Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Preschool Teacher Panditha Sarathchandra by Mike Prochaska
Panditha Sarathchandra works with preschoolers in California. This was not his intention. “I got into this field with no intention of making it my career,” he says. “I took my first child development class during my first semester of college. I had previously switched my interest of following my path of becoming an anthropologist to medicine, and had my goal set on becoming a pediatrician.” Now he’s making appearances in Sesame Street videos. So what happened? Read on to learn more about Panditha…
Q. How did you get into this field?
"A classmate in my philosophy class suggested I take classes at the child development department at my college, so I went. It was Child Development 135 with Allyson Beecher, and it proved to be not only my most favorite but also the class where I excelled in the most. In that class I was required to do a hands-on practicum; the age group I worked with was 4- and 5-year-olds. I was immediately taken by not only how I felt at home with this environment but also with how I was able to engage with children. It was when I switched my major to child development, however, I did not fully change my career choice to early childhood until much later when I got more in-depth. After a couple more years of working in the classroom I realized that what kept me from coming back to working in ECE was the following:
- I actually enjoyed coming to teach.
- I enjoyed how my co-teachers and I could collaborate and teamwork was a big part of the planning process and I got to learn so much about everyone.
- I enjoyed discovering that what I was doing was leaving a very positive impact on children and that there truly was different methods of learning that I could advocate for.
- I discovered that my interests and other career talents, such as art and science, could be incorporated into hands-on lesson plans."
Q. What do you see as the advantages of having a male teachers?
"In the Early Childhood Education sector, men are needed in the classroom because they fill the grossly neglected aspect of diversity in early classroom settings and help diminish gender sterotyping. Sexist ideals start early and they are taught. The most crucial years for this is during ages 1-3 when children learn about the world around them through gender stereotyping. Other advantages that they bring, such as nurturing, energy, creativity, are invaluable because it also helps children know that your gender does not define what you can be or do.
"This is also reflective of how we really need more women in the fields of auto mechanics, engineering, computer science, business management, medicine (especially in mental health) chemistry and animation."
Q. Anything else you want to tell us about working with young children?
"The career is the most underpaid of all. It is due to the fact that society in general sees that early education is unnecessary. Yet without it, children suffer. If one were to look at studies where children were not given a chance to go to a preschool setting vs. ones they were, it could be seen how the children in the preschool or group setting were able to prosper far better than children in the variable where there was no preschool.
"One of the main factors of high turnover in early childhood is very much this: teachers are not treated like teachers, they are treated like babysitters. The way this can change is if directors step up and support their teachers and stop treating it entirely like a business and more like an education institution."
Q. What is one of your favorite memories working with kids?
"My most fondest memories are how they light up when we are doing something or engaging with them."
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