On a beautiful May 24, 2018, thirty eight (38) men and women spent the day together at the first ever Can Am Men in Early Childhood Educations (MECE) event.
Jodie Kehl, Executive Director of the Manitoba Child Care (MCCA), Don Giesbrecht, President of the Canadian Child Care Association (CCCF) and Michelle Steven-Wiens, acting Director of the Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care department all brought greeting to the group as we began the day together.
Frances Carlson, author and ECE trainer (Chattahoochee College, Georgia USA), our first speaker shared some of her research about the unique benefits that men often bring to the teaching profession These unique contributions help raise the quality of programs for both boys and girls. As a group, she often observes men bringing a lot of positive touch into the lives of children, which has a very positive impact on the levels of violence and aggression young children show in their preschool years. For men this positive touch often comes in the form of rough and tumble play, chasing and play fighting. She was also quick to share that men can also be very tender and compassionate caregivers and children need to see this modeled for them as well.
Bryan Nelson from Texas, is the founder of the MenTeach.org organization and was the second keynote speaker. Bryan is presently deeply involved in the Colleges of Southern California in a project designed to help recruit and retain more black male teachers for school in predominately black communities in California. Bryan shared some of the strategies they are using to accomplish this, as well as reviewing the three main reasons that men hesitate to enter the teaching profession.
Just before we headed out for lunch Russel Ballantyne, President of the ECMeNZ network of New Zealand, addressed us. Russell shared the progress that has been made in New Zealand that has seen the percentage of men working in ECE grow by 19% in the last year alone. It has also gone up from about 2% to about 4.6 % over the last 5 years. The actual numbers of men are still too small but the significant increase in the percentages of men as a part of the ECE workforce is a clear indication that societal barriers are fast eroding.
After lunch, Adam Manicom (Assiniboine Castle Day Care Co-op) and Ron Blatz (Discovery Children’s Centre) of Winnipeg shared some statistics related to the numbers of men in the ECE sector in Manitoba.
Adam Manicom also shared his vision of evolving the present Manitoba MECE group into a formal Not-For–Profit MECE organization for all of Canada.
Marc Battle trainer of ECE teachers (Red River College) spent the remainder of the afternoon guiding us in a goal setting exercise for the future.
The ideas, thoughts and dreams for the future will be discussed in greater depth during upcoming meetings as the MECE group meets throughout the winter months.
Blessed with three New Zealanders in attendance, we were gifted with ta performance of an indigenous “Haka” by Matt Te Maro-Seymour in his native Mauri dialect. This rich, bold, warrior like dance/chant written in part by Matt, was absolutely awe inspiring to witness. It represented the giving of thanks to the presenters who had shared their lives and experiences with us, an acknowledgment of the treasure that exists in our children first and as they grow in us ourselves. It was a reminder that we as men and women who work with young children are indeed the main treasure of our society. The Haka finished with a challenge work for future change, to carry on, to support each other always because we really are making a difference.