Jeff Bevan is a rare role model – but he knows he shouldn’t be.
As Father’s Day approaches, children are making cards and mums are buying bacon and eggs for the traditional breakfast in bed.
Jeff is a hands-on dad who loves nothing more than playing catch or watching his children on the basketball court. Having spent more than 20 years working in customer service, most recently managing a service station, he was no longer getting the same enjoyment from his work life, so he decided it was time for a change.
Knowing how much enjoyment he got from spending time with his children, he looked into joining the early childhood education (ECE) industry – an industry where male teaching staff account for just 2.6% of the workforce, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Education.
Jeff approached PORSE about becoming an in-home Educator in August 2016 and hasn’t looked back since.
PORSE Programme Tutor Deb Bean admits it was a bit of a surprise to parents when Jeff started attending local play groups but he’s since built “such a good reputation” that families are seeking him out.
“He has an awesome way with the children, he’s so engaging and responsive, the children really enjoy his energy. Hopefully, the fact that’s he built a successful business inspires more men to enter the industry,” Deb says.
Megan Qaranivalu saw how good Jeff was with his PORSE children that she knew it was what her son Junior needed. Junior had become unsettled at the early childhood centre he attended when his father left the family home.
“Junior absolutely loves going to Jeff’s place and his confidence has come a long way. Jeff is a great male role model for Junior,” Megan says.
Jeff says he joined the industry fully aware that he wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but most people have been positive about the move.
“PORSE has been really supportive and paid for me to complete my NZQA Level 3 ECE Certificate and I intend on enrolling in the Level 4 Certificate to keep progressing my professional development.”
His children, Ethan (9) and Kiara (6), love their dad’s job because it means they get to see him more often. They also love helping out and playing with the younger children.
For Jeff, it’s all about getting down on the same level as the children and guiding their play and development.
“I like to get outside with the children where they can play and learn amongst nature. We’ve spent a lot of time working on ball skills, learning to catch, throw and kick a ball which has helped the children’s hand-eye coordination immensely. It’s a real shame that I’ve come across school-aged children who don’t know how to catch a ball because they’ve had no-one to teach them.”
Jeff and the children are also avid gardeners and often visit the local nursery to choose some plants before taking them home to put in the garden.
“The children love watering the plants and seeing them grow as a result of their care and attention. It’s just another way of developing their nurturing skills,” Jeff says.
Nathan Wallis of X Factor Education Ltd says research shows that men play in different ways to female teachers.
“This play aids children's spatial understanding, and risk taking and ultimately contributes to greater intelligence.”
Nathan says that the brains of men and woman in no way suggest that one is better than the other for caring for children - the difference is purely cultural. In New Zealand, caring is seen as feminine and femininity is associated with less pay and status, so it attracts few males. In Scandinavia, it is not seen as a low-status career, has a pay rate more akin to primary teachers and therefore has a higher number of men working in ECE, equating to 11% of the ECE workforce.
Max Christie agrees that social and cultural barriers are preventing more men from working in ECE. Max is studying early childhood education at Victoria University and is the co-founder of EC MENz – a group he and a friend started to support more men like themselves. He’s seen men drop of out of his class every year, largely because of feeling isolated in a female-dominated industry.
Max believes it’s in children’s best interests to attract more men into the industry because they need more positive male role models like Jeff.
Meanwhile, Jeff does it because he loves it and can earn a good income while working from home, but he’d also like to see more men in the industry.
“More men should get on board as it’s a fulfilling job.”
Jeff Bevan with his children Ethan and Kiara.