Breaking Down the ‘Gender Norms’ & Teaching Acceptance
We’ve touched on this a lot recently, not just because it is an issue close to our hearts, but because we believe it is paramount that children learn acceptance from a young age and that they shouldn’t label or ostracise others if they don’t conform to what is an outdated perception of ‘normal’. With the growing awareness of transgender men and women and the term ‘feminism’ ameliorating, it is paramount that we diminish the idea of gender roles so as to encourage equality between genders to keep up with the 21st Century ideals.
When we are young, we are at our most influential, so as teachers, we need to ensure that we are teaching our students positive connotations of gender and letting them know that they are not pigeonholed to conformities purely because they are a boy or a girl. In order to help break gender roles there are some simple practices you can adopt to encourage children’s acceptance of others and also, widen their opportunities.
If you ever overhear your students making fun of another child for sharing similarities with the opposite gender or being excluded from an activity because it’s ‘boys only’ or a ‘girls game’ don’t let it slide, weigh in and give an opinion. For example, if a girl isn’t being allowed to play football purely because she’s a girl, let them know that you like football, or bring them to the attention of a female who does. The more people they know that challenge the gender norms the more likely they are to understand that boys or girls aren’t easily put into the same bracket.
Make Sure They’re Comfortable
Your students are more likely to open up to you and trust you if they believe that your classroom is a safe place. An easy way to do this is to support their ‘unconventional’ choices. You can show your support through the challenging of stereotypes or encouraging activities you see boys getting involved with that are commonly associated with girls. Furthermore, a good way to not encourage your students to not think in terms of gender is to not group them based on gender — try and used mixed sex in class groups and for P.E. This should help diminish the idea that boys are better at sports than girls if it’s seen as a group effort of both girls and boys.
Introduce Them To New Role Models
Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about great people who are homosexual, transgender or who challenge gender roles. Showing that greatness doesn’t conform to what some consider the ‘norm’ will only help your students in not believing that there is no ‘norm’. Introduce them to women who are police officers and men who are stay at home Dads. Talk to them about public figures may be homosexual or transgender, don’t make sexual preference a subject that is brushed over. Starting these conversations young will not only help your students to become more accepting but could help them if they identify as either trans or gay. It can also open opportunities for children whose passion doesn’t necessarily conform to their gender.