I consider myself fortunate to have been disabled from my job as a truck driver/mover, and then become an emotional basket case while attempting to figure out a new career path. Why? Because these difficult experiences enabled me to realize my true calling in life: working as a preschool teacher.
As a man, I'm aware that others often find that career choice unusual, and I've certainly received my share of teasing and comments. And although I'm taking some time away from my chosen profession to become a stay-at-home dad, I know in my heart that interacting with small children is the perfect job for me.
When I first considered a career change, my main goal was to reach the salary that I had as a truck driver. I entered the graphic design program at Shoreline Community College, but I soon found myself unhappy and depressed -- the result of choosing money over my true interests.
Leafing through the school catalog, I came upon Shoreline's Early Childhood Education program and immediately felt a sense of excitement: I knew this was the career for me. Memories surfaced of my despair when dropping off my children at preschool while they cried for me not to leave. This experience had planted the seed for my desire to become a preschool teacher. Unfortunately, family issues and finances had buffeted this wish. But now those barriers were gone, and I could pursue the opportunity.
Throughout my education at Shoreline C.C., I felt the initial discomfort of being a male in a female-dominated program. It was something I never got entirely used to, since I was one of two men (and sometimes the only man) in the class. As time went on, I found myself increasingly comfortable in these situations, which helped prepare me for working at a child care center.
Hired by an Eastside school, I was paired with an experienced teacher in the age group I preferred: 2- to 3-year-olds. I love all kids but found during my internship that I bonded especially well with toddlers.
Interacting with the staff was a wonderful experience, since we all shared a common goal: the love of children. There was no competition for the "bottom line" or promotions -- just a group of people interested in helping children develop to the best of their ability.
The children in my classroom were ready with invitations to join their "trips to the park/zoo" or to "cook some dinner" in the kitchen play area. Unconditional love is a huge perk for preschool teachers. It is such a natural high to have a child yell your name and give you a big hug when they see you. Here I was, an alpha male (by definition), expressing my nurturing side and receiving wonderful feedback.
Knowing first-hand the guilt and anguish parents can experience as they leave their children at preschool, I made a point of greeting and connecting with moms and dads each morning. As time went on, both the parents and their children became more comfortable with drop-offs -- something that I took a great deal of comfort in.
Throughout my teaching career, I didn't have anyone openly express worries about my gender, although there were instances when a parent would do a double-take upon first meeting me. I would introduce myself, then get on my knees and say hi to their child. Usually this would evoke a smile or a quick dash behind Mom's or Dad's legs. Next, I would play peek-a-boo to interact with the child one-on-one and demonstrate that I was a playful adult. Over time, I received many comments from parents about how they appreciated a male presence in the classroom.
My journey to becoming a male preschool teacher was a bumpy one but very rewarding. Not only did I get wonderful gifts of love, but I also felt a sense of purpose in entering a field that was not considered "manly" and adapting just fine.
Dave Seyfried worked as a preschool teacher from 2000-2004. Now a stay-at-home dad in Shoreline, he hopes to eventually return to part-time preschool work.