A male kinder­garten teacher’s ac­count

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - In Shang­hai

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ev­ery day at work, Gao Zhi­gang switches be­tween sev­eral roles — a play­mate, a big brother and a fa­ther — for his class of chil­dren at China Wel­fare In­sti­tute Kinder­garten in Shang­hai.

The chil­dren ob­vi­ously adore him, see­ing how they swarm him with hugs and hi-fives ev­ery morn­ing. They have also af­fec­tion­ately dubbed him “Brother Luobo” and “Old Daddy Luobo”, a play on his English first name which is Robert.

“I re­ally en­joy the feel­ing of be­ing a close friend rather than a teacher to these chil­dren. I guess this is be­cause they spend most of the day with me and not any­one else,” said Gao, a lead­ing teacher who has taught in the school for six years.

Fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion from univer­sity with a de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion, Gao’s first job was at an early learn­ing cen­ter where he spent most of his time singing songs with kids and talk­ing to them about their fa­vorite car­toon char­ac­ters.

Like all the other kinder­garten teach­ers, Gao spent one year as an in­tern work­ing with dif­fer­ent classes and age groups be­fore serv­ing four years as an as­sis­tant teacher.

Over the years, he has learned from his fe­male col­leagues how to be at­ten­tive and pa­tient while re­tain­ing his mas­cu­line traits, such as ex­ud­ing con­fi­dence and brav­ery. He show­cases these mas­cu­line qual­i­ties when he con­ducts the reg­u­lar tree climb­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, some­thing that was ab­sent from the cur­ricu­lum when there were only fe­male teach­ers in the kinder­garten.

“Ev­ery time they climb up to the top of the tree and pluck the or­anges with their own hands, they ob­tain con­fi­dence and pride. These are things that they can­not learn from books and car­toons,” said Gao.

Male teach­ers like Gao are of­ten tasked to help chil­dren learn via prac­ti­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, in­stead of sim­ply through pic­to­rial facts and in­for­ma­tion.

Some of the other ac­tiv­i­ties he has con­ducted in­volve hav­ing the kids put bis­cuits and wa­ter into a sealed bag to sim­u­late the func­tion of a stom­ach.

“I pre­fer to ap­ply more di­rect and prac­ti­cal meth­ods, such as games and ac­tiv­i­ties, to show­case the in­for­ma­tion to the kids in a more in­ter­ac­tive and vivid man­ner,” said Gao.

Com­pared to his fe­male coun­ter­parts with sim­i­lar work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Gao said that he has more op­por­tu­ni­ties to take on open classes which are nor­mally re­served for more ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers.

“I am heart­ened that male teach­ers, as the mi­nor­ity in the kinder­garten, have been warmly wel­comed and given more op­por­tu­ni­ties to show off our abil­i­ties and learn from our peers,” said Gao.

How­ever, he ad­mits that the pres­sure from so­ci­ety — that pro­fes­sion­als like him don’t earn enough com­pared to peers in other in­dus­tries — still has a cer­tain ef­fect on male kinder­garten teach­ers like him­self.

He said that this is one of ma­jor rea­sons why there is a short­age of male teach­ers de­spite the rise in pub­lic recog­ni­tion of their pro­fes­sion.

“We’ve no­ticed the changes in par­ents who are now will­ing to have their kids, es­pe­cially boys, taught by us male teach­ers. How­ever, there still needs to be more pos­i­tive sup­port from the pub­lic if more men are to join this in­dus­try,” said Gao.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Gao Zhi­gang takes chil­dren through a class on cul­tural cos­tumes.

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