Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Preschool Teacher & Gymnastics Coach Joe Symons by Mike Prochaska
Joe Symons an early childhood education teacher from Canberra, Australia. He currently works in a preschool room with 3- to 5-year-olds, but has worked with all age groups. (Shh, he prefers the older children.) “I am also a male gymnastics coach and have been for over eight years. It is great to be able to still coach and have a full-time job doing both of my passions,” he says. Joe also studied graphic design and has his own label, Arrowman Designs.
Q. What’s it like coaching male gymnastics?
“I coach 9- to 14-year-old boys at a gymnastics club twice a week. Gymnastics is a passion of mine. I enjoy coaching it. [I love] seeing boys compete that you have coached and they do well. Also seeing boys become great coaches and gymnasts after I have coached them.”
Joe coaches the boys on six different apparatus: rings, floor, high bar, parallel bars, pommel and vault. He says the boys learn discipline, strength, flexibility, make friends and, most of all, have fun.
Q. Why is play important for children?
“Play enables the children to find their interests and learn through play. The more children are exposed to different experiences they are able to learn from them and create new learning experiences from them. Also, adapting play to children's interests to engage them in the experiences/activities more. It is a great learning environment for the children to learn through their play.”
Q. What about outside play?
“For a number of reasons: gross motor skills, interaction with other children in the center and enjoying the outdoors. The range of activities to engage the children is more vast, giving educators lots of choice of activities for the children.”
Q. What’s your favorite memory working with kids?
“The nicknames they make up for you. As being ‘Joe,’ I get Joe-Joe, Doe, Flipping Joe and others. As well as seeing the children progress in their learning and skills through your time at being at a center."
Q. What’s your favorite book to read to the classroom?
“The Grug series, an Australian childhood favorite. And, of course, The Book With No Pictures.”
Q. What activities do you enjoy doing with the kids?
“Reading the children books, either in group time or during the day. Doing yoga with the children before lunch mealtimes. Teaching the children stretches and skills from gymnastics.”
Q. How do you feel about roughhousing with kids?
“I like to encourage the children, to use their words to resolve conflict. Yes, some ‘rough house’ play can be done in a playful way, as soon as it gets violent it needs to stop the children's safety.”
Q. Anything inspiring to tell anyone thinking of going into this field?
“If you have a love for teaching and seeing children learn and prosper, this is a career for you. The early childhood industry needs more male influences for the children. It makes a huge difference to the center and to the children's lives. of course.”
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