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The sound of children laughing, playing, and learning in daycares is almost completely synonymous with the nurturing touch of women. Put a man in the mix and the needle may seem destined to jump. But Dawn Meyerski of Mt. Kisco Childcare knows from experience that adding men to the music is a notch that definitely proceeds on the side of harmony.
With several men on staff, MKCCC's Program Director finds that parents who are concerned are no diffident when it comes to meeting a new crossover in any aspect of life. "A small number of parents are at first skeptical, but you get that with anything that is different," said Meyerski.
In those instances, it's a matter of familiarity that develops over time. "I had a toddler parent who absolutely did not want her daughter in the room that had the man in it. But once the child became a preschooler, that parent requested the room with the man in it," said Meyerski.
She admits the early reaction was more prevalent in previous decades, but today, the end result mostly matches first impressions. “Oh, you have men,” she says new parents are pleasantly surprised.
Classroom Co-Workers Make a Good Mix
Assistant toddler teacher, Ryan Martin has that down, according to Head Teacher Vanessa Kardos. With in-depth interest in music, sports and movies, Kardos asserted, "He’s always chatting up the parents, and it makes them feel comfortable."
Still, achieving a personal comfort level can be a journey given that men might be viewed as out of place in this role. “I don’t worry about it as much as I have in the past,” said Martin
At this for about 15 years, he takes any real or imagined trepidation from new parents in stride. “I step back and let them warm up to me,” Martin said.
Closing the Care Gender Gap
The results speak for themselves, but the parent/teacher dynamic isn’t the only relationship that requires the attention of Ms. Meyerski. The director is referring to the hesitation among the majority sex, and the preconception they sometimes have to be talked down from. “Men throw kids up in the air, and women hold them close,” Meyerski said.
This describes the roles we tend to assign to men and women, and that contrast causes initial concern. The worry then is that men are good at winding kids up without the ability to calm them down. In her experience, she generally agrees, but the battle of the sexes naturally fizzles to compromise. "Both men and women teachers learn how to mix together, and in reality, it’s not truly an issue," Meyerski clarified.
That said, Vanessa and Ryan quickly became acclimated to each other when they first starting working together eight years ago. “It’s about communication and working out things within your own style,” said Martin.
At the same time, Kardos is happy to defer in surprise of suggestions that are outside her perspective. “I never would have thought of that,” Kardos said of a recent idea that added a sporty spin to her lesson plan.
But despite his Sunday allegiance to the rough and tumble Pittsburgh Steelers, Kardos said her male colleague offers the kids more "a light touch" in his care. Along with Kardos, Meyerski puts a high value on that. "For kids who are away from parents all day—to see a man in such a nurturing light,” she said, “I think it’s hugely important."
Maturity Avoids Co-Worker Drama and the Future
He is also professional, which covers the initial concern she had in hiring men. Like any employer, staff relationships can cause problems for business operation. "I’m really looking at his maturity and commitment to the job. If you have that—whether you’re a man or a woman—the drama is less likely," Meyerski said.
Finally, diaper changing duty mostly falls into line with the acceptance she sees today among parents. If not, Meyerski said, "I think it’s something they get over quickly once they get to know the staff.”
On the other hand, as MKCCC has never had a male applicant to the infant room, the story there could be different. “My belief is that parents may raise more a concern at infancy," Meyerski lamented.
Of course, when the day comes, she has no doubt about how she’ll present the qualified newcomer. "I will do it confidently, and we’ll be happy to have him on the team," she said.
If the past is any indicator, Meyerski be on the mark—and to the man.
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