Our words, actions, and content choices can either break down, or perpetuate gender stereotypes: the choice is ours! I have worked hard over the last ten years to become mindful about the choices I make every day that can potentially have a lasting impact on my students.
Combating gender stereotypes in the classroom needs to be something we actively work towards. It may mean rethinking routines, expectations, and word choices, but we need to do the work on behalf of our students (and not just our non-conforming students, but ALL of our students!) Here are a few ideas for how to break down gender stereotypes in your classroom.
Ways to Break Down Gender Stereotypes in Your Classroom:
- Instead of addressing your students as “Boys and Girls,” try using gender-neutral language. For example, Friends, Learners, Students, Readers, and Scientists are inclusive terms.
- Instead of using gender as a qualifier when grouping students, try out a wide range of alternatives. For example, students wearing stripes line up, friends with an older sibling sing this part, anyone with an A in their name take a turn!
- Instead of making assumptions about your students interests based on their gender, offer choice and inclusive options. (e.g. If you have a fairy tale themed activity, instead of making the girls princesses and the boys knights, allow students to creatively select their own characters. You might end up with ogres, wizards, princes, fairies and more!)
- Instead of perpetuating the “pink is for girls” and “blue is for boys,” or “there are “girl things” and “boy things” narrative, model and discuss how this type of thinking harms people, confines our thinking, limits our opportunities, and stifles our means of self-expression.
- Actively seek out opportunities to highlight examples of BOTH men and women who have challenged gender stereotypes throughout history.
- When you see your students perpetuating gender stereotypes (e.g. reinforcing that there are boy things and girl things, or commenting that only girls have long hair,) stop and talk about it. Teachable moments are sometimes the most powerful ways to reach your students and make a significant impact in how they view the world.
Gender stereotypes HARM our children. We need to do our part to not only not perpetuate them, but to actively break them down.
These are only SOME examples, but it is our job to continuously be adding to our the list! When we know better, we do better 🙂 How are you actively breaking down gender stereotypes in your classroom?