Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With ECE Lecturer Noel Jensen by Mike Prochaska
Noel Jensen is an early childhood lecturer and owner and creator of Keeping It Simply Smart. Noel loves playing in the sandbox and teaching children. He also loves early brain development, nature engagement and play! Read on to learn more about Noel…
Q. How did you get into this field?
“It was a bit of an accident, really. I was working in hospitality and my sister was a director of an early years’ service in Wagga Wagga, and I loved to go and help out at her service. Shoes off in the sand pit, what bliss! Then I went to live in London for six months and a friend was studying early childhood, and I got fascinated by early brain development. When I returned home I started studying and working in care and worked my way up the ladder and through the politics. I have worked in many positions in education and care, but I love the teaching.”
Q. What do you see as the advantages of having a male teachers and educators?
“That is a hard one to answer without sounding too cliché. To be honest I don’t care if you are a male or female educator so long as you are FANTASTIC educator. The child must always be the focus. I believe males do get scrutinized a lot and expected to always be on their A game, be it from parents or other staff and even the whole community for a whole lot of preconceived reasons.
“I am a trainer in child protection and I do get frustrated when people think it is only males who are perpetrators of abuse of children. I do believe there are many women in the early year’s field who don’t want men in their domain, I have seen this and felt this firsthand. I will be told I am wrong, but unfortunately, I am not.
“It can be very isolating for a male to working in such a female-dominated area as it would be for females working in male-dominated areas. I work with 50 other lecturers, all female, and while I love working with them and they are very professional I still feel quite alone at times.
"To just be that positive role model in children’s lives. Children who may not have other positive male role models around them is so important. If as a child you have not witness this positivity, how can you grow up to be a positive person yourself. This is also about relating as a human being, how adults engage in positive ways with each other. For a child to see a male and a female staff member engaging, communicating, laughing, collaborating and working together in a respectful way can only have a positive impact on children and their future.
"You can’t teach that stuff it MUST be observed. These skills observed can have major positive impacts for child’s future and those they will share their lives with in so many ways.
"Male and female care practices are different. I know I will get slammed for saying it, but we do things differently, both ways are good but to have the mix, and not just males and females but cultures, abilities, passions and skills adds to a more enriched experience for children."
Q. What’s your favorite memory working with children?
“I remember an hour-long conversation about ‘snott’ and ‘boogas,’ you know the stuff that comes out your nose. It was a conversation that started in the sand pit, we talked about picking it, eating it cleaning it and we even made up a song about it. This began a week’s long research on bodily functions. Rule number one: always start from the child’s interest.”
Q. Did you hear about the man who got fired for just being male? How do you feel about that?
“OHHHH, could I tell you some stories!!!!!!! This is not an isolated case by no means, I believe though services are more ‘covert’ in their recruitment. This has just stood out because of the way it was done. I was told once I could not have the director’s job at an interview I went to ‘because men get all the good jobs’ as we need to give it to a woman.
“There will always be the ‘keepers of the keys’ who will not want certain groups of people working with or for them. There will always be those who are too weak or uneducated to stand up to certain parents and community who will want to marginalize and bully out particular groups and individuals.
“I have had amazing role models working in the early years, all of them women and I thank them for their mentorship, support and professionalism, but it would have been nice to have other guys to also share that with.”
Q. What’s your favorite book to read to your children?
“Mex Fox’s ‘Koala Lou.’ Just love that book and it resonates with me knowing the story behind the story Mem shared with me.”
Q. Why is play important for children?
“Please just let children play. Stop taking over, stop interfering; just let them be. I love loose parts and believe everything in the universe is a loose part if positioned wisely. Rule number two: if children are not punching each other stay out of it. Life lessons are learnt by engaging in uninterrupted and extended play sessions.
“Let children get dirty, mud is such a wonderful think. Why have we created a new plastic? We went back to nature which is wonderful, but we have now refined it so much, taken off the sharp edges and made it all one size and one dimensional. Wood is wood, the bark falls off, there is the odd splinter and we learn the risk.”
Q. Anything inspiring to tell anyone thinking of going into this field?
“Four rules I have learned for anyone looking at studying (not my words):"
- "Learning is from the womb to the tomb."
- "Surround yourself with people who know more than you."
- "Sometimes it is good to get off the dance floor and get up on the balcony."
- "There is no bad weather just bad clothing and buy some gumboots as soon as you start your studies."
"Don’t forget to have fun!!! It can be such a great experience and you will have such an impact on these little lives. What better job could there be!
"Enjoy the moments and see everything as a learning opportunity. As adults we have been around the sun many times; children only a couple. Remember the wonder of the seasons, the leaves, the clouds and the stars – please share that wonder with children. The system has become so administratively top heavy people are too busy being busy with bits of paper that they have forgotten what they are there for. Administration should not rule you – you should rule the administration. Look down, there they are!
"And finally, bodily functions are FUNNY!”
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