• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

A rare breed - the male kindergarten teacher

The Local · 25 Oct 2012, 08:09

Published: 25 Oct 2012 08:09 GMT+02:00

On a small piece of woodland next to the Technido daycare centre in Karlsruhe, a group of boys noisily build a bush camp out of logs. Amid whoops of glee, they start running around, wildly shooting at each other with sticks.

“Karl, Lennie, the rules are keep the sticks down at belly height,” says teacher Todd Phillips calmly as he walks up to the boys. “No sticks near anyone’s eyes.”

“It's important to have a man here when the warring camps construct their battleground,” Phillips said afterwards, tongue in cheek.

The 47-year-old has been working at the daycare centre looking after children aged between four and six for more than four years.

Phillips, who hails from Florida but has been living in Germany for 15 years, had been working as a graphic designer at an advertising agency. As he became increasingly dissatisfied with his job, he started looking for alternatives and decided that he wanted to work with children.

“They are very spontaneous, open and honest and live in the moment for the most part,” he says. “It just took me a while to realise that suited me more than advertising.”

One of the things he likes most about working with children, he says, is that he can incorporate all his interests into his job. “Music, art, sport – the possibilities are limitless,” he said.

Less than three percent

Phillips is a rare find in Germany, where less than three percent of the country's 360,000 crèche, nursery school and kindergarten teachers are male. It varies according to region - in larger cities like Hamburg and Bremen, more than eight percent of childcare workers are men, while in rural areas in Germany's conservative south there are virtually none.

The Family Ministry is trying to change this with a €13 million research project called “More Men in Day Care.”

The push for more men in the profession is not just because of the growing realisation that children benefit from spending time with adults of both sexes. It has also been fuelled by a massive shortfall in the number of trained daycare staff – and after next August, all children older than one will have a right to a daycare place.

The law has resulted in new crèches and nursery schools springing up daily – and they are all desperately scrambling for staff.

Although he is in the minority, Phillips says parents are “overwhelmingly positive” about having a man in the kindergarten.

Nursery teacher Thorsten Umfeld agrees. “The parents think it is fantastic. Usually the first thing they say to me is, ‘great, my son finally has someone he can play football with'.”

I'll always have a job

Nine years ago Umfeld, a musician, stopped touring with various bands to look after his newly-born son. He enjoyed it so much he made childcare his profession and now works full time at a small Catholic kindergarten in Karlsruhe.

“I thought, as a trained kindergarten teacher and a male, I'm always going to have a job,” Umfeld says of his decision.

He is right. Studies have repeatedly shown that men are coveted assets in German kindergartens – everyone from employers to parents can't get enough of them.

“If I had to choose between a daycare centre with male teachers and a daycare centre without male teachers, I would definitely send my son to the one with males,” said father Andreas Wenig, whose four-year-old son attends a private daycare centre in Karlsruhe where all the staff are women.

“Unfortunately, I didn't get a choice though, we had a difficult enough time getting an all-day spot as it was.”

The private daycare operator Pro-Liberis in Karlsruhe runs seven centres in an around the city. It is unusual in that ten percent of their 64 nursery teachers are men. Pro-Liberis managing director Per Giemsch says the men bring a “welcome change” to the team.

'Even small children notice the difference'

“Even small children perceive them as men; that they are different from women,” he says.

“And then they expect to be able to do male activities with them, such as playing football or some other kind of sport.”

But Giemsch is careful to emphasise that both sexes have to work in all areas – the female staff also saw and hammer in the kindergarten workshop and the men also change nappies.

Fears of sexual abuse by male kindergarten teachers are surprisingly slight. A study conducted last year by the Family Ministry showed that the vast majority of parents completely trust males with their sons and daughters – only five percent were sceptical about men looking after their offspring.

Story continues below…

Valeria Henninger's four-year-old daughter Lily attends a Pro-Liberis daycare centre where two out of the three nursery teachers are male. She has “absolutely no fear” for her daughter's safety.

“Both of the men are extremely nice and any concerns about them are completely unfounded,” says Henniger.

Low pay cannot be the only factor

While the numbers of men enrolled in kindergarten teacher training is increasing, the rate is still only at around 15 percent. Many cite low pay as the reason – nursery school teachers earn around €2,100 a month before tax and insurance payments.

But there are many other male-dominated professions that earn just as little, such as mechanics, paramedics and butchers.

For Konstantinos Karapanagiotidis, who is the second year of his four-year child care training, “it's about the children and not about the money”.

As he organises pencils on his desk for art class at the Angeshaus technical college in Karlsruhe, Karapanagiotidis explains that he has always wanted to work with children and that his friends and family fully support his choice.

Karapanagiotidis is lucky. He has already secured a spot for his final-year work placement even though he still has four semesters of study to go. In the daycare world at the moment, it seems it's definitely beneficial being a man.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:05 October 25, 2012 by yllusion
This should be an example to our society to show that man and women have different qualities and that those qualities are reflected in the types of jobs which are more populated by man while others are more populated by women. It is wrong to expect that in every type of job there should be 50/50 distribution of men and women, and this is just another example. We have to recognise that we have different qualities, we have to recognise that although we are equal as human beings, deserving the same level of respect, recognition and opportunities, we are different by nature. We think differently, we respond differently, we organise ourselves differently because we have different priorities in life. We have to recognise that each gender has its function in nature, and consequently in our society. We should praise respect and equality of oportunities above all, but we should also respect the different qualities of men and women.
17:03 October 26, 2012 by Nedarc
We have the same problem in the United States. A lot of boys graduate from high school without ever having a male teacher and some of these boys at home have no good men around to teach them the process of boys to men. The result in the States has been to over medicate the boys because they do not act like girls which seems to be the 'good standard'. Right now women graduate from American Colleges at a rate of 15% more than males but women still traditionally want to marry up which is becoming impossible.
Today's headlines
Lion shot dead at Leipzig Zoo after breaking out of cage
Motshegetsi (l) und Majo. Photo: DPA

A young male lion was shot dead at Leipzig Zoo on Thursday afternoon after he broke out of his enclosure.

EU takes Germany to court for 'discriminatory' foreigner toll
A sign that reads "toll" along the Autobahn by Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The European Commission on Thursday said it is taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice because of the country's plan to impose a road toll that would mainly charge foreign drivers.

After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA

Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.

Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd