Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With ECE Teacher Duncan Greenhorn From Scotland by Bill James

Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With ECE Teacher Duncan Greenhorn From Scotland

Duncan Greenhorn is an Early Childhood Education (ECE) teacher in Paisley, Scotland. He works for a local authority in Scotland with kids ages 3 to 5. I'm excited to join Mike Prochaska to bring ECE teachers into the spotlight!

Q. How did you get into this field?

"I remember as a young boy, going to visit the establishments of where my auntie was the manager, I remember Easter egg hunts and eating snack and just enjoying myself really. As I got older my mum also got into early education – her role was to support children who require additional support and she loved her job and I knew I wanted to work in a field that both my mum and my auntie thrived in and overall enjoyed. So yeah very big role models career wise, and both exceptional women."

Q. What’s Scotland like?

"Well, in Scotland it rains a lot and the weather is always dull and boring, however I must admit it is a wonderful country full of history and drop-dead views. Teaching in Scotland comes with its pros and cons but overall, it’s a country that has become more aware of the needs of our children and their families and is doing the best it can to support them."

Q. What are the advantages of being a man in Early Childhood Education?

"First, I am a strong believer of having quality staff rather than focusing on the gender of staff. However, being a man in early years is fantastic, it gives children a male role model (if it is required) and I personally find that a lot of the boys tend to be more approachable to me when they are first settling in to the nursery.

"I have however come across some negativity in my career I have often been judged on my gender and automatically been accused of ‘thinking I am better than everyone’ or that I must be gay if I work in a nursery. Whether you are gay or not, it should not matter, all that matters is that you are capable of the job you are qualified for."

Q. Why is play important for children?

"When I was at college, I had a lecturer who always said, “play is a vehicle for learning,” and I still use this today. Play is important for children as it offers a wide range of skills to be developed. It is a right for children to play and as an adult in this profession it can be sometimes not the focus of the teachers. Children these days are often taught to follow the rules, obey the teachers, don’t run, don’t fight, don’t push. Instead of giving these children orders and commands, we should be implementing more resources and play opportunities, so they can learn all these rules themselves rather than writing them out or saying them out loud."

Q. What about outside play? Is it important?

"Outside play is an amazing resource, its mostly free, its vast and it is unlimited. Everything you can do indoors and can duplicated to the outdoors. In outdoor play we give the children the opportunity to risk assess their own surroundings and by doing this, it can be often seen that children are taking more risks and finding more things out a lot more than what they would be doing inside."

Q. What is your favorite memory of working with kids?

"My favorite memory shows just how funny children can be. I have an individual in my group who loves dinosaurs and knows literally everything about them. One afternoon we were sitting reading a book about sabre tooth cats and he told me that there was also a sabre tooth dog. He described this animal in great detail and urged me to look on the computer for a picture. We both sat at the computer and I searched and searched for this dog but couldn’t find anything and the little one said, “Keep looking Duncan,” so I did (I didn’t want to disappoint him). 

"Thirty minutes went by and I apologized to him as I just couldn’t find it. Well he started giggling and I asked what he was laughing at and his reply, ‘Duncan, you're so silly there wasn’t such an animal like that in those days.’ And I said, ‘But you had me look for nearly 40 minutes!’ He laughed again and said, ‘I know, I was joking.’ I couldn’t believe that a 3-year-old had tricked me into believing that there was a sabre tooth dog. That will forever be a favorite of mine because the joy in his face knowing that he got one over his teacher was priceless."

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

"No, I did not read that article, but I can only imagine what the man would have to go through. There is still a stigma for being a male in this profession and I can’t wait until the day that men and woman or (woman and men) become equal and instead of ‘man got fired’’ it would be ‘teacher got fired,’ for whatever reason. However, I am shocked to hear he got fired for just being a male."

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

"It has to be ‘The Scarecrow’s Wedding’ by Julia Donaldson. It is fantastic, and all the boys and girls love the story in my group."

Q. What’s your favorite activities to do with your kids? 

"It sounds so silly, but what I love the most is just chatting with the children, the language they use, the imagination they use. It is gripping and I will never get sick of hearing little ones’ stories."

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

"If you have a passion to support children and facilitate their learning and know that you are helping them become the best possible versions of themselves then I would say GO FOR IT!!!! Life is far too short not to enjoy it!"

Be sure to check out Duncan's blog at

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