Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Early Childhood Consultant Mitch Hutchinson by Mike Prochaska
Mitch Hutchinson is the director at First Year Early Consulting in Bangalow, a small town in New South Wales, Australia. Mitch currently works with the 3- to 5-year-olds, although he has worked with all ages. His career began at the before- and after-school care program, before he moved into all-day care, preschool services and now a traveling Early Childhood Consultant.
Q. How did you get into this field?
“I come from a family of teachers. My grandfather, father, uncle, aunty and two of my cousins are teachers, so I knew I wanted to be in education. In year 10, I did work experience at the local preschool and loved it. I have been working with children since I was 14, helping with holiday camps etc., and knowing that my passion was with working with young children, I left high school to pursue Early Education.”
Q. What do you see as the advantages of having a male teacher?
“Just like anything and any profession, it is all about balance. Some children respond more naturally to a male then they do a female, and sometimes I walk into a room and children are absolutely terrified. It also helps with providing a male role model to those children who haven’t got one.”
Q. What is your favorite memory working with children?
“I have quite a few, but I had this experience where we had a child who was extremely shy, anxious and would cry every day when mum left. It was hard on the family and on the child themselves. However, working with the family and supporting the child over the year, [I] saw them become the loudest, most confident child in the room. To this day at primary school, they are extremely social and outgoing. That’s what I love. Supporting children to become the best they can be.”
Q. Did you hear about the man who got fired for just being male? How did that make you feel?
“Yes, I did, I actually brought it to the attention of a social justice group on Facebook. It made me mad, not just because he was fired, but because he was not supported by his managers. In my years of being a preschool teacher, I have had the odd parent request that I not change their child’s nappy or question my intent about working with young children. I have even had children not want to come with me to change their nappy or help them. This doesn’t upset me, as I want all children and parents to feel comfortable about being a part of the service. But I have always had the support of management. I have never been moved from a room because of a parent or made to change my work days or lost my job. I have simply gone on with my job and built a trust with the child, parent and family, to the point that they feel comfortable with me.
“There needs to be more positive stories about males in education, to inform the public that not every male who works with children is out to hurt them. We need managers and directors to support their male educators and to promote the benefit of males in education and care services, not bow to the pressure of losing enrolments or clients. That is what made me upset, that there was a missed opportunity to teach this family that the male babysitter was amazing at what he did.”
Q. What is your favorite book to read in the classroom?
“Wow, too many to choose from and depends on what age. I love making up stories and using drawings and props to tell them, or working with the children to make up stories. I am currently writing a children’s book at the moment, so who knows, maybe that will be a hit with the children.”
Q. Why is play important for children?
“Play is what children do. It does not matter what culture or what resources they have, children will always play. Children naturally explore, enquire and question and through play, it helps them to make sense of things. Again, this is something that we could go on about, but those thinking that play is not enough, needs to read up on the importance of it and how beneficial it is for young children.”
Q. Anything else that you want to tell us about working with young children?
“I could talk all day about how amazing it is, how every day is a new adventure, how every day we discover something new that we didn’t know yesterday, but I won’t. I really encourage people who want to work with young children to give it a go. It is one of the most important, yet underpaid, professions in Australia. However, the way you feel after you see a child discover something new or do something for the first time, is worth more than all the money in the world.”