Male Teacher Retention in Early Childhood Programs: Why They Stay.
quick glance into any elementary, preschool or child care center quickly reveals that very few men work with young children. This cursory observation is solidly supported by the fact that fewer than five percent of all early childhood teachers in the United States are male (U.S. Department of Education, 1994).
There are a wide variety of reasons why so few men remain in the field of early childhood education. These reasons include suspicion, subtle discrimination, social isolation, pressure to move into administrative position away from children, and a double standard for behavior and performance (Sargent, 2001).
Importantly, the recent upsurge of reports of sexual and physical abuse in schools has made many male teachers feel vulnerable to unfounded charges of sexual or physical abuse against children in their care. Certainly, our societal tendency to see males as perpetrations of violent and sexual crimes has fueled this fear, and thus helped to discourage men from taking jobs where they are charged with the care of young children.
Further, our society has a wide-spread and overwhelming belief that men are not as adept at educating and caring for young children as are women (Kennedy 1991; Neugebauer 1994). This pervasive belief actively keeps young men from entering the profession. As a result, young men who enter early childhood education often find that their abilities and talents are often negated by parents, teachers and coworkers who assume that their professional abilities are less than those of their female peers. Further, this belief can affect career counseling, hiring decisions and teacher education programs, making it difficult to recruit new male teachers of young children (Seifert 1988).
Similarly and importantly, the relatively low wages paid to early childhood teachers also serves to keep young men from taking up the profession. In a society that sees male success as closely tied to the ability to earn a good income and provide financially, a male who accepts a lower salary (no matter how fulfilling and important the occupation) is often seen as a failure by society at large.
Taken in combination, these factors play an important role in discouraging males from entering the profession of early childhood education. Exacerbating the problem of attracting male teachers is the difficulty in retaining males in the field.
The reasons that males tend to leave the field are profoundly similar to the reasons why they do not enter the field in the first place.
Social stigma, suspicion, discrimination, social isolation, movement to administrative positions all play a role (Sargent, 2001).
Further, the tendency to see male teachers as less adept at caring for young children often results in performance and behavior standards for men that are different from their female co-workers. As a result, many male teachers leave the profession.
The problem of male teacher retention in early childhood education has a profound and wide-spread effect on the educational environment, men themselves, and young children. Specifically, the lack of men in early childhood education negatively impacts staff diversity, employment opportunities for men, and school success in young children. As such, the importance of attracting and retaining male teacher in an early childhood environment can hardly be overstated.
Given the relatively low numbers of males in early childhood education, there have been a number of attempts to improve the situation. However, despite rigorous national efforts to recruit, prepare, and retain qualified teachers, the percentage of male teachers in early childhood has been declining since the 1970s (Robinson, 1988).
Given these discouraging results, it may be time to gain a better understanding of the reasons why male teacher retention in the United States is so tenacious and pervasive a problem. Specifically, a descriptive case study that investigates why the five percent of men in early childhood education remain in the field may yield some solutions that would reverse the current trend.
The following research questions will be addressed in this dissertation:
1. Why do the five percent of men in early childhood education remain in the field?
2. How do the views of men in early childhood by staff and administrators impact male teacher retention?
Research Question 1: Why do the five percent of men in early childhood education remain in the field?
While it is certainly discouraging that only five percent of male early childhood educators remain in the field, it may be helpful to investigate why these five percent remain in early childhood education. A wide variety of diverse factors may be at play in retaining these educators.
First, the males that remain in early childhood education may intrinsically different from their counterparts who leave the field. Specifically, they may have personality traits that make them more resilient to the gender biases of administrators, coworkers and even parents. In addition, they may not perceive success according to the traditional societal expectations of financial success. Further, they may have such a high degree of professional satisfaction that the negative factors surrounding their chosen occupation are consistently overwhelmed by their love of and satisfaction surrounding their profession.
Second, the males that remain in early childhood education may work in environments that are especially supportive of male teachers. For example, these teachers may have school administrators that are highly supportive of male staff, and have incorporated training and awareness on an organizational level that attempt to address some of the specific challenges faced by male teachers. Further, administrators in these situations may have helped male teachers to understand and prevent unfounded allegations of sexual and physical abuse, a primary concern of male teachers. In addition, successful male teachers may not suffer the social isolation that plagues many of their counterparts, through active associations with other male teachers.
A clear understanding of the factors that contribute to the reasons why five percent of male teachers remain in early childhood education is evidently important. Such an understanding may play a valuable role in helping to address the specific and pervasive problem of male teacher retention in the United States of America. An understanding of the factors that make those five percent of teachers stay may lead to incorporation of specific strategies into programs aimed at increasing the number of male educators in America's early childhood educational programs.
Research Question 2: How do the views of men in early childhood by staff and administrators impact male teacher retention?
The views of staff and administrators certainly may play an important role on male teacher retention. As such, it may be extremely helpful to investigate the impact that the views of staff and administrators play on male teacher retention in the United States. A clear understanding of the impact of the views of staff and administrators on male teacher retention may also lead to the incorporation of specific techniques and approaches aimed at increasing the number of male teachers in America's schools.
Administrators and staff can have a crucial impact on the on-the-job environment of male teachers in early childhood education. Administrators have the power to hire and fire teachers, influence promotions, and impact daily classroom activities and relationships with parents and peers. Coworkers can play an important role in professional development, a feeling of belonging in the teaching community and overall job satisfaction.
Perhaps not surprisingly, some actions of both administrators and coworkers may have a clear impact on male teacher retention. Certainly, administrators can apply pressure to move into administrative position away from children, and ensure a double standard for behavior and performance. Coworkers can help ensure social isolation and enhance subtle discrimination (Sargent, 2001).
It is likely the views held by administrators and coworkers that drive negative behaviors that impact male teacher retention in early childhood education. Administrators and coworkers are certainly not immune to societal beliefs that females are better able to care for…