Male teachers face kindergarten conundrum

Kindergarten teacher Gu Jie reads a story to children in Beijing in 2019. [Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

Low social status and poor pay mean few men apply to work with the youngest children. Zou Shuo reports.

When Yu Zehong started teaching at a kindergarten in Beijing in 2018, some parents asked to transfer their children to other classes.

The parents did not have a good impression of male teachers. Some were worried because of news reports about male staff members sexually assaulting children, while others thought a man would be too strict with the young students, Yu said.

"They did not know what they would get from a male teacher, because there are so few of us," the 24-year-old said, noting that only two of the 30 teachers at the kindergarten are men.

"However, I have spent two years with the children at the kindergarten, and most of the parents have told me they would not trust anyone else to take care of their kids. Some students in my class would be devastated if I were sick and absent for several days."

Male kindergarten teachers are important for children's early education, he said: "Our voices, gestures and, most of all, our way of thinking are different from female teachers. While women are considered careful in looking after the kids, male teachers can be more creative and energetic."

Instead of establishing conventional student-teacher relationships, male teachers are more like playmates to the children, he said.

He added that men are more likely to help the students become independent as they often encourage them to stand up on their own after a fall, unlike most female teachers who almost immediately offer a helping hand and comforting words.

"We male teachers also prefer to let the kids try new things and gain physical skills and abilities by undertaking frequent sporting activities," he said.

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