It is well known that male educators are vastly under-represented in early childhood education settings. Sharing the voices of this marginalised group of educators is vital if we are to value their contribution to young children's early educational experiences, and to support men to complete early childhood degrees and enter early years settings. While the proportion of male teachers in primary schools is around 21 per cent (ABS 2002), the proportion of male educators working with children younger than school age in preschool and child care centres is between two and four per cent of the workforce (Lyons, Quinn & Sumsion 2005). This is a consistent phenomenon across the globe with similarly low figures being reported across New Zealand, Canada, USA, and much of Europe (Cushman 2005; McQuiston 2010; Sumsion 2000).
The range of factors that impact on men's decisions to pursue and maintain a career in early childhood education are many and varied and have been explored by many researchers (Huber, Vollum & Stroud 2000). However, there are few studies that have examined men's lived experiences and voices in a way that highlights the challenges and benefits encountered by males studying and working in the predominantly female field of early childhood care and education (Sargent 2001).
This paper presents data from a qualitative study of 38 participants. The researcher conducted phone interviews with male teachers who were identified as having successfully graduated from an early childhood education degree at the University of South Australia over the past decade. To examine the narratives of these individuals, the author draws on Papatraianou's (2012) Conceptual Model of Resilience, which incorporates aspects of ecological theory. This model enabled the exploration of the personal, situated and systemic factors that influenced these men's study and career pathways and how these factors impacted on their resilience as educators (Papatraianou 2012).
This paper will discuss the factors that have positively and negatively impacted on male educator's resilience through the completion of their Early Childhood Education degree and subsequent transition into the workplace. Their personal experiences are shared and their genuine voices added to the ongoing discussion around the under-representation of men in young children's educational experience. This paper concludes with implications for engaging with men in early childhood education and how their voices can help shape future research, and influence the conception of male early childhood educator identities in educational discourse and broader society.