Teaching a University Course about Men In Early Education

by Paul Proett - California - USA

[Paul Proett has taught a university course for over ten years.]

We are in are 10th year of doing the 1 unit, Community College ECE class. Now are expanding to two colleges.

We continue to "morph" the class. Many of the issues to the "newer" generation entering the field are different, but the reality of few men teaching remains.

How did you begin teaching?

I spent 15 years in ECE "full tilt", teacher, director etc, and now after 20 years in High Tech HR (yes I left the field for pay and lots of the reasons we all know), I have been coming back. Maybe I told you that already, but just reminded me as you suggested writing and my worry about finding the time, yet having the desire. Soon I will retire from high tech and devote myself again the the ECE profession.

What was it like to decide to teach it?
It actually was started by the Dept Chair and another fellow ECE guy. He taught it for two semesters and then I came on the scene.

How did administration respond to your proposal?
Don't know all the details, but as ECE folks heading the Dept., they knew the problem. Admin just wanted enrollment, and we have had 20-40 students each class since

Where did you gather your information for your class?
Jim Levine's book (you know it?) was my first text. Gathered research data on father involvement and frankly my own experiences as a teacher. Now my text is your NAEYC study and this semester introducing your new compilation, "Men in Early Childhood & Early Education a Handbook".

Why did you decide to expand it to include fatherhood? The strengths of this approach as opposed to integrating it within another course? Or having just a course about male teachers?
Clearly fathering topics are discussed in some of our other ECE courses (Child, Family, Community, Parent Support etc), but I felt the stereotypes for men in ECE have parallels to father's who don't become involved with their children. Men don't nurture. Child caring is feminine. Women know better etc...

What have you learned over this ten year anniversary of teaching this course?
The topic while still relevant, since we really don't see improvement in #'s of male ECE teachers the attitudes have shifted. Fathers at home, and more involved. Real interesting as I informally poll the few young men teaching I've had in my classes- they haven't felt quite the same stigmatization (a generalization), yet when asked why are more guys not in the field- they say "I don't know". On the other hand, a new set of issues face men in the ECE classroom that I did not face 20 years ago, such as men should not diaper or toilet kids (some center have actual policies!).