Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Preschool Teacher Tony Kee From Australia by Mike Prochaska
Tony Kee has been an Early Childhood Educator in Australia for 15 years and currently works at Long Daycare Centre in the combined preschool group. He was the 2004 NSW trainee of the year. Tony lives in the mid-north coast of New South Wales (NSW), about halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. “We have a great standard of early childhood settings in Australia and some very passionate educators. It is not considered a high paying job, but I have always found it rewarding," he says. Read on to learn more about Tony...
Q. What are the advantages of being male working in Early Childhood Education?
“Being a man in early childhood provides some different perspectives and approaches to early childhood. Men can bring a sense of fun, laid back, no-drama attitude to the classroom. I think it's fun to break down some of the traditional stereotypes of needing to be female to be nurturing or that men just offer rough and tumble fun, etc. It is great for children to have a broad range of role models including men.”
Q. Why is play important for children?
“Play is very important for children's learning and development because children learn through play. Children don't [need] flash card, educational apps and a structured academic curriculum (and these things are all proven to increase child stress and anxiety!). Children need time in nature, a nurturing adult and time to play.
“Early childhood is such a beautiful, important and fleeting period of our lives, and the lives of the children we care for. It is really important that we listen to the research, train educators and inform parents, politicians and our communities about the importance of providing child safe areas to play.”
Q. Why is recess and outdoor play important?
“I am really passionate about outdoor play. It provides everything we try to emulate in a childcare center. It has endless play potential and variety for children. Nature, fresh air, sunshine, bug hunts, dirt, sand, water, trees to climb. According to Dr. John Medina, ‘the human brain is designed to learn outdoors and on the move’ ('Brain Rules for Baby'). So why do we send children to learn sitting at tables, inside, in fenced yards??? Hmm…”
Q. What’s your favorite memory working with kids?
“My favorite memories working with children include playing sport and outdoor games, air guitar lessons, classic child comments, catching up with teenagers I looked after in preschool and now being able to go on outdoor adventures with my own children.”
Q. What are some of your favorite books?
“The books I know ... by heart are ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ and ‘The Gruffalo.’ For educators I would also recommend ‘Brain Rules for Baby.’ It provides a grounded approach to what is and isn't important to young children's development and lots of links to research.”
Q. What would you tell anyone thinking about going into Early Childhood Education?
“To anyone thinking of going into early childhood education I would say if you like kids give it a go. There are so many great dads, brothers and uncles out there. Children love having caring men around in their lives. Being an educator/teacher is awesome. My biggest inspirations were (and still are) Tim Gill, the nature schools throughout Scandinavia, Teacher Tom and the countless inspirational educators I have worked with and learned from.
“It is important when starting out to have some guidance and support. With this in mind last year a few mates and I started a small but passionate men in childcare local group to provide a bit of social support and mentorship."
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