Where Are the Male Preschool Teachers?

July 12, 2006

Tonight I attended yet another meeting for my son’s new Spanish-speaking preschool. I was struck by one of the questions posed by a fellow mom: “Do you plan to hire any male preschool teachers?”

Good question. Our school director sadly shook her head and said she would love to hire one, but sadly, not a single man applied. What gives?

I googled in “male preschool teachers” and came up with a plethora of articles on how it is nearly impossible to find a man who is willing to become a day care center worker or early childhood educator. Apparently, China is having the same issue because this China Daily article reported only 10 male kindergarten teachers in all of Shanghai!

Louis Torelli, principal at a childcare facility design firm, came up with a host of reasons for the dearth of men in the industry. Surely the low paycheck doesn’t help. Also, some parents are weirded out by a man changing their daughter’s diapers. This attitude leads into Torelli’s main point: Men are led to believe from an early age, in even language such as “maternal bonding” (good) and “maternal deprivation” (bad), that childcare is largely a woman’s job. Instead, they are encouraged to find work that will financially sustain the family.

Because of these early experiences which do not include significant male involvement boys learn very early in life that caring for children is not an activity men engage in. On the other hand, girls learn that caring for children is their exclusive responsibility and that they should not expect men to contribute. How might our society be different if young children’s experience included caring, nurturing men as well as women?

I would love for Ari to have a male teacher. But what will it take to get men to even apply for the job?