harmonious relationships
- Initiate play and learning experiences that acknowledge the similarities and differences between genders
- Challenge stereotypes by promoting alternative images of masculinity, which are not aggressive or unemotional
- Encourage fathers to be more involved in the service’s operations, and support the role of fathers as important contributors to children’s lives
- Advocate childcare as a valued and worthwhile career path
- Reinforce that caring is a human response of which both men and women are capable.
Ricky agrees with this and has had many positive interactions throughout his career. He recalls one particular experience helping children develop an interest in football and exploring active games outside. “I started to teach the children how to catch a football, kick a football and play as a team together,” he says. “This led to one of the children starting Auskick as soon as they were old enough. By this time they were no longer in my care, but out of the blue the family made contact with me, inviting me to the child’s first Auskick game at the MCG! They shared that without me playing in the children’s services yard with their child they may not have developed an interest or opportunity to play football.”
For Ricky, being able to connect with children and make a positive difference in their lives is so rewarding. “It’s an industry that you get to give so much and you also receive so much by watching children take on new challenges and learn new skills,” Ricky says.
Unfortunately, education and training is one of the most female-dominated industries in Australia, with almost three quarters of the workforce women. In early childhood education, the gap is even bigger.
Dr Martyn Mills-Bayne from the University of South Australia says “within the early childhood sector the percentage of male educators sits at around 2 to 3 per cent of the workforce.”
Dr Mills-Bayne has created a mentor program for men in early childhood education, and said there were several reasons many men were reluctant to enter the industry, including societal views about caring and educating young children.
Ricky agrees that there is a big gender gap but over the years he has seen a slow growth in male educators entering the industry and he is passionate about male representation in early childhood education roles. “Parents often stop and talk to you about your experiences being a male in the industry and they are very glad to see the positive impact having both males and females is having for their children,” Ricky says.
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