What is your current role?
I wear lots of hats! Currently, I’m a Lecturer in Early Education and Childhood Practice at Perth College UHI, I’m also a doctoral student at the University of the West of Scotland. I also hold a Trustee role for Early Education and I am on the steering groups for the GenderEye and MITEY UK projects, both with a view to promoting gender diversity within the early years profession.
What inspired you to be an early years practitioner?
Like most men in early years, this wasn’t my first choice. I failed my AS levels when I was 17 (2 D’s and 2 E’s!) and I had to drop out of college. I was interested in sociology and working with people, although didn’t necessarily consider working with young people until I had to make the decision between an apprenticeship in childcare or catering. Of course, I chose the former and never looked back.
What do you believe are some of the greatest challenges that educators face?
I believe strongly in the educator’s capacity to make a meaningful difference to the lives of our youngest children. At the same time, I also recognise that developmentalist curricula approaches toward child development, providing normative standards of rationality through predetermined goals and outcomes, present a significant challenge to their roles. Specified ways of what children ‘need to know’ and be ‘able to do’ frame our ideas of ‘what counts’ in education and in life as a whole. In a contemporary moment saturated with inequalities, we need to find ways to challenge these dominant modes of thought and think-otherwise.
What have you learnt from the research you have undertaken in your journal articles and your current research on children’s subjectivities in early years practice?
I like this, but it feels less a question of what I’ve learnt and rather provokes me to consider what I’ve been trying to learn and will continue learning about. I guess that the energy running throughout all of my writing and work so far has been an underlying need to resist the imperative to conform. That is, to resist the often apolitical conformity of ‘professional identity’ and instead foreground the value of racial identity in educational contexts. To resist the conformity of binary inherent in traditional gender roles and instead foreground the value of gender diversity, whether among the profession or with children. Finally, in my thesis I have sought to resist the conformity of curricula and foreground the importance of creative thought outside of determinate constraints.
What do you believe Initial Teacher Training Institutions can do to encourage a greater proportion of men in early years?
As I often say, the point of the argument for more men in early years is not necessarily that we bring with us this innate ‘manliness’ that the profession has been missing. Instead, the point is about representation and that men working with young children can challenge traditional stereotypes about how men should be. So, when we call for more men in early years, I think we need to be calling for More Men Of All Kinds in early years- MMOAK, which I hope might catch on.
What has been your proudest achievement in education so far?
As a Black man in a traditionally white space who has been involved in policy and practice for nearly a decade now(!), my biggest achievement is that I’m still here. Secondly, I’m continually proud of the friendships and relations I developed with people in this field who I know genuinely care about making change in the early years.
What would your ideal 3 course meal be?
This is way too difficult for me, but it would always end with a cheese board.