Putting the ‘U’ and ‘I’ into Equality
No one understands more than those in the front line, of the Early Childcare sector that the first five years of a child’s life is the most critical period toward their development of self, in conjunction with establishing connections toward learning for life. Unfortunately as educators we often unintentionally impair our own objectives in this space. Some of the most significant battles we suffer as professionals, predominantly arise from a war against each other. It is the authors opinion that the primary conflict stems seemingly from the dreaded and despised phrase ‘that’s the way we have always done it’.
An odd reference to come from within a community of specialists, whom constantly and consistently look to evolve and adapt their practice to be on trend or ahead of education globally. The example which we briefly explore within this text is that of equality and how we are all responsible for propagating gender stereotypes. The opinions expressed within this article have been crafted from my own research, my position as an advocate of equality across the sector and personal experiences as a male working in Early Childcare. We as educators are, albeit subconsciously, fuelling gender stereotypes across Early Childhood and perpetuating the evolution of uniformity for the genders. As a male in the sector I’m constantly forced to defend my privilege to be an educator. The word privilege has been utilised here as I am a proud Educator and one that has set out to be not a quality male educator but simply a quality educator.
We are fundamentally robbing women and girls of their own right to equality as well as witnessing the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction for men. Unfortunately across a predominantly female workforce, it is apparent that regardless of gender, each and every educator shares blame of the current state of gender disparity . We understand, that to teach gender equity, the first steps emerge as understanding self-worth and the maintenance of respectful relationships with peers, however we seem to neglect this in the application of our practice. Additionally we struggle against greater influences such as the roles parents and guardians select to play, as teachers in Early Childhood we do have prolific opportunities to guide alternate gender thinking in children. From the language utilised, to the learning spaces and materials which furnish them. Discontinuing the use of these gender labels takes away the excuse we unknowingly create.
What can be done to enhance communication of this deep-seated blemish on the face of our roles internally? Well… active participation in the conversation no matter the position you have or stance you take on it is a start. Action is underway and gaining necessary momentum across the nation, through advocacy platforms and groups like ‘MANscaping the Male Educator’ on Facebook or MENu a national conference which held its inaugural run early this year and is finalising preparation for the 2018 event. Molly Rhodin principal facilitator of Down to Earth Practical Solutions and the event organiser explains ‘Sure, the emphasis of MENu is being for men but the ‘u’ brings a focus on YOU as the individual and collective…what are you doing about advocating for males and in turn equality in ECEC?’ So… what are you doing or going to do? How about starting by expressing interest in “MENu 2018 ‘Male educators on the Fringe’ which is being hosted in Adelaide for its next run (February 17th 2018) or by joining and participating in the conversations on social media and turn advocacy into activism.
Ben Jackson is an Award winning Educator and Advocate of the entire profession. Currently working across multiple consulting brands to achieve an awareness of key issues facing our sector. Ben is the primary administrator for ‘MANscaping the male Educator’ and balances his extracurricular activism whilst continuing to work full time in order to maintain relevance for his platform, goals and objectives. He additionally has committed to continuing with his studies in order to further validate his place within the Education community as an upcoming talent.