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      At some point in my 27 year career in early childhood education I either heard or made up the phrase, “A positive problem”. When I say this I am speaking of a problem that is a result of something positive happening. An example from the classroom would be the child who is having a hard time coming in from outdoor play because she has been enjoying the excellent environment we designed and does not want the fun to stop. Sound familiar?

      This past March I began a new job in our state’s department of education. After over 5 months on the job I have discovered a positive problem of my own. At times I am not fully registering that people are taking me seriously and treating me with respect. It appears I am being perceived as someone with lots of experience, education, and maturity (I’m 56) and therefore worth paying attention to.

      After figuring this out I realized I had developed some good coping strategies during those 27 years in the classroom. I can safely say I was always told I was needed, wanted and valued as a man in early childhood education. Once I moved past that surface information and got down to the business of teaching, I encountered frequent instances of being dismissed and marginalized when I had something to say or contribute. Yes, my female colleagues were supportive of me being there in the classroom, but I learned I needed to explain where I was coming from with my information and ideas, because the assumption was always that I really didn’t know much about early childhood education. Ultimately, I was the “man out of place” and therefore really not worth paying attention to.

      Everything has changed in my new job. Colleagues and supervisors treat me with authority and respect. I have also learned I have to be more careful and concise in what I have to say, or put into emails, when communicating with the schools and with the public. The idea is; “If Bruce says it, it must be so.”. What a contrast to my previous years in ECE.

      So, I have a “Positive Problem”. I have to learn how to operate as someone who is taken seriously and treated with respect. I think I can do that.

      Bruce Sheppard

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