Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Classroom
The classroom should be a safe space where children can both feel comfortable and learn at the same time. And that’s why challenging gender stereotypes in the classroom is a subject that needs to be tackled.
In a previous time, we were often told that a toy, sport or colour was only suitable for a girl or a boy and not both. However, we’re pleased to say that this isn’t really the case in this day and age, though it’s something that still needs to be taught. As a teacher, you can help smash stereotypes with these handy tips.
A Safe Setting
One of the first things you need to do before getting into gender stereotypes is to create a safe environment. This will enable your students to feel as though they have the freedom to learn and explore. By supporting the children’s choices, you encourage them to be themselves.
Avoid Certain Phrases
If a young boy wants to wear a pink princess dress, or if a little girl wants to play football, why can’t they? Who are we to say they’re not allowed to express themselves in a way they feel comfortable. So, avoid saying things like “that’s a girl’s dress” or “only boys can play with a football” to prevent them for feeling as though they’re not allowed to be who they are.
By using ‘children’ instead of ‘boys and girls’ or ‘parents and carers’ instead of ‘mums and dads’, you can help to establish a commonality among students. Utilising gender-neutral vocabulary, such as ‘it’, ‘their’, and ‘they’ will also help.
Talk About It
Talking openly and freely will help students to understand gender stereotypes as it normalises the topic. If a student asks you a question, answer as honestly and respectfully as you can. By having a safe discussion, you’re sure to help students recognise how stereotyping can be wrong.
When speaking about specific jobs, try saying things such as ‘a female builder’ or ‘a male nurse’. This will help students to understand that there’s no job out there that they can’t do because of their gender.
Don’t Separate Students
Some teachers may opt for a boy-girl-boy-girl seating plan in their classroom. However, when tackling gender stereotypes, this may not always be the best solution. Try going in alphabetical, age or height order instead.
Similarly, if you have labels for boys and girls in the classroom, don’t make them blue and pink. Either select one colour, such as purple or green, or allow the students to pick their favourite from a mix.
Tell a Story with Theatre
If you’re planning a school play or a small production as part of your teaching method, avoid always going for the obvious choices. For example, get one of the girls in the class to play the lead in a story that’s predominantly male orientated. It may help them to feel strong and empowered, meaning that you’re assisting with building a student’s confidence. Bringing characters to life is a great way to give students a chance to embody roles outside of their gender.
Show Them Role Models
Not everyone who’s achieved something is male, there are many great females out there too. When teaching a subject, try and get an equal balance to show the class that men and women are as capable as each other. Think about athletes, scientists, politicians, business people and entertainers from across the years; it’s their determination and skill that got them where they are, not their gender. Teach your pupils that they can reach their dreams as long as they work hard and put their mind to it.
So, when you’re working your London-based teaching job, try tackling gender stereotypes in the classroom. Alternatively, take the subject abroad with an international teaching job. For more help and advice on teaching positions in the UK and overseas, look to REESON Education for support.