Because I’m a Girl
Katie Burke

Here’s the flip side…. Some years ago (well nearly nineteen) I was studying at Uni to obtain a degree in Teaching, not a big deal but the field I was studying was E.C.E (Early Childcare Education). Now being a MAN and a single parent of two girls and one son who all went through childcare and where I volunteered my time to assist the Teachers, who on their recommendations that I attend University to gain my qualifications in teaching. No big deal I thought — Oh how wrong could I be….. From the very first day I stuck out like a sore thumb, there were near four hundred students being inducted into the program, and I was only one of THREE MEN who were attending the courses (by the second year the two guys changed their programs to primary teaching), at the end I was the only one left and felt so alone; credit that my classmates always encouraged me in what ever we did. But I felt left out as you would imagine that most of the conversation was mainly ‘female’ based and yes I couldn’t relate. Reason for my anxiety and feelings during this time wasn’t my fellows peers, but mainly the faculty lecturers who would most times whenever we began class would openly ask me the same question…

“Why did I choose to become a Early Childcare Educator….!”

Most times this was asked directly towards me. I never felt that I had to justify my reasons in most things that I felt passionate for, nor did I ever come across to experience so much soul searching as I did whilst attending an Educational Institution in my life! But those three years was the most soul wrenching experiences that I have ever gone through, the amount of times that I personally spent reflecting as to whether this was the right choice in my career — and whether I should change just for the sake of saving my sanity…. But what kept me going?

Two times during our training we were sent out into other public or private Childcare Centre’s to learn and put into practice what we learnt, and I enjoyed the interactions with bot staff, children and parents. I came away with the knowledge that I was welcomed and praised for choosing this profession, and I gained so much in the times I spent there; to a point that later I was offered a part time job in a private centre! Never was I asked by those who actually worked in these places ‘Why I wanted to work as a Childcare Educator’ rather I was always asked ‘Why aren’t there more men like myself choosing this profession?’ I could of given the most obvious reasons why men don’t wont to work in this career, but thought better of it!

Since then I worked three years in private care and left to become a Special Educator at a local Primary school working with mainly girls with special needs, the employment I received personally from the Principal who was a friend of mine. There I spent four years teaching and loved the job and thrived in gaining new skills and conducting classes of students and being trusted as an educator, but what I didn’t realise that even though I was very capable of what I was doing now and then comments arose of ‘certain’ policies that was put in place. The school like many others in the area that had male teachers employed had two charters/policies for teachers; one which all teachers abide by, and one ‘hidden’ policy that was directed to male teachers.

Now you can imagine the what the policy outlined in it form: one-on-one interactions with a student, never to be left alone with a single student in any given area (constant observation from another teacher or adult). To other forms around this wording. When I discovered this towards the end of my contract I never thought that those years past would come back, and I felt that all those years I spent teaching and gaining trust of my peers was for nothing!

In the end I gave up and left the career that once brought me so much joy and went back to University to study Social Work and Psychology, where I eventually ended up working in a D.H.B (District Health Board) Hospital in a major city as a Social Worker for nearly two years. Only to leave and retire due to my medical needs and health. Looking back I would never change the choices that I made, what I would of changed is the mindsets of my lecturers, teaching policies and some parents of ‘Why can’t men be allowed to teach children?’ And maybe, just maybe I would still be to this day in a classroom somewhere helping children to learn lessons in life and acceptance…

Who knows?

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