Boy/Girl…Neutral?

Following a really interesting and informative chat last night on #EYshare (Read the tweets HERE), I’ve been thinking a lot about gender stereotypes and gender issues that need to be considered when working with children.

Firstly, I have to admit, this topic made me feel a little uncomfortable!  It’s an important topic and I’m glad that it was suggested (and so competently led by my wonderful guest hosts), but there was something inside me that made me doubt myself and double check anything that I wrote! However, this awareness of my own feelings has alerted me to the fact that, perhaps I need to do a bit more reading and research about this topic. In today’s world, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and avoid these kinds of issues!

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Image from morguefile.com

Anyway (back to the point), the overall consensus of the chat was that ALL children should have the opportunity to experience ALL activities and ALL toys. In other words; there is no such thing as a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy, there are just toys. This is something that I strongly believe and hope to continue to actively promote in all of my work, whether in pre-school or primary. We need to provide opportunities for children to make their own choices and decisions, without putting any of our own judgements or pre-conceived ideas onto them – for example, we shouldn’t giggle at that wee lad who has decided to wear the pink gown and the high heels. And we should reassure the girl who wants to play racing cars instead of baby dolls. The bottom line is, we need to respect each child as an individual. It is our job to open those doors!

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Image from morguefile.com

 

Another point that came up was that it is vital that we are introducing our children to role models which challenge unhelpful stereotypes. It is clear that film and TV are attempting to bring more women into strong, leading roles, however there are far less examples of caring and gentle male characters. As it was pointed out last night – this is YET ANOTHER reason why we need more men in childcare!

 

 

One of the big issues discussed was challenging parents/ families gender opinions. For example,

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Image from morguefile.com

if a parent doesn’t want their girl to be playing football/ their boy to be playing with barbies. I feel that it is important that EY practitioners and teachers attempt to talk to these parents and explain to them the value of these different types of play. However, it is also important that we do not disrespect parents and families. Children often have the firm belief that their parent is RIGHT and we need to be sensitive to this.

Finally, the chat got me thinking about my future practice as a primary teacher. Currently I have a pinterest board full of displays and ideas for ways that I would love to decorate my classroom. On second inspection, I realised that much of what I have pinned, and what I might choose could be seen as rather ‘girly’ and may not be appropriate for my entire class. I think that there is a simple way to address this – I will involve the children! Rather than making all of the decisions myself, I will ask the children’s opinions (where appropriate). Not only will this avoid suiting the environment more to one gender/ preference, it will also give the children a sense of ownership over their classroom.

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Get the children outdoors!

While driving home today, I heard a news story about children failing to get enough exercise and the potential dangers of this including cardio-vascular disease and even diabetes.

This got me thinking about the responsibility of schools and teachers with regard to the health and wellbeing of young children. How can children be expected to achieve high academic grades if their health is poor? Some children may not have gardens or outdoor spaces, or have opportunities to join sporting clubs due to money or family situations and therefore it is essential for teachers to plan energetic and outdoor opportunities into school time.

I also started thinking about the types of exercise and energetic learning that is offered to children during school. In my experience, it is fairly limited within PE, sports days and ‘play times’ or breaks.

During my own childhood I was not very sporty and I found organised, competitive games very off putting. As an adult I continue to avoid competitive sport and I am useless at the gym, however I have discovered a love for walking and exploring natural areas such as hills, beaches and forests. As a teacher I hope that I can bring a variety of experiences to the children that will allow them to be active in ways that they all can enjoy. I am very passionate about outdoor learning and feel that, if planned and implemented carefully, this could be used as a helpful tool for instilling a healthy lifestyle from an early age.

Read article “77% of children not getting enough exercise” here