I am gay…what is your point?

Being a gay man in todays society still has its odd moments of violence and slander and being a gay man in early years can sometimes feel like your adding fuel to the fire.

In my first nursery establishment I worked in, I had such a variety of emotions when it came to my sexuality but I mostly felt embarrassed. When going into early years it was often said to me ” it would be great to have a man in the nursery to play football with the boys” or ” children need a bit of rough play” or my dreaded comment ” children need a manly man in their lives”. Every single one of those comments used to make me feel ill for many reasons such as :

  • I am rubbish a football
  • i hate rough play, it scares me
  • i am not a manly man

So not only was I battling with my sexuality I was also battling with everyones perceptions of what a man in nursery should look and act like.

As months went on children would ask me if I had a wife (I was 19) so it was easy for me to say no because..well…I didn’t have one. staff would begin asking questions that I would either answer with a lie or make a joke and move on very quickly.

Coming to the end of my time in my first nursery job I would sometimes hear things said about me and my sexuality and it would hurt because these people were responsible for caring for children however, I was the talk of the steamy because of being gay. I eventually came out to my work colleagues and I felt honestly relived but I knew it was time to move on to start fresh and become a better practitioner and enhance my abilities in early years.

Moving onto my second nursery establishment I was an out gay man and I felt happy because the stigma around men being a manly role model was easing and I started to feel myself. I met fantastic staff and amazingly open minded children who would often start conversations about marrying whoever you want and talking about family diversity and it honestly shook me (in a positive way). For years I’ve been hiding and trying to convince myself that children wouldn’t understand that people dont need to marry the opposite sex from each other, and here they are having non adult led conversations based around these complex topics that I struggled with in the past.

When it was time to leave that establishment I was a proud gay man ( with a fiance) who was ready to shine the light on LGBT learning and ready to challenge anyone who thought otherwise ! ( its amazing what 2 years in a nice nursery and having a fiancé can do to ones self esteem). When I moved to my new establishment it was based in the heart of the west end of Glasgow and came with many diverse families. When arriving to this nursery there were children from same sex parents attending, books about diversity and an over all feeling of inclusion and acceptance. However, doubt would slither in now and then and remind me that being gay wasn’t okay to everyone so I would have to dull my sparkle (to put it nicely).

On the last day in nursery before I went off to get married my work mates gathered all the children round and they surprised me with a song and some gifts and my manager said ” Duncan is going to get married tomorrow to a wonderful man called john”. My heart genuinely sank I was worried that these 4 year old were going to throw wooden blocks at me or spit in my face or something but, instead they looked not interested in who I was marrying but more why I was marrying and it was amazing.

Coming back from honeymoon I had parents ask where I have been and that they heard I got married. Most of them were just being polite and making small talk but one parent really stood out that day. One particular parent pulled me aside and gave me this amazing speech about being proud of who I am and not to hide my life away, instead I was to continue to support children and showing them that being gay is a tiny part of who you are and its to be celebrated.

(As you can see from this blog post so far that my sexuality and professionalism have a love hate relationship with each other and my mind often likes to make me doubt myself. But we are near the end of the story I promise)

My confidence in work was growing and my husband John actually came into the nursery sometimes to help out at Christmas fayres etc and parents would talk to us and it felt ‘normal’ and nice and I started to completely feel proud and actually actively looking to advocate LGBT in the early years profession.

The most recent positive situation in my professional life was when a new family came to be settled into my nursery and mum had this wonderful aura that I was drawn to and we actually had a really good professional relationship that allowed me to explore further into the queer community. The little girl who was placed in my group was a fountain of knowledge and was so well versed in queer culture and trans rights that she made me so comfortable to be myself (She was 4 hehe!). She would paint my nails and do my makeup and wash my hair in the house corner and it started to have an impact on the other children I started to see boys with prams and boys being dads and mums whilst in play and it was refreshing.

My final thought on this situation is that even though I have had mostly positve experiences with being a gay man in nursery all it takes is one conversation to have you doubt everything. In terms of the queer community being discussed in education sentences we are still relatively new but I can see it starting to rise from the ashes!

Thank you for reading as always !

Early years man x.x

Gay Pride LGBT Art. Watercolor Splatter Heart Fabric Panel | Etsy

ABC does interview

Over the last several months I have been collaborating with other early years professionals to find out their story and journey to where they are today.

I was extremely excited and lucky to have the opportunity to discuss and interview Mr Alistair Bryce-Clegg (abcdoes) on his own journey and what his plans are for the future .

I hope you enjoy the article and I look forward to many more interviews.

I was really thrilled to be asked by Duncan to write something for his blog. Apart from the fact that I like writing, it is great to have access to blogs like Early Years Man that promote quality Early Years Practice.

 

Duncan asked me to write about how I got into Early Years and eventually became an Early Years Consultant. Well, as someone fast approaching 50, that is quite a long story! I will do my best to keep it brief!

 

I suppose it all starts with the fact that I am the child of a teacher, so education has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mum was a Year 6 (or top junior) teacher for most of her career so didn’t venture down into the world that I inhabit very often. I would even go so far as to say that there was a certain culture back then that regarded Nursery and Reception teachers as having an easier job as all you did was ‘play’.

 

I didn’t think that I would always be a teacher. When I was 8 years old, I wrote to Blue Peter and asked how you became a Blue Peter presenter. I got a lovely letter back from the programme which I have still got  – just in case it still happens!

 

I spent most of my school holidays working at children’s holiday groups, helping my mum out at school and working as what you would refer to now as a ‘manny’. I knew that I really enjoyed working with children.

 

When it came time for me to go to University the National Curriculum had just been produced and my mum and all of her teaching colleagues said that it had ‘killed creativity and teaching’ and I was encouraged not to study for a BEd, but get a broader based degree to give me more options. That is what I did.

 

I finished my degree and for a year worked evenings in MacDonald’s whilst volunteering during the day at a local Primary School. During this year I also applied for my PGCE to teach Primary aged children.

 

When I started my PGCE I made it clear to my tutor that I did NOT under ANY circumstances want to work with ‘infants’. I was a ‘juniors only’ kind of guy. She promptly placed me in Reception! I was literally horrified at the thought. After a few weeks, I was hooked and never looked back. 

 

I then specialised in Early Childhood and my first job was as a Reception teacher in a two-form entry Infant School. I then taught in an inner city Primary School and eventually became Deputy Head of a three-form entry Infant School and Nurserywhere I eventually became Head.

 

During my ten-year Headship the Early Years Foundation Stage was launched and around that time my school was given £500,000 to replace 3 temporary Year One Classrooms that were on our school field. 

 

I asked if we could use the money to remodel our existing Nursery into an Early Years unit for 52 Nursery children and 90 Reception children -I was thrilled when the answer was ‘yes’.

 

Even though we were an Infant School full of staff who had trained specifically in Early Years the move from 3 Reception classes with 5 tables, 30 chairs, playtime and a topic basedapproach to open plan, continuous indoor and outdoor access, child lead approach was a steep learning curve – to say the least!

Once we established our approach to play based learning (and that is a whole blog post/book on its own) we started to see wellbeing of children and staff improve and the knock oneffect to that was that out attainment improved.

 

So much so that as a team we turned the National Curriculum into our own skills-based curriculum and created outdoor learning spaces for our Year One and Year Two children.

 

The work of our unit began to attract some attention I got asked to write and speak about what we had done. That is where my role as a consultant began.

 

After 10 years of Headship in December 2008, I left my school to work as a consultant and established ABC Does Ltd.

 

Now I have the HUGE privilege of being able to travel all over the world and work alongside Early Years practitioners and Senior Leaders supporting them with their practice. The thing that I love most of all is that I am still learning every day from the adults and the children that I work with.

 

When I am not working with practitioners in their settings I am usually delivering conferences, training and Key Notes. 

 

Of course, I also have my own blog www.abcdoes.com and that keeps me busy in any spare moments I might have.

 

I feel truly lucky to have worked my entire life in a profession that I have absolutely loved. I look forward to continuing on my journey and if I can inspire other people to join me then that is even better!

Twitter – @tweetmeduncan

@ABCDoes

Less is more

Recently I have been thinking about my own practice , particularly how I set up children’s experiences. I am a big advocate of adults being facilitators in early years settings however, I often enjoy setting up an experience to observe how children play , problem solve and overall interact.

This past week I have set up 2 main ” experiences”

the first was lots of wooden blocks , paper , scissors , cardboard and glue. What I observed was a lot of solitary play or parallel play going on in those areas. there was little to no communication and children were quite content drawing and cutting and basically bypassing  the other resources that were out.

The second experience was a lot simpler and consisted of two things these where wooden blocks and magnets ( yes I was aware that wooden blocks and magnets don’t go). This experience had the children communicating with each other and questions were being asked. one particular child actually said ” Duncan we need to teach you about magnets”. To me this was amazing , they were problem solving and questioning why I put out those resources.

Eventually the experience had expanded and children where coming in to the area with pieces of material to test if the magnets would work on them – this was after we had a discussion about why the wooden blocks were not effective.

This experience went on for a long period of time and the children where learning so much and engaging throughout the experience and by the end of it we ended up with some many different types of materials, toys , utensils and many more objects than what we started with.

I think my over all point is , its OK to have more simple things displayed out for children to explore instead of bombarding them with all these resources and equipment, as more often than not they will always potentially get more out of a simpler experience rather than a experience that has 1000s of resources and no imagination to discover and investigate.

As usual  I will leave with a quote :

Image result for less is more quotes

 

Early years man

Twitter – @tweetmeduncan