Professor Mara Sapon-Shevin (Syracuse University, USA) discusses how early childhood teachers can approach gender non-conformity, including the prevalent and often unquestioned gender-based assumptions present in society. The webinar provides practical advice for teachers on what to say when children say things like “girls can’t be doctors” as well as providing ideas for books and music that can be used to address this topic. Mara is a specialist in diversity and social justice issues, including full inclusion, anti-racism teaching, bullying and harassment, cooperative learning, and using the arts to teach against oppression.

To help you navigate the webinar easily, there is a list of the key topics covered in the session below, including the time each was discussed. The key ideas discussed in this webinar are also shared in a short snapshot.

Topics discussed in this webinar

Times shown in minutes and seconds from the start of the video

3.15Gender non-conformity and diversity
7.44Prevalent gender stereotypes
11.50How are children who do not conform with gender stereotypes treated?
17.41Impact of gender stereotypes on children who do not conform
20.43Anti-bias education
21.39(and 29.50) Gender-neutral pronouns
22.52What teachers can do to challenge stereotypes – music
38.13What teachers can do to challenge stereotypes – books 
41.33What to say when children comment ‘John’s wearing girls’ clothes’
49.37Supporting parents and family members who may or may not be comfortable with gender non-conformity
53.14Final comments

Questions for exploring the key ideas from this webinar

What gender stereotypes do children represent or describe in their play in your setting? What other gender stereotypes do you think the children might be aware of?

What gender stereotypes do you notice are enacted or reinforced by families?

What skills do you need to develop to help you support children who do not comply with gender stereotypes? How do you help ALL students understand gender as expansive and not restrictive?

In what ways might you be reifying gender stereotypes in your practice?

What do you need to do to openly challenge these stereotypes? How could you pro-actively teach from an anti-bias perspective?

How do you support children and families who are gender-fluid, gender-creative, or who have preferences and behaviours that resist binaries of girl/boy?

Further resources

Suggested music:     

This Trans and Nonbinary Kids’ Mix, in particular They’re My Best Friend, and Dress-up and dance

Suggested books:

Some Girls by Nelly Thomas and Some Boys by Nelly Thomas both examine the range of activities that girls and boys can enjoy, with the intention of decoupling activities from their usual gender stereotypes.

What are your Words? A Book about Pronouns by Katherine LockeThis book looks at the use of pronouns.

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