Did you know that male early childhood educators account for less than 2% of the sector? With the importance of having positive male role models in the lives of the youngest generation, it’s important to ask what the reasons for this are, and how can we try to bring about change in the industry.
We spoke to two fantastic male educators at our Penrith and Annandale centres to find out more about what inspired them to enter the early childhood sector, and their insights into what being a male educator in the industry is like.
Justin O’Neil, Centre Director – MindChamps Early Learning at Penrith
- How long have you been a preschool teacher?
I began working in childcare in 2001, where for my first year I was a trainee. After completing my traineeship, I started a job at a new centre where I worked for 10 years. I then moved on to another new centre in 2012 – and this centre later became MindChamps Early Learning @ Penrith.
- What made you decide to become a preschool teacher? Please share your background story with us.
When I first started working outside of school, I looked at the hospitality industry, but found that with the repetitive work, I became bored. Seeing an advertisement for a traineeship in childcare, I became interested. Working in education was another area I had considered and had always been complimented on how well I interacted with children – from assisting family members with their younger children. I saw that with childcare, ever day was a new day and that nothing was the same as the last. This interested me, along with being a big kid at heart. So, I took the leap and started my career in childcare and have been happy with the choice I made.
- Do you consider your job unusual?
I do not personally consider my job to be unusual at all, although others may think otherwise. When I first started in childcare, it was odd to see a male taking on such a role. It was a very rare thing and as this was not the norm, it took families time to adjust.
- What are some struggles that you had to go through to fulfill your role?
For myself when I first started, I had to break past the stereotype of a male working in childcare. I had to show that I was just like anyone else working in the industry.
- Why do you think men shy away from this role? In your opinion, what would encourage more men to consider this profession?
Most men would shy away from a role in childcare because of the stereotype and how it is often classified as a role for women. If it was seen as a more acceptable role for men, maybe more male teachers will take up the opportunity to work in childcare.
- What advice would you give to another guy who is looking to become a preschool educator?
For anyone looking to work in childcare, take the leap and don’t listen to other people’s judgement of this industry. It is an extremely rewording job, where every day is a new day.