I have been meaning to write a blog on this for quite a while now and it wasn’t until the other day when I really started to think. I was working in a nursery for the morning and two children in that morning referred to me as ‘Miss’. Now it could have been quite funny that the boy had mistakenly said it but he hadn’t. The boy said it naturally as if I was being weird in correcting him and saying ‘My names Simon’. It was so natural for this child to see an adult and call ‘Miss’. What do you call a male practitioner in a nursery? It’s so rare the children don’t need to know.
Over the past year I have been able to visit lots of nurseries and deliver ‘Helicopter Stories’. One of the unique parts of the approach is that it allows children to feel listened to and valued, which is so different to what they are used to.
When I enter a nursery children run up to me, excited for my arrival, stories ready to tell. I see children engaged, wanting to play, wanting to talk to me, to tell me everything they have been up to, 100mph conversation and I listen to them. They say they love me within an hour of me being in the nursery. One girl told me her story. She was so excited to have it acted out. Always looking to me to get my approval. Waving to me, that bond is something special.
It’s as if I am a famous person, as if I am dressed up in their favourite superhero costume or story character but I’m not, I’m just Simon and I’m listening! And this is the same response that I see children give to both male and female workshop leaders who have entered their settings to deliver ‘Helicopter Stories’; but is it completely the same?
Do the children have a different response to male practitioners in a nursery? I think they do.
In a recent study only 2% of early years professionals are male. This is shocking and needs to change. I have been able to experience children’s response to a male in their setting and it has been so rewarding for me but most importantly for the children. In my opinion, having a male there gives it a completely different dynamic.
So the question could be asked am I engaging to the children because of my personality as Simon or is it my gender that’s engaging them? In my opinion and that of a colleague of mine is that children are fascinated by males because they don’t always associate dad with play or stories. This Is not something that dad does – a male does, it’s something that mum does with me – a female. So when I enter the nursery as a male and ask them to tell me a story and I listen to them it’s something so new and exciting they don’t want me to leave.
This was no more apparent than when I recently led some ‘Helicopter at Home’ sessions. A session open to all parents to learn the approach so that they can do stories at home with their children. 10 parents arrived. 9 mums and 1 dad. It could be said that it’s the morning and they work but when I finished the session and started to walk out to the playground, I was met by the parents picking up their nursery children, the 9 mums but also at least 10 dads. Why did they not come to the session? Is it because dads don’t do stories?
It has been so special for me to do the ‘Helicopter Stories’ approach with the children. To sit down with them and listen to them tell me their story. I love the approach and I am lucky to be able to visit lots of different nursery settings. Hopefully I can have a positive impact on those children in the short amount of time that I am working with them.
One other unique part of the ‘Helicopter Stories’ approach allows for boys to play girls and girls to play boys. A boy becomes a princess and a girl becomes a builder. A safe space is created for children to experience this and the children love it. It’s just a shame that in today’s society, adults can’t learn and follow the children. We need more men to work in early year’s education and more women engineers. There is no judging as children and there shouldn’t be any judgement as adults.
My hope is that maybe one day in the future, a female practitioner gets mistaken for a male! But then again, we are back to my earlier question, what do you call a male working in the early years? If only I could come across one to ask…