20 Jul In preparation for this blog discussion, view this week’s Start Seeing Diversity video sections on ‘Gender’ and ‘Sexual Orientation.’ Additionally, spend some time reviewing t
In preparation for this blog discussion, view this week's Start Seeing Diversity video sections on "Gender" and "Sexual Orientation." Additionally, spend some time reviewing two or three items from the following categories of media: children's books, cartoons, comic books, television shows and/or commercials, toys or games, toy stores, product packaging, video games, children's songs/music and/or observing children on playgrounds or in early childhood settings. Then, thoughtfully consider messages a young child might glean. Also, consider experiences you had as a child and have had as an adult related to homophobia and heterosexism. It may also be helpful to listen to the following optional resource found in this week's Learning Resources to guide your thinking: NPR audio story "Two families grapple with sons' gender identity: Psychologists take radically different approaches in therapy."
Share your response to at least two of the bullets below with your colleagues: (You will only pick to bullets from below); you did not have answer all of the bullets-
- Some of the ways you noticed that homophobia and heterosexism permeate the world of young children including books, movies, toys, stores, culture of early childhood centers, and schools
- Your response to those who believe that early childhood centers should avoid the inclusion of books depicting gay or lesbian individuals such as same-sex partnered families
- How you would respond to a parent/family member who informed you they did not want anyone who is perceived (or self-reported) homosexual or transgender to be caring for, educating, and/or interacting with their child
- If you have ever used or heard homophobic terms such as "fag," "gay," "homo," "sissy," "tom boy," or "lesbo" as an insult by a child toward another child? Or, by an adult toward a child? Describe what occurred. How might these types of comments influence all children? (Note: if you have not had a personal experience, ask a family member, friend, or colleague)
- Any other related situations, thoughts, concerns, questions, and/or areas of discomfort you would like to share related to children, gender, and sexual orientation
EDUC6357: Diversity, Development, and Learning “Start Seeing Diversity: Gender”
NARRATOR: Bias related to gender, also called sexism, is any attitude, action, or institutional practice which discriminates against people because of their gender. If you haven't heard children's comments about gender roles, try telling a story without showing the pictures. Use characters' names that could be either male or female, like Chris or Alex, and refer to the characters without using pronouns like him or her. Then ask the children to draw or describe one or two specific characters. Compare the drawings or descriptions and discuss why the children thought the characters were male or female.
This exercise usually brings up children's stereotypic thinking about girls and boys. One of the most helpful ways to respond to biased comments is to ask why the child thinks that. This helps us to keep focused on the children's thinking, and to avoid attributing adult motives to children's actions. For example, in dramatic play, a teacher heard a child say,
FEMALE SPEAKER: You can't be the doctor. You're a girl.
NARRATOR: The teacher joined the conversation and asked, why do you think girls can't be doctors? The child replied, only boys can be doctors, like my dad. To help make the child's simplistic thinking more complex, the teacher said, did you know some doctors are men and some are women? Does anyone know a woman doctor?
Asking questions encourages children to share their diverse experiences and perspectives. A girl working nearby said, my doctor is a girl. The teacher then helped the children solve the original problem, saying, if you both want to be the doctor, can you think of a way to play so that you both can do that?
In addition, the teachers plan to follow up because children need many opportunities to think about the same concepts in different ways. Class meetings are one good follow up strategy.
MALE SPEAKER: I heard someone say that Nikesha couldn't be a doctor because she was a girl. I was wondering what everyone thought about that. Do you think girls can be doctors when they grow up?
NARRATOR: Field trips are another useful way to follow up. To continue the discussion, a visit was planned to the local clinic so children could meet a woman doctor, and a male nurse as well.
To enhance children's dramatic play, we create materials like these tube dolls from photographs mounted on cardboard tubes and covered with contact paper. The photographs are chosen carefully to depict both men and women in non- stereotypical activities. Materials like the tube dolls encourage children to take on a variety of roles without the limits of gender bias. They also encourage the transformation of play areas into restaurants, factories, theaters, mechanic shops, construction sites, hospitals, and so forth.
Traditional math activities like using color circles for counting can also easily be adapted to an anti-bias approach. Here children do some of the same math operations, like finding pictures with the same number of people in them, using photographs carefully chosen for anti-bias information. As with many games, teachers can change these game rules to adapt them to different developmental levels without changing their anti-bias content. The inclusion of photographs of children themselves engaged in non-stereotypical activities further strengthens the anti-bias messages.
We also choose a word of the week related to anti-bias issues. In the week that stereotype was the word, teachers introduced a game called Stereotype or Fact? to be older preschoolers. They asked questions like, stereotype or fact: boys can run faster than girls? They talked about how some boys and some girls can run fast, but not all boys run fast, and not all girls run slow.
Soon after children began playing the stereotype or fact game, a group was jumping rope. One of the boys announced, boys can jump higher than girls. But then he stopped, put his hand up to his mouth and said, oops, I just said a stereotype.
We also evaluate our responses to children based on their gender by asking ourselves questions like the following, and paying close attention to our behavior: are we more likely to treat boys' play and work as important and avoid interrupting them? Do we feel more free to interrupt girls to take on a different task or activity? Do we often encourage girls to clean up, even if they don't want to? Do we avoid conflict with boys who don't want to clean up rather than encouraging them as well? Are we more likely to accept girls watching but actively encourage boys to participate? Do we comment more often on girls appearance and on boys performance.
Do we encourage girls to express their feelings but distract boys from theirs? Do we encourage boys more often to express their opinions, including disagreement? Do we more often encourage girls to agree at the expense of their own opinions?
Often we need to keep track of what we actually say and do with children for a day or a week, or even longer, to understand the ways we unknowingly perpetuate bias.
EDUC6357: Diversity, Development, and Learning “Start Seeing Diversity: Sexual Orientation”
NARRATOR: Bias related to sexual orientation, also called homophobia, is any attitude, action, or institutional practice that subordinates people because of their sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Homophobia is often used to keep people from moving outside their assigned gender roles. For example, Carol's son, [? Shola ?], really wanted a doll. She said everywhere he went, he talked about it. But her mom and sister said that if he played with dolls, he'd grow up to be a sissy.
Carol brought the issue to staff. We responded by asking what kind of help Carol would have liked from her husband in caring for the kids and what kind of man she hoped [? Shola ?] would become. We suggested that playing with dolls was a way for boys to practice nurturing.
CAROL: After that, I felt a lot more comfortable, and I went and bought him a doll. I explained to my mother and sisters– I said, he's training to be a father like he's watching me be a mother. The book William's Doll really helped me too. It's about a boy who loves things like basketball and electric trains but still wants his doll.
NARRATOR: In early childhood programs, the issue of sexual orientation often comes up when we're talking about families. Children growing up in a variety of families face bias. To validate the families in our program, we begin with our own photographs, drawings, and stories, and classroom visits from family members.
To ensure the inclusion of diversity, we combine the reflections of our own families with many others, using commercial materials like puzzles and pop-its. We also find photographs of diverse families to use in making games and for discussions.
We talk about the ways families are similar to and different from one another, and do number activities like counting the number of people in different families, looking at pictures of single parent families, racially mixed families, extended families, adoptive and blended families, two parent families, and others.
Photographs like this one of a family in which the parents are lesbians have sparked many difficult discussions among staff. One person said she had the right to her own beliefs, and using pictures and stories that include gay and lesbian families, or even acknowledging that some families have two dads or two
moms, went against those beliefs. Then in one group, a teacher heard a child say, "You can't have two mommies."
FEMALE SPEAKERS: I could see one child was really upset, so I stepped in and said, there are lots of different kinds of families. In some families, there are two mommies.
NARRATOR: Although this was difficult for her, the teacher said she knew her role was to help all children develop a positive identity, regardless of her own beliefs. A couple of people said they didn't think this was an issue for their classroom, because none of the children came from families with gay or lesbian parents.
After discussion, though we decided that it is still important to acknowledge the existence of families with gay and lesbian parents, so that children are prepared to be respectful when they do meet people who are lesbian or gay.
This issue came up in a different way another day when two girls were talking and laughing while working closely together. Another child passing by said, ooh, they're gay. The teacher intervened saying, some people are gay. All of us, whether we are gay or not, want to have friends that we really like, and even hug or kiss them sometimes.
When we discussed this incident at a staff meeting, some of us felt that the teacher didn't need to acknowledge that some people are gay, because the children didn't know what gay meant anyway. There was controversy about this, so staff decided to ask at a group meeting if children knew what the word meant.
Several of the children said, gay is when two men or two women love each other. The teacher asked, but I love my mother and sisters. Does that mean I'm gay? Children said, no, gay is when two women or two men really love each other.
In followup discussions, staff agreed that even if children don't know what gay means, many of them are using it as a put down. We agreed that this hurts all of us, whether we are gay or not, by making us afraid to be affectionate with friends.
After some difficult negotiations, we decided that it was important to have in our classrooms pictures and stories that included families of two women or two men with children. We also decided to respond when children ask questions or use gay as a put down.
As well, we had a dinner meeting for families and staff together to introduce our curriculum approach regarding family diversity. We wanted to create an
opportunity to discuss values, experiences, and bias, and to get feedback from families.
In this meeting, we broke into small groups and played games with photographs of diverse families. After the games, the small groups brainstormed lists of diverse kinds of families. We expected there to be some controversy. Instead, with some giggling, gay and lesbian families were included on the list.
Then we talked about our own childhood experiences. Some people said they had been teased for not having a father at home and had learned to lie to avoid the teasing. This discussion helped everyone to see the need to validate all the kinds of families children are coming from.
Page 3 © Laureate Education 2011
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