Montessori Alliance

Negative Reaction to a Positive Thing – David King

Posted by admin on March 31, 2014

Those of you who know me, or those of you who have read any of my blogs will know that I love my job. I choose this profession because I have a genuine love for children and a sincere passion for early childhood education and the Montessori Method. I also felt that (especially in Ireland) there was a distinct lack of men in this field and that surely this absence of positive male role models from early childhood education was a negative thing.


Now I am well aware that this is very much a female led and dominated profession and that in my position as a male Montessori teacher I am in the minority. I also understand that when I tell people what I do I will receive a few raised eyebrows or a few “sorry you are a what?” responses, and this is fine, in fact I actually like that it takes people by surprise. However, what gets to me is when people have a negative reaction. I have had some very negative reactions to the fact that I work with young children. These range from monotonous comments such as “could he not get a real job” and “why don’t you become a real teacher” to comments of a more sinister nature that I don’t think I need to share with you all here in this blog.

Are gender stereotypes so ingrained in people that if we stray from them there must be some serious explanation for it? The male nurse, the female bus driver or electrician, the male Montessori director all do more than raise eyebrows, they seem to make certain people uneasy. They are so removed from some people’s zone of comfort people seek a reason to explain why we have chosen the “wrong path”. I struggle to see how a figure such as a positive male role model for our youngest children in their formative years, can be seen in such a negative light.

I have read on forums that mothers (and fathers I might add) have said they would refuse to send their child to a pre-school environment if there was a male in the classroom. Would they refuse the services of a female mechanic when their car is broken down on the side of the road? Would they refuse to be cared for by a male nurse and actually while I am talking about the medical profession, Maria Montessori was Italy’s first female doctor, a medical society at the time which was entirely dominated by men, would her medical advice be disregarded by these people?

Have other people come across this line of thought? Would this cross your mind if you were putting your child into a preschool classroom environment where there is a male teacher? Would the same ideas pop into your head if your 8 year old child had a male teacher in Primary school? Would this be something that you would have to think twice about if a male teacher applied for a job in your setting? I really just want to find out why there can be such a negative reaction to such a positive thing.

  • meninchildcareirl

    Its a challenge to some people, they struggle to get their head around it. But your doing what makes you feel right and that’s what is most important David. Your passion will win through

  • Kathy Brodie

    Some very interesting questions there, David! And your logic is impeccable. I’ve worked alongside a number of male practitioners, both in Early Years Settings and schools. In all cases they have been professional, dedicated and adored by the children.
    Negativity can sometimes be a reaction to the new or unusual, not personal.

    Do stick at it and know that if you care about children, you are in exactly the right place.

  • James

    Hi David, I’m a male Forest School leader and qualified nursery practitioner in Scotland working with 3 to 7 year olds. I love the kids and love the job. The kids are so fun and I find it really interesting working with them. I haven’t directly come across any negative lines of thought but maybe it is there. I do sometimes worry what people think of me but I am grateful for my job and I like to think the children benefit from a male way of doing things in an otherwise female environment.

    It was good to read your blog. Good luck .

  • Deirdre

    The younger the children, the higher the gender imbalance. This is a societal problem, and I believe that at the root is a broad misunderstanding and lack of respect for the importance of childhood. There is so little value on the experiences of young children that sadly this is still seen as “caring” for children, a highly sexist view, and the educative aspect of our work is lost on society, at every level, despite the overwhelming evidence that quality Early Childhood Education is the foundation for positive life-long learning dispositions and better outcomes for children and society in general. I’m a female graduate of Early Childhood Studies in Ireland, and am astounded at the lack of males in our profession. The best of luck to you and your male colleagues. Keep up the good work

  • Linda

    I think it’s great that you are so passionate about your chosen profession. Unfortunately there are children who grow up without any male role models. I personally believe that we should encourage and support more men within the childcare sector. If you are good at what you do why should it matter if you’re male or female? I wish you well in your chosen career David.

  • Danny Ryan

    David Hi, Danny here, listen just on my way to work & came across you blog its great to hear that you are putting this up for people to have a think about, I work with 2 – 3 year old’s in my job for 7 years now & what a journey & yes you do meet negative reactions & sometimes hard to find away of challenging this so I thank you for putting yourself out there.

  • Lee

    Great blog David and well done for putting it out there in conversation. We had a male student join our team recently and it was wonderful to see children interacting in a whole different way with an adult practitioner. There was such a positive reaction both from children and families and they were heartbroken when he finished his placement. Well done again.

  • Alfredo Bianchini

    Hi David, I’m a teacher myself and dare say a male too! Carry on this way with such passion and dedication (needless to say you will). I work in an Italian secondary school in Montefiascone and suffer from seeing such generally poor response to the wonderful Montessori’s gifts. You must have seen the impressive movie “etre at avoir” about what shining things a teacher (guess the sex) would do in a small obscure Frech primary school. Good luck!

  • Pamela Green

    Hi David, I have worked in Montessori for over 20 years as Head of School and a teacher. My son also worked in the Primary classroom (3-6 yr. olds) in our school for seven years as lead teacher. This was nearly always a very positive experience for him with our families, and I think it allowed many people the opportunity to see how a loving and gifted man could mentor and guide their children. There were a few parents, however, who saw this as something to wonder about, or speak about. When they did so, the other parents shared their own positive experiences of having a man as their child’s teacher. I found that the people who complained were those who were looking for something to complain about. It was more of their own way of living with a suspicious mentality.

    So, with those that question your capabilities, your own motivations, and overlook your dedication and passion for teaching… can look at the ways these people view others and life. It may have much more to do with them, than you. I am sure you know this, but keep this in mind when you feel overwhelmed. And keep on being with children…..we need so many more men to be in every classroom.

  • David King

    Thank you to everyone who has posted a supportive comment. All of these messages mean a lot and thank you for taking the time out of your day both to read the blog and also to post a comment.
    The vast majority of reaction I have received from parents and other adults since I started in Montessori has been very very positive, I just wanted to highlight that there is this more closed minded view towards men working with children of all ages but specifically in early years. The supportive response to this blog means a lot!

  • Pamela Purcell

    David, well done on your blog. Maybe it will encourage more young men to study Montessori or Early Childcare and Education and help with the gender imbalance in the sector. It can only be good for our children to gain a more balanced perspective to their early education. Montessori herself, as you mention in your blog, did not allow gender discrimination to hold her back in her choice of career. She also described the Montessori environment as a microcosm of society and it obviously does not make sense to preclude a whole section of society.

  • Kierna

    Great topic, David and it is sad you even have to write such a post. I know of only 1 male playgroup leader locally & have heard people ask why he does such a job. But, equally as a female I have had colleagues ask me if I’d like to be a real teacher!

  • Michelle Nolan

    David, well written blog. Some thought provoking questions. Yes I have come across this line of thought to the point a couple of parents removed children from my service when I employed a male teacher. I wanted a higher ratio of teachers to children and he was the best fit for the job. While he was working with me he shared that he had sent out hundreds of cv’s and did’nt get any interviews or even in some cases acknowledgement of receipt of cv. That is very off putting for any newly qualified young individual starting out on a career path. Early Years Teaching is a valid career and the sooner the Government start paying us appropriately the soon society will accept it as a respectable career and not just baby sitting.(sorry for the rant, could’nt hold that back).

    I wish I could wave a magic wand and show people the value that a male brings to a service. Men are different to woman but that does not make them more or less valuable in an early years service. The male presence does bring a much needed balance.

    If I a male was the right fit for the job I would employ that person in a heartbeat. Hopefully in time other schools will too.

  • sharon duarte

    Lets turn it around and make it sort after, having male teachers in any school can only be an advantage surely, especially now when we are actively trying to change stereotypes. Male and female students would benefit from a mixed gender teaching staff as they do from mixed gender classmates. Male teachers are part of our future and should be embraced.

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