Editorial: Who Do Others Say You Are?

by Hunter Black - University of Stout

Who are you to others? This question has often crossed my mind when I think about how I fit into this world.

Currently, I am attending UW-Stout to pursue a career in Early Childhood Education. My small hometown consists of about 1,800 people. Consequently, I have experienced small class sizes that have made it easier to create relationships with teachers that last a lifetime. In fact, because of these relationships my passion to pursue a career of being an early childhood education (ECE) teacher has emerged. Teachers often create a lasting impact on children. We as teachers need to take the time to reflect on how we respond to children's needs as it does impact a child's life in more ways than can be imagined.

As a future teacher, I believe that I need to be intentional in every aspect of my teaching from strategies used to conversations I have with students. For me, these characteristics and skills have been evident within all my teachers (both male and female) throughout the early grades. Although a teacher's intentionality and efforts are hard work, the impact upon students is influential. I am a product of some very thoughtful teachers and the ways they have transformed my life are abundant. In fact, these teachers are instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in early education. This is where I can make that same lasting impact on children I teach in the future.

Becoming a male early childhood teacher may present some challenges especially thinking about the gender gap. As a junior in college, I personally have experienced the gender gap within some of my courses in the early childhood program. In classes I find myself surrounded by females where this gap is evident because there are only one or two males in a classroom of 20 students. Putting this into perspective means that there are eighteen future female teachers to the two male teachers in each classroom.

For some, this gap becomes a negative when examining the trend of few male teachers choosing the teaching profession. However, I beg to differ and view this gap in another way. The idea of the presence of an intentional teacher, male or female, is what is essential when teaching young children. Children need to observe both male and female teachers supporting one another and working collaboratively to meet their needs. I am thankful for the opportunity to join the Men in Education (M.E.N) organization on campus that supports male early education teachers and is inclusive to women. The Men in Education organization offers many opportunities that include males and females to engage with the surrounding community. Although we are a group of young men educators, we also have female attendees that are part of our group and offer varying perspectives that help me see things more broadly. I believe that involvement in this organization will foster my development as a person in the teaching field.

While growing up, I was taught both by male and female teachers. Because of this, I believe I have a non-bias outlook regarding the differences between male and female teachers in the classroom. Most recently, I have had opportunities to be an assistant teacher under the leadership of both female and male teachers in classrooms. These experiences have broadened my perspective on the similarities and differences, as well as the positive and negative aspects of male and female teachers.

The Female Perspective
The female teacher provides children a loving and caring support system that appears to be naturally within them. I suppose it relates to the role they play as mothers. Females also display respect to the children in their classroom giving them the message that they are loved and supported. They show the children that they are there for them both at school and outside the school setting. The female is a strong support system for a child.

One negative aspect that I have observed in female teachers is their classroom management styles. Some children, when interacting with the female teachers do not feel as intimidated as they might with a male teacher which causes them to act out a bit more. There is nothing female teachers can do to change the cause because it is based on children's previous experiences with the female. However, I have seen how this scenario can create a classroom setting that appears out of control and more difficult for the teacher to bring the children back together.

Male Perspective
My thoughts about the male perspective on teaching comes from my own experiences as a male. In comparison to females, we as males typically give off a more masculine "look" that indicates control of the classroom. This male image can also be a negative factor if perceived as a dominating feature. This control or dominance sometimes creates a classroom where children find it stressful to try new ideas for fear they may do something wrong. However, my experience observing the interaction between the male teachers and a child shows that children usually give more respect to the male teacher and eagerness to cooperate. Some children view male teachers as a father figure that may not be present in their world. One of the reasons that I chose to pursue this career is so that I can become that role model to those children who have lost their fathers or do not have that male presence in their lives.

Looking at both the male and female perspective there are a few general assumptions we hold. First, we believe that males can have better control of the classroom than females because of their dominant stature. On the other hand, females provide a more loving and caring setting of a classroom than males.

In today's society, we seem to identify the positive and negatives regarding how gender affects children in the classroom. Personally, I think we are on the wrong path. The issue really is not about gender, but about the personality of the teacher that makes the difference. This past summer when working in a setting with male and female teachers, I saw both genders providing key learning experiences to the children. The success of their teaching was not based on their gender but on their personality and interaction with the child.

Personality is one key attribute of a person that is often overlooked. Personality traits affect the relationships we build with the children in our classroom Some of these traits include being patient, kind, loving, but bold and confident as well. These attributes create a sense of respect and support in the classroom. It would be beneficial to focus less on how gender impacts the classroom, and to examine more deeply how a teacher's personality can impact learning.

Choosing the field of education has been a lifelong dream of mine and it amazes me to see that I am almost there! I would like to see a shift in viewing male and female teachers that emphasizes their personalities and interactions with one another and the children, rather than being male or female.

I will continue my work in recruiting and retaining men in education as I would love to see more male educators come into the field of early childhood education. I feel blessed to be at a campus that has so much compassion for the young minds of our future and thankful that the Men in Education group and the instructors are helping to foster my personality and passion for teaching young children.

[MenTeach: Dr. Jill has been working to increase and retain men in her education program. We asked her to have her students write about their experiences. You can find other articles here.]