Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Wade Schirmer From South Australia by Mike Prochaska
Q. How did you get into Early Childhood Education?
“I originally kind of fell into this field to start off with. Around the year 2001 I was a little lost on what I wanted to do with my life. I had had a variety of jobs and at the same time I had a few friends that were single mums. I always seemed to get in great with their children.
“I had a friend who was in child care and I asked her one day, ‘Do you think I would be good working with children?’ She replied, ‘Of course!’ So we arranged a couple of volunteer days at the center she worked at and I loved it.
“I went on to do my diploma in children's services in 2002 to 2003. I worked extensively in long daycare for many years, but then decided to go to University. I've just completed my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood/Arts and have recently become a registered teacher here in Adelaide, South Australia. It has been a 14-year journey of many good times.”
Q. What are the advantages of being a male teacher? What do men bring to the classroom?
“I feel that there is many advantages of having males as teachers. We can be calm and reassuring; we can look at life in a different light; and we tend to use risk a lot more compared to a woman’s natural 'motherly instinct' when it comes to play. We make positive role models for children that come from broken families or domestic violence. We have a natural 'playfulness' that young children gravitate toward us for. The list goes on!
“I mostly work with preschool and kindy age children. I'm looking to extend this to school age, so I can experience as much as possible. When I started University though, I always knew that males were needed in Early Childhood Education and that there was a big shortage, so that's why I'm here.”
Q. What is your favorite memory working with children?
“I have many memories, although one sticks in my mind: When I was a student on placement at a childcare center there was a little girl whose parents spoke Polish. The room was full of English-speaking children and I noticed every morning she was sad at drop off and sometimes in the day. I decided that maybe it was a language barrier that confused her.
"I went to the library that night and borrowed a book on Polish language. I learned a few basic phrases and words. I started using them on the little girl. After a few days, there was one time when I was outside and she walked past she then ran over to me hugged me very tight around the neck and then let go and ran off. I felt there and then that I'd made a connection with her more than the regular staff! I put this idea into my practice ever since. Learning words that might comfort ESL children.”
Q. What is your favorite book to read to the children?
“My favorite books are any Dr. Seuss because of the rhyming. I like Julia Donaldson for ‘The Gruffalo,’ and also an Aussie book called "Wombat Stew." This is among many others of course. I love reading stories and putting on multiple voices for the characters. Dr. Seuss is great to get a hip-hop beat going and rap the words out.”
Q. Why is play important for children?
“Play is important for many reasons. For me mostly, because of the learning opportunities that play can possess. Also letting children play uninterrupted aids in self-confidence, social skills and allows children to work out things by themselves. Play is like the foundation of all other things to come in a person's life.”
Q. Anything else you’d like to share about working with children?
“I like to tell other males who are interested in working with children to push through any of the negative comments or news they may hear or see in the media and don't let it stop you from doing something that I can assure you that you'll love!”
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