Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Daycare Worker Burl Tooshkenig by Mike Prochaska

Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Daycare Worker Burl Tooshkenig

Burl Tooshkenig works in the Early Childhood Education field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Here, he shares why he loves working with children.

Q. How did you get into this field?

“I worked as a custodian in a daycare just as a casual worker. The director noticed I was good with the kids and asked if I would think about working with the kids. I said sure. I was 19.”

Q. What do you see as the advantages of having male teachers?

“The boys would have an opportunity to express themselves as boys during play. For example, I have noticed that a lot (not all) of women are very over cautious when it comes to rough and tumble play. I think it is essential for children to learn spacial awareness. I believe that large muscle exercise plays a very important role in how the brain operates. Muscle exertion releases chemicals in the brain, which affects cognitive and emotional development in children. From experience men are a lot more tolerant when it comes to rough and tumble play.

“It is socially acceptable that a woman becomes the primary caregiver to children in the home setting. If the children have an opportunity to have male teachers, it helps them to see the role belongs to everyone. This may have a major effect on how they view their own roles as parents in the future.” 

Q. What age group do you work with?

“I have worked with mostly 2- to 5-year-olds.”

Q. Why is play important for children?

“This is their opportunity to experience real life before they have to grow up and be a responsible adult. It is how a person learns to react to the world around them. It ensures proper development in all domains. It is the most sensible way to allow a person to learn appropriately at an early age.”

Q. What's your favorite memory working with kids?

“It would be hard to narrow it down. I love being an animated reader and watching them get lost in the story. I like setting up materials and participating in their world of imagination. I love watching them learn conflict resolution and them coming back for affirmation. I love the hugs. I love telling stories of my own childhood during snack time and having them request the same stories over and over. I love watching them learn new skills or seeing the transformation when they defeat a lingering fear of something. I love the high-fives of children that were not even in my room. I love teaching and children learning.”

Q. Anything else you want to tell us about working with young children?

“The reason I think this is important is because the very things the children learn before the age of 6 will be lasting. If children find a fun way to learn they will be lifelong learners. Looking for skills and helping children develop their own set of skills sets them up for success. The old way of teaching children by a strict pattern for all children does not value the individual. Every person deserves to be loved and cared for, especially children.” 

Q. What’s your favorite book to read to your classroom?

“’Don’t Wake Up the Bear.’”

Q. Did you hear about the man who got fired for just being male? How do you feel about that?

“Yes, I did hear about it. Although I know the feeling for being the only male in the workplace and having to put up with disrespectful remarks and comments, I understand society has a long way to go before erroneous stigmas disappear. Stories like this tend to draw a lot of attention when our focus should be an all the good things happening. I know more great things happening with men in Early Childhood Education than negative.”

Q. Anything inspiring to tell anyone thinking of going into this field?

“To care about someone beyond yourself without any conditions is what makes relating to one another most valuable. If we can teach children how to love one another they do not have to unlearn all the poisonous ways of thinking that we have to endure in our world today. For example, if we are taught that every single human is just as valuable as self, then racism would cease to exist.” 

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