Unfortunately, this didn’t quite materialize the way I had expected and with two grade D’s and two grade E’s I dropped out and found myself applying for apprenticeships in catering and childcare. After a two week crash course working with children, I was on my first day as a Nursery Practitioner in a tiny setting in Redland, Bristol.
The next two years are a bit of a blur – I was thrown straight into the deep end and I was loving it! Spending my days being creative, walks to the local park and train stations, supporting emotional development, doing physical play and reading The Hungry Caterpillar was so much fun and gave me an appetite to cement a career in the Early Years.
I gained my level two and three qualifications and moved on to a larger setting in north Bristol. Here I had the opportunity to undertake my Foundation Degree and was introduced to the Men in Childcare group. Since my first setting was fairly balanced in terms of men and women, I hadn’t noticed there was such an imbalance until I become the lone man in a nursery where the other 40 members of staff were women.
But what made me so different? Yes, I was a man, but did that mean I could only do manly things with the children? I didn’t think so. After 2 years at that nursery, I chose to move to a Children’s Centre and did my top-up year to turn it into a full BA (Hons) degree in Education: Early Years.
The question of where all the men were persisted and it was an issue I explored in depth during that final year. I was fortunate enough join the Bristol Men in Early Years (BMIEY) Network and connect with others who had an interest in challenging the gender imbalance.
Today, I’m proud to represent BMIEY in achieving its goal of a more diverse workforce. We believe this is important because a diversity of role models for children has the power to challenge traditional, often harmful, ideas of what it means to be a man or a women. I’m also a Family Support Worker, Community Ambassador, Learning Ambassador and I am currently studying a Masters degree at the University of Bristol.
What’s the takeaway here? My story is perhaps unusual, but it points to fact that you shouldn’t let you past mistakes define your future. You need to work hard, yes, but it will pay off in the end and you will reap the rewards for doing so. I would encourage everyone with a passion for education to consider a career in the Early Years (and get involved with BMIEY too!) and discover what a fulfilling career you can have.
BMIEY are a city wide network of men and women who work with children aged from birth to seven. Consisting of Early Years practitioners, teachers, head teachers, governors, childminders and family support workers. They meet four times a year to share experiences and ideas as well as talk about current research and issues. Get involved with the next network meeting here.
The third National Men in Early Years Conference will take place on Tuesday 10th July 2018 at City Hall, Bristol.