Some families are uncomfortable with male teachers - What do you do?

[MenTeach - A director of a program sent the following e-mail and below it is our response. Do you have any additional suggestions?]

I have a family at my center who is very uncomfortable with my preschool excellent male teacher. His postion is that this male teacher can't be left alone with girls because he is a guy.

I already explained to him our rigorous background check process and talked to him about how good of a person and teacher he is. Still, Mom and Dad are not confortable.

I usually try to have a female around for them, however, If there are few children in the room, as an administrator, I can't just keep a male teacher and a female teacher for just 2 or three children.

I am looking for articles or other literature that may help this family accept a male teacher.

Any suggestions?

******************************************************

Thank you so much for your e-mail.

You bring up a very important topic that we are often asked.

The most important perspective that you are holding is that you are beieng supportive of your teaching and are acknowledging that he is an excellent teacher.

It is also important to emphasize that according to federal and state laws, we do not discriminate based on the sex, religion, race/ethnicty of the person.

AND - that you always hire the most qualified person for the job (male OR female).

I always like to ask parents what are they uncomfortable about? It really gets to the core of the issue - which usually is that parents are afraid men are going to harm their child.

As a director, we must ALWAYS acknowledge a parent's concerns, but we cannot base our policies or hiring because of a parent's fears. When I'm giving talks I like to ask people what would happen if you substituted another identity for male. For example, African-American or Jewish. It becomes very obvious that it's not really fair to pre-judge people.

One suggestion I have for you to offer parents is to have them watch the movie "Daddy Day Care." I know that it's not an "academic" video but it actually does a good job addressing the concerns in a humorous way.

And a book would be -

Essential Touch by Frances Carlson

or

The Importance of Men Teachers And Why There Are So Few

http://www.menteach.org/items_to_buy

Let me know what you try - this is an ongoing process.

We are trying to get a ruling from the Justice Department so that we can post it to our website - but - it's a slow process.

Finally - thank you for ALL the work that you do for our profession - I really appreciate what a difference you are making for the teachers, parents and most importantly - the children.

Standing Up For Male Teachers

In your recent MenTeach newsletter you had a response for a director who had a parent that did not want his child to have contact with an excellent male teacher.

I thought your response to the director was luke warm at best. I feel that the director needs to tell this parent that "The policies at our center are what research has shown to be in the best interest of the children entrusted to our care and that if he does not like these policies that he is always welcome to enroll his child elsewhere."

It is time that our directors [and principals] develop a backbone and stand up for our excellent male teachers before they too are lost to our profession and to the care of our children. Having been involuntarily transfered from a primary teaching position to an intermediate teaching position due to the concerns of one such parent and since locating a new early childhood teaching position elsewhere, I am very adament in my views.

Yours in early childhood education,

Thomas W. Washburn

What to do?

I asked my self this question when a grandparent who was raising her grandson did not want him to be in my classrom. I was very skeptical about it. I went to my supervisiors and shared with them my feelings. At the time there wasn't anywhere else to put him so they kept him in my classroom (I was the Lead Teacher, I had a female assistant (co-teacher)). My co- teacher and I decided she would be doing most of the interaction with the boy and let him come to me. I also had my co-teacher do alot of the interaction with the grandparent until I was able to do a Home visit (I was a Head Start teacher/ Family Advocate at the time). It worked well and before you knew it the Grandma was always telling me all she ever hears about at home is Mr. Jason. To this day I use her as one of my references and also a success story. I truly was lifted up to her by other staff and supervisors and I always made sure to answer any question or concern she had.

Thank you for allowing men to be a leader in the classroom at your school sincerely, Jason Parker

supporting men in a program

i was fortunate in that as soon as i demonstrated skill and committment to the profession in the centers i've worked at, i have been afforded a "high profile" presence...

this means that parents and prospective parents were introduced to me as a capable leader in the center...

i was involved in writing the center's newsletter and presented tpics at parent meetings...

i was always treated respectfully by my co-teachers and this trust that they gave me was evident to parents and prospective parents...

my active involvement in caeyc affiliates helped give my participication credibility...

as a man in ece, often we are relegated to "support" positions - assistants, recreation staff, etc... but when a director puts us in a position that is supported by professional development and leadership opportunities, the man in ece gains the cache needed to have true career options.

gregory uba
gregoryu@cfc-ca.org