Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Award-Winning Teacher Eamon Doolan by Mike Prochaska
Eamon Doolan is 24 years old and lives in Dublin, Ireland. In his first job, he was told he “wasn’t good enough to work with children” because he was a man. Instead of stumbling at this setback or giving up, Eamon decided he would “show the qualities men can provide in child care and became highly determined to be one of the best male early years teachers in the industry.”
Eamon has had the pleasure of working with over 3,000 children across five different countries – as an au pair/kindergarten teacher in Germany, a children’s English-language teacher in Italy, primary school teaching assistant in England and working at summer camps in Georgia and Cape Cod where he won four awards.
Eamon has worked with “all the best kindergartens in Dublin, becoming the first man in the history of Ireland to be appointed supervisor of a toddler-aged class and a preschool class in two separate jobs.” His next “big adventure” is Zambia, Africa, where he’ll use all “the gifts” he has to help a school with over 300 poor children for two weeks. As Dr. Seuss once said, “Unless someone like you cares for a whole awful lot, nothing is going to change, it’s not.”
Q. How did you get into this field?
“I have babysat and loved children from a very young age. My nephew, Jamie, being born when I was 10 became one of my biggest inspirations. However, growing up I didn’t think there was a place for men in child care ... I was working in a supermarket called Tesco for three years when I saw an ad for summer staff at a summer camp in America on a J1 Visa for three months in 2014. I was delighted when I got call from Cape Cod Sea Camps who hired me as a land sports counselor. I arrived in New England that June [and] spent the summer looking after a cabin of 11 energetic 12-year-old boys and leading sports activities to over 1500 children the camp served.
“Teaching sports to groups of 20 children, telling stories, having my funny Irish accent being made fun of and just being a role model in every way I could. I fell in love with the game of baseball, especially the Red Sox, and soon was leading this camp activity also. At the end of summer four of the boys in my cabin each nominated me for an award called a “Wom Pom,” given to symbolize people making a difference in their lives. This had been the best summer of my life and I had realized what I was capable of. When I returned to Ireland I quit my job in the grocery store, started working with children fulltime and four years later I have not looked back.”
Q. What’s your current role?
“I currently work in Dimples Creche Montessori in Dublin, Ireland, which caters to over 170 children. I work in a large preschool class of 33 children. This is a very energetic environment and because of the large class, I enjoy the challenge of preparing each child for primary school next autumn. I have worked here for three years and the management here has been very supportive since first starting here in December 2015.
“I have become a very popular teacher among parents and children during this time graduating three classes. I have been creative with my role, introducing a puppet show every Friday, which the children love, sports games based on gross motor development, positive body language, storytelling skills and lots of energy in the outdoor areas setting me apart from other staff members.”
Q. What are the advantages of male teachers in the early years?
“I believe the main advantage of being a male in early years is being a positive male role model for children who don’t have one in their life. For whatever reasons, including single mothers or poor environments, children might not have a positive male to inspire, guide and believe in them. This is the main reason I work in this industry because I want to be the one that provides the sunshine in the rain; having worked with over 3000 children across the world these positive relationships remain. As for the last two years I have been the only male staff member of 30.
“I believe in active supervision, not standing with a coffee cup, chatting with co-workers or scrolling on Facebook, but actively doing games or speaking with the children has been important in my success.”
Q. What’s your favorite memory working with kids?
"My favorite memory working with children is probably of a little girl whose parents were not keen on the idea of her teacher being a man. They would drop her to a different class in the morning rather than into the preschool room. This continued for two weeks and my managers gave me their complete support, which was brilliant. Despite what the parents might have thought, I did not stop providing quality care to that little girl.
“Soon after I went on holidays for two weeks and when I returned whilst dropping her into preschool that day she ran the length of the class to give me a hug. This changed the parent’s perspective [and] soon they became two of my biggest admirers. So, to any men in a similar position, keep your heads up and keep providing quality because this eventually will shine through most. I even bumped into the dad soon after in a bar and he bought me a beer to thank me for all my hard work, which was great victory for men in child care.”
Q. Did you hear about the man who got fired in Australia?
“I did, and honestly it did not shock me, and sometimes for men in this field we are the elephant in the room. People judge us not on our ability with children but unfortunately on our gender, which I feel is very unfair. Sometimes I can compare it to the idea of women working in the 60s, which in the 21st century is crazy to exist. I faced similar circumstances in my first job, but I used that situation as motivation and have since proved exactly what I am capable of on a world stage, also, opening many eyes on the qualities of men in child care. At 24 I am only just getting started so hopefully he gets back on the horse and keeps going because we all trip on our way to success, our reaction is what defines us.”
Q. What advice would you give to men considering working this industry?
“I would highly recommend a career in early years as you make a dramatic difference to the lives of children every day, rather than the same boring office job every day or packing shelves like I used. To work in an environment in which you can help a child do something today that tomorrow they can do themselves. I would also be accountable in approach to nappy changing or being alone with children – always have a staff [member] with you or be in full view of cameras. This way you are covered from potential negative situations and safeguarding policies are also upheld. Run in the garden, sing nurseries songs, play games you don’t understand, but most of all make memories that you and the children will never forget.”
“A good teacher can supervise but a great teacher can actively supervise by having an imagination just as big as the children [we] teach … See the world through their eyes and create activities they enjoy.”