Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Kindergarten Teacher Matt Ryan From Chattanooga, Tennessee by Mike Prochaska
Matt Ryan lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and teaches kindergarten in the public school system to primarily low-income families. "In my experience specially with my demographic, it has been easier for me to build good and respectful relationships with my students," says Matt. "Many of them come from homes without fathers and are searching for a male role model in their life. They are naturally inclined to build relationships with me because it is something they are lacking at home."
Matt says in his experience, men tend to have an easier time commanding respect on the sole fact of being a man. "I think the novelty of having a male teacher is something they enjoy and even brag about." Read on to learn more about Matt...
Q. Why is play important for kids?
"Play is important to children for many reasons, but primarily it is developmentally appropriate. I have issues with the American education system and how they have almost entirely removed play from the curriculum. Play develops the imagination, critical thinking, fine and gross motor skills, and most importantly social skills."
Q. What's your favorite book to read to the class?
"My favorite book to read is The Gruffalo. I use it to introduce students to adjectives. It’s fun to read and we always have good activities when we’re done."
Q. What's your favorite activity to do with kindergarten-age kids?
Q. What's one of your favorite moments working with children?
"There’s so many. I can’t think of a specific example but, I love seeing a student finally ‘get’ it. The ‘ah-ha’ moment. I had one student who struggled for months on her letter sounds and then one day everything clicked. The joy on her face when she finally succeeded ... I felt so proud of her."
Q. What advice do you have for other men thinking about getting into this field?
"I applaud any man that wants to work in early childhood. Men are sorely lacking in this field and are much needed. In the demographic that I typically work with, most students are missing a good male role model in their life. Many come from fatherless homes. I think that it’s very important for children, especially at these ages, to be able to observe what a man should really be."
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