Organizing Men in Early Childhood Education in Illinois

by Mark Obuchowski - Illinois

Things have been somewhat slow recruiting men in ECE for me the past two years. My energies have been required to be focused in other directions because of the roll out and now IL Dept. of Children and Family Services mandate of the Gateways Registry (all DCFS licensed providers must now be Registry members) and Illinois receipt of phase II of the Early Childhood Challenge/Race to The Top federal grant. Both of these initiatives have required significant outreach efforts which is my main work at INCCRRA.

However, I have not totally forsaken recruitment efforts. With each presentation I do, I always bring awareness to the need for men in the field of ECE. When I have male providers in the group I always make mention of their significant positive impact on the children they serve. If there are no men, I still always find a way to bring increased awareness to the positive impact male child care providers can have on any program. And, I encourage program directors to seek out male teachers and other staff.

Finally and perhaps most powerfully, I have opportunities to speak to high school child development students in schools using the Gateways ECE Credential Level 1 Curriculum. I am finding more and more, several young men in these settings. Illinois Department of Human Services, offers these unique students access to the Gateways Scholarship Program which pays 90% tuition and fees for college up to and including a Master's degree. [MT Note: This scholarship is ONLY for residents of Illinois.] I make a special effort to point out the unique and exciting opportunities the field of ECE holds for these young men as they start their post-secondary education and careers.

Our Men in ECE group here in Bloomington has run its course. Several years ago we were down to a core group of only a few guys coming to the meetings. I'm not sure if the meetings lost their focus or if those attending just didn't feel the need? It was clear to me that with such a small group, discussion topics became repetitive. I did on several occasions challenge those attending to move past discussion and more towards action ( I remember you mentioned it being important to be action focused). However, we never got to that point.

I continue to follow the posting by you and others on the MenTeach list-serve. Thank you and the many others (men and women alike) who continue to carry the torch and the efforts to expect male involvement in ECE.

Thank you,

Mark Obuchowski
Organizing in Illinois