A Male in a Female-Dominated Profession

I spent almost ten years working a variety of roles in early childhood education. If you do the simple math, it equates to roughly 3,650 days working with young children in some capacity. Of course, I did take a vacation every once and while — but you get the idea.

During those 3,650 days, I was severely outnumbered as a male compared to my female counterparts. I was an employee at a very large preschool, so at times there were over 40 women who either taught or were a part of the administration. And more times than I can remember, I was the ONE man.

I was the “odd-MAN” out.

I was the outcast.

At times, I was embarrassed to admit that I worked with young children. Especially when I was in my early 20’s, I would often say that I simply taught “kids.” And even into my late 20’s, I found myself struggling to confidently say that I was a preschool teacher. I attribute that feeling of doubt to the gender-specific roles that I experienced as a child of the 1980’s.

Luckily, times have changed for the better and those stereotypes have been significantly altered.

However, a man who is a preschool teacher is still a rarity.

Maybe, now that I am older (and covered in grey hair) have I realized how proud I am to work with young children — from newborns on up. Being a positive role male model in one child’s life is an incredible feeling.

Being a positive role male model in hundreds of children’s lives puts me at a loss for words.

There is no better feeling than when a child runs up to you to give you a hug or a high-five with a giant smile on their face and a giggle in their voice.

Young children are intuitive. And they can tell if an adult is sincere whether they can verbalize that notion or not. To know that I have positively impacted the lives of thousands of children who have come through my path shows that these children know how much I care and want them to succeed.

I may not look like a typical preschool teacher — with a shaved head, tattoos, and a beard — but children do not care. They see a man. They see a teacher. And they see a friend.

I wish it didn’t take me 35 years to realize to fully comprehend how lucky I am to have been given these gifts to relate and teach young children, but I am glad that I am finally aware.

And I am not going to hide again.

By Grant Henry