Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Preschool Teacher Nathan Jonaitis by Mike Prochaska
Nathan Jonaitis is from Mt. Pleasant, Mich., and works with preschool age children from 3 to 5 years old. He works at the Child Development and Learning Lab at Central Michigan University. Read on to learn more about Nathan...
Q. What are the advantages of being a man in Early Childhood Education? What do men bring to the classroom?
“I like that we are focusing on the advantages and not the disadvantages. Being a male in ECE lets you bring in a different perspective into the classroom. Through my work, and collaborating as a team, I have noticed that I look at learning in early childhood quite differently at times and have many different perspectives when compared with my female coworkers. I think that it is important that all views are heard. It is also great to be a positive male role model for the children – both boys and girls. Unfortunately, there are many families that do not have the positive male role model and I am grateful that I can fill that gap in some way.
“I also feel that, over my years of experience, I have been able to connect with a lot of young boys that have behavior issues. I think as a man I am able to relate with their feelings and as a result can be more patient and understanding with them. In fact, there are many behaviors that I don’t even see as wrong that others might think they are. Boys can be loud, energetic and rambunctious and I think that is interpreted in the wrong way sometimes, so I like that I can be there to relate with these boys. These opportunities end up being some of my favorite experiences as a teacher. I am also 6 foot 3 and am a big guy and I like to bring that rough and tumble to the children – both boys and girls – that they want to participate in.
“Another advantage is that I get to battle all negative stereotypes that children might have of men. I get to let children know that it is OK that a boy is emotional, that a man can be a teacher or that boys can like bright colors and glitter (purple is my favorite color and I love anything that sparkles). These are a few very important things that I think men bring to ECE.”
Q. Why is play important for children?
“Play is a crucial part of ECE and is, simply put, how children learn. There are many areas of development that are developed through play and it is our jobs as teachers to guide that learning and give the children tools they need to learn. I think that at this age play with other children gives them the tools to be able to learn the rest of their life. Children learn how to learn through play. They develop many crucial social skills through play. They learn how to problem solve and work as a team through play. They expand their cognitive skills through play. They learn how to create their own scenarios with the tools that we provide them. They learn about emotions through play.
“Both gross motor and fine motor skills are developed when children play. Children learn how to be persistent in play. Literacy and match skills can be developed in play. These are a few examples and by setting up an appropriate environment and scaffolding the children’s learning all areas of development can be accomplished through play.”
Q. What is a favorite memory working with kids?
“One memory is far too hard of a task for me. I will tell you what my favorite thing is though. No matter what is going on in your life and how upset you are, you cannot help but to smile and have forget about your worries while you are with the children. The unconditional love that I receive from my preschoolers is a million times better than any single memory could ever be."
Q. What is your favorite book to read to your classroom?
"One of the books that I really enjoy to read in the classroom is ‘Leonardo, the Terrible Monster’ by Mo Willems. I love to be really animated during the story and I love to read stuff that make the kids laugh. This story also has a really nice message about friendship. I think a close second is ‘The Book With No Pictures’ by B.J. Novak."
Q. Anything inspiring to tell anyone thinking of going into this field?
“As all preschool teachers know, you do not go into it for the money but what you do get is so much greater. You get to touch the lives of so many children and they will touch yours just as profoundly and be just as important to you as you are to them. If you are a male, then we would love to have you in the field and we need so many more positive male role models in early childhood.”
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