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Male pre-school teacher battles stigma

Nguyen Phuong Binh, a young man from southern Ben Tre Province, has always got on well with children, so naturally he had ambitions of becoming a teacher.

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What his family didn't count on, and didn't support, was after graduating high school he began studying to become a pre-school teacher.

“My parents once advised me to register for the pedagogy college in HCM City, but they were astonished to learn that I had chosen to join the early childhood sector,” Bình told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.

Bình understood that social norms and traditions had created a stigma for male pre-school teachers. Taking care of children was a job people would see as something that men shouldn’t and couldn’t do.

However, Bình decided to follow his passion and prepared himself to join a female-dominated environment at college. He was among two male students of the college.

After graduating, he applied for a job at Pre-school No1 in the city. The school needed a teacher to take care of a class of two and three-year-old children – the smallest kids in the pre-school.

The first week was a disaster as Bình felt overwhelmed by the job andtold a colleague that he would quit.

In the second week, the screams of children calling him ‘Teacher Bình!’ and their bright faces running to him and looking for a hug changed his mind.

Bình said caring for children at the age of two and three was much harder than older kids as most didn’t know how to go to the toilet properly or feed themselves.

After 14 years of working as the only male pre-school teacher at the school, Bình has realised that winning children’s hearts was difficult, but winning trust from parents was much more challenging.

Ngô Thị Lan, mother of a two-year-old kid, said she doubted Bình’s ability and felt worried when leaving her kid with him.

“He was quite young and had no experience,” Lan said, “I thought it was weird that a man took care of children as they are usually clumsy in this job.”

Lan kept close watch on her child during the first weeks at school.

“I was surprised as he kept talking about teacher Bình. He was even more eager to go to school,” she said.

When Bình was assigned to take care of children aged five, he thought it was time to find a more interesting way to teach children.

“Teaching pre-school kids is not only about teaching them singing and dancing. Getting them to be involved in the lesson, attentive and remember it is quite difficult. A teacher needs to be creative to stimulate the children’s interest,” he said.

Bình recalled a lesson on hot air balloons. Instead of using pictures and lecturing, Bình instructed children to make hot air balloons to learn about them.

Bình also created games for children to help them improve their movement capability.

“I’m happy with my job. My happiness is very simple – that I can go to class to see my students every day,” BÌnh said.

Huỳnh Thị Tường Anh, principal of Preschool No1, said Bình was a creative and dedicated teacher.

To the surprise of many teachers, he won first prize of outstanding pre-school teachers at the city-level award, she said.

Lương Thị Hồng Điệp, head of the city’s Department of Education and Training, said Bình was among five male pre-school teachers in the city.

He has worked hard to gain trust from parents and proved himself a creative and dedicated teacher, she said.

Bình was also recognised with the Võ Trường Toàn Award, which honours outstanding teachers from all schools in the city, who have innovative teaching methods and made great contributions to the education sector. — VNS

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