Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Retired Child-care Director Stuart Cleinman by Mike Prochaska

Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Retired Child-care Director Stuart Cleinman

Stuart Cleinman is a retired director at Sunrise Early Learning Center in Massachusetts. Stuart began as a toddler teacher, was a child-care coordinator of a parenting program, a preschool teacher and then worked in resource and referral for many years before becoming a director. He worked with infants to kids up to 12 years old. Read on to learn more about Stuart's experience in the Early Childhood Education field...

Q. How did you get into this field?   

" [I was] unsure about what I wanted to do. As a school assignment in my senior year, I volunteered in the school’s childcare center and liked it. So I began to look for a job in the field after graduation. Took a year and I was hired."

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

"Society has both males and females. To have only one gender (which most childcare centers have) does not reflect society. It also shows that both females and males can be caring."

Q. What is your favorite memory working with kids?

"I have many stories over 40 years, but my favorite was when I was a Head Start Deputy Director with a local program. A boy who was 4 years old wanted to walk into the building with me and took my hand. As we were walking, he asked, ‘So, how’s your job?' I was very amused and responded with a straight face that it was going very well.

"Another memory is that as a director, I went to visit one of the sites. The children were outside and about to go in, but one of the boys was refusing to go in. The staff saw me and said it was OK because I was there. This was true. I asked him if he wanted to take a walk with me and he said yes. We walked into the building together."

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

"Discrimination works on many fronts. If this is the only reason he was let go, that is discrimination. Now as a director, I have to look at all sides and I wonder if that is the whole story."

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

"I loved to read 'Goodnight Moon' and the Maurice Sendak books."

Q. Why is play important for children?

"Education is very important for all ages. However, if that is all they do, they will resent it and show less interest. Play is fun and a way for all to learn in many ways (i.e. cooperation, playing by rules, playing with others, etc.). It also creates friendships."

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

"This is a wonderful field with many rewards. The children and staff appreciate you. The parents (of which I am one) may or may not do so. Although the pay is not great, it has improved and you feel good at the end of the day.

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

"When I entered the field, I did not realize that it was a woman’s field and paid poorly. That did not deter me. I met my wife because I was on a panel of Men in Child Care and it was held at her center (she was a teacher). That was a plus."

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