Reflections on career transition of a man on moving from specialist policing into Early Childhood Education as an academic

Constructing a professional identity in a male-dominated, traditional occupation such as the police force (Bittner,1974, Bayley 1979, Fielding 1988 & 1994) has been examined by the literature. Literature on career transition in educational organisations focuses on the personal capabilities and skills of the postholder for the demands of the job (such as Nias 1989, Dunning, 1998, Corn 1993, Draper and McMichael 1998, Daresh and Male 2005). However, there is limited research that examines career transitions from male dominated professions into female dominated professions such as the field of early childhood education (Haase, 2008, Timmerman and Schreuder, 2008, Cushman,2009).. Thus, this research project draws upon the philosophical ideas of “habitus” (Bourdieu, 1988, Bourdieu and Passerson 1977/2000) and the concept of “being and becoming” (Delouze and Guattari, 1980) and investigates the dimensions involved in professional males’ career transition from male dominated occupations to the field of early childhood studies. The research objectives of the projects were to examine:

1. The construction of professional and occupational identities (based on Britz,1997, Paoline, 2003) and the reconciliation of the situational self with substantial self (based on the work of Nias,1989)

2. The concepts of working personality (based on Skolnick, 1966) and habitus Bourdieu, 1988, Bourdieu and Passerson 1977/2000).

3 The differences in the constructions of pedagogic practice and knowledge acquisition in former and current occupation in terms of pastoral kindness (Clegg and Rowland,2010) versus professional authority (Leatherwood and Hey, 2009) through the work of Delouze and Guattari (1980) on being and becoming.

This research project is based on a longitudinal auto/biographical methodology and used educational biographies to collect data as it aimed to gain an in depth understanding of how one is moving away from one post that holds a professional identity to a new one. This methodology offered the research project a rich narrative that analysis has revealed the plurality and complexity of dimensions during the career transition. The key findings of this project suggest that in constructing a professional identity from a male perspective that moved into a female dominated field, there is a need for greater empathy, kindness and recognition to overcome personal self image and feelings of isolation and inadequacy. It also found that male professionals in early childhood struggle with ontological insecurity due to the stereotypical ideas and “academic press” that western societies have constructed for the role of males and females in the field. It was found that the career transition process has personal, organisational, occupational and cultural dimensions and requires a set of skills to reinvent oneself mentally emotionally and physically.

To conclude it is important to recognise the high levels of self-doubt and prior life experiences of male professionals in early childhood and what implications this incudes for curricula and training in the sector. Although there is a vast body of literature and research concerning the role of males as professionals in the field of early childhood, a male moving into the field brings with it a unique set of circumstances relating not only to the occupational expectations or standards but also to the personal and organisational dimensions hence an underpinning danger of homogenization of males in ECS to the aims of the market and government targets.