When I was in my final year of my degree I was lucky enough to get my first job. I hadn’t graduated, but my university tutor had already found me a great school to work in. It was all about the contacts back then. I was really excited about teaching my very first class. The class that would be mine. It was exciting and scary at the same time.
I visited the school a couple of times to meet staff and get to know the routines, the building and my new classroom. I remember the day the letter went out to the nursery parents (my future class parents). I stood in the Nursery and watched the children, who would soon be in my class, leave for the day. One by one the parents started to open the school bags and read the letter inside.
Within seconds one mum had come into the classroom and approached the teacher. She had no idea who I was, standing in the corner. She held the letter and said,
Parent: “Hi, I’ve just read the letter as see that it says Mr ….. Surely this is a mistake?”
Teacher “Erm, no, that’s right”.
Parent: “But surely it can’t be a man. Is that even legal? Are men allowed to teach children this young?”
Teacher: “Yes of course”. Turning to me, she replied “This is your son’s new teacher. Would you like to meet him?”
The mum didn’t know what to do with herself. She stood there stunned…. All words had gone then she tried to make up for it by saying,
Parent: “Oh, no, erm…but I haven’t got a problem with it, of course”.
Not likely! The biggest backtrack in history from a parent.
We went on to have a great teacher-parent relationship but trust and reputation had to be earned, possibly a little harder than it would have been for any of my female colleagues. It was an interesting aspect of my career. For years I was the only male teacher working with children younger than 8. I always knew that my career was dominated by women, but I never imagined that there were parents with the view that men were not legally allowed to teach infants. How times have changed…. I hope that the years I have been in teaching have helped to broaden the views of some.