Who’s Your School Daddy?

Did you make a difference today?

If you are a male teacher in a primary school then the chances are at some point you will have been addressed as “Dad”.

The first time I heard this when it was said to me was both heart-warming and also a bit awkward. It was a slip of the tongue but I took it as a compliment that I had created a safe, secure and relaxed enough environment for someone to feel at home.

Children spend a lot of time with their teacher in a primary setting and when a class gels it can definitely feel like a family and for some children more than others.

This reminds me of Brian Freeman’s account in the wonderfully uplifting book Today I Made a Difference which is a collection of inspirational stories from some of America’s top teachers.

He talks about how some students call him their “School Daddy” which to some people might sound unusual or even odd but I can completely see how and why this happens. Brian talks about a lesson which involved his pupils studying lineage when one child said, “I don’t have no daddy,” and without really thinking Brian replied “Yes you do, Chason. You have a daddy. I am your daddy at school.”

The little girl smiled back and said, “That’s right. You are my daddy…my School Daddy.”

Hi Dad!

Now this might make some teachers feel uncomfortable and say there is a line you cannot cross and you have to keep your distance and be professional. Well, you can do all that without compromising your human side, your professional affection and of course being in loco parentis.

It’s a tough one that because in loco parentis means in place of the parent and as a teacher you have a duty of care. For some children you literally are in loco parentis. However, some teachers seem to forget this and build barriers and then they wonder why the children don’t warm to them. In fact, some teachers are far from affectionate but cold and distant and children don’t like that. Their idea of care might be very different to yours. Accepting you are a step-parent is not something all teachers can get their heads around.

Being a School Daddy or School Mummy is a vital part of being a teacher for children with and without parents, especially for those that have no father-figure or mother-figure in their lives. In my experience, it tends to be a lack of a father-figure and it is these children who are desperate to reach out and connect with you if you are a male teacher.

A Female Profession

The Education Policy Institute (EPI), in their report, The early years workforce: A fragmented picture , found that “On average across OECD countries, around 97 per cent of teachers in pre-primary education are women.”

Lots of men worry themselves stupid about accusations of being a sexual predator and abuse so reject teaching as a career because they don’t want to be ‘in that position’. Little wonder then that just 14 per cent of our early years and primary workforce are male.

But male teachers need to promote teaching as an extremely worthwhile career and see it as a job with enormous responsibilities and wonderful privileges too – the top one being that you can really make a difference in a child’s life. The harmful stereotypes make schools very lop-sided with some children moving through KS1 and KS2 without ever having had a male teacher.

And there are some brilliant role models out there like Alistar Bryce-Clegg (ABC)Jamel Campbell and Tim Cooke who promote Early Years as a career move. But we need more which is why he Men In The Early Years #MITEY campaign was started by the UK’s fatherhood think-and-do-tank The Fatherhood Institute to help increase the diversity and gender balance of the early years workforce. Read their report.

Who’s Your Daddy?

The School Daddy is the daddy for all the children in the class and shouldn’t be afraid of being in loco parentis. Brian asks us what makes a school daddy? He answers as follows:

“A school daddy believes that all children, regardless of colour, ethnicity, income, or achievement levels deserve a quality education. A school daddy believes students should have a chance to discover, in a creative and nurturing environment, that they need to love themselves, and love learning. But most of all, a school daddy is a teacher who, when the teaching gets tough, continues to strive for excellence, sticks with it, makes a difference…and keeps all his plasma right where it belongs, – in his body, giving him strength to meet the new day.”

We need more males in teaching and we need more School Dads. Take a look at the wonderful Males in Teaching website produced by Stranmillis University College “as a focal point for their Widening Participation target of encouraging more males into teacher education in Northern Ireland.”

Widening participation and busting some of the unhealthy myths and legends is what we can all support to ensure that children experience a range of role models in their lives.

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