Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education

By Nicola Yelland | Go to book overview

5

Preschool children's portrayals
of their male teacher:
A poststructuralist analysis

Jennifer Sumsion


Introduction

This chapter draws on poststructuralist understandings to analyse children's portrayals of their male preschool teacher and to examine the discourses underpinning their portrayals. The study reported in the chapter had aimed to generate data that could contribute to informing policy decisions about whether efforts should be made to recruit more men into the children's services workforce. As the data revealed, however, gender-related discourses were overshadowed by regulatory discourses. The prominence of regulatory discourses raises unsettling questions about how children might perceive their teachers and construct their experiences of their early childhood settings.

Increasingly, early childhood educators and researchers are recognizing the importance of listening to children's voices if they are to gain insights into their experiences of early childhood settings. Recent studies have sought children's views of what they like and dislike about the services they attend (Evans and Fuller, 1998; Farrell et al., 2002); their opinions of their teachers' practices (Daniels et al., 2001); and their perceptions of the opportunities they have to influence decisions within services (Sheridan and Samuelsson, 2001). Such studies reinforce that children are competent social actors capable of reporting on and engaging in discussion about their experiences and perspectives (O'Kane, 2000). Seeking children's views about issues that affect them, then, seems essential for informed decision-making within early childhood settings, and about children's services, more generally.

My intention in the study reported in this chapter was to work with children to generate data that could inform policy about the gender make-up of the early childhood workforce. Debates about whether efforts should be made to recruit more men to early childhood education are well rehearsed (see, for example, Cameron and Moss, 1998; Sumsion, 2000a; MacNaughton and Newman, 2001) but rarely, if at all, do they draw on young children's

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