Relationships

Use the questions and example responses below as a guide to reflect on your relationships with children (questions 1-7), their families (questions 8-20) and your coworkers (questions 20-25). Consider the degree to which you do the following, and where improvements can be made in how to support children’s gender development.

children

1. Do I treat children with care and respect? Do I pay attention to what children do and say, and value their contributions to the classroom?

"Quentin and Alex, it looks like you're really excited about smashing things! We can't destroy our tinker toys--they're for everyone. But I wonder what would happen if you stomped on these pinecones? ... Emi, I see you're watching. Would you like to try it too? Let's gather some more pinecones!"

"I don’t know how they like to be called so I just use the baby’s name."

2. Do I allow children to explore genders beyond the gender binary, rather than insisting on all children being a boy or a girl?

One child: "i'm part boy and part girl." Teacher: "Okay, great." Another child: "I don't want to wear that! I don't like dresses." Teacher: "Okay, great."

Making sure all children have clothes that are safe to move/crawl in (skirts for infants restrict movement; leggings for toddlers who can't collect fun things in pockets) . toddlers/ infants: i dictate the child's actions and follow their lead, using "you", or their name regardless of the child's sex and how the objects are gendered"

3. Do I affirm children's gender expressions (definition) and identities (definition), without drawing undue attention to choices, expressions and identities that cross social norms?

Instead of: "Oh my goodness, Melvin is wearing a dress! He's so cute!" Try: "Good morning, Melvin. Welcome to school today!" Or: "Good morning, Melvin! I like your colorful new dress. Where would you like to start playing this morning?"

Avoiding "poor little girl" and "be a big boy" stereotypes and differential treatment/pace for boys vs. girls as infants and toddlers; supporting all children in their emotional states without playing into stereotypes

4. Do I approach children as equal partners in co-creating a culture of gender creativeness and exploration?

Child: "I have boy hair." Teacher: "Oh, that's interesting. What makes you say that?" (Inquiry mode)

Not limiting access to areas in the classroom, materials that children might want to explore; children are given agency in their clothes (not hypersexualizing or playing into stereotypes with messaging on clothes); minding conversations with parents that children are witness to

5. Do I believe that children are the experts on their own gender and experiences and respond to children accordingly. I trust children every day; even if what they said yesterday was different, what they're saying today is not wrong. [link to examples of how teachers have figured out ways to check in with children about which pronouns they're using]

Good morning, Olaf! Is today a "she" day or a "he" day?* (*If Olaf has expressed a preference for using these pronouns previously.)

Using gender neutral langauge to redirect gendered language

6. I allow children to set the pace on if/when they want to share their gender identity with others. I never "out" a child without their explicit consent and having dialogue with the family.

Instead of: "Hey everybody! Radhi is a boy now!" Try: "Radhi, I noticed you were getting upset when those kids were calling you 'she.' Would you like me to start calling you 'he'?"

7. I notice how I am treating children differently based on gender, and I make sure I actively contradict the stereotypes so that ALL children get a variety of positive attention from me.

"Manuel, I didn't know you were such a good cuddler! You're welcome to sit with me again while you're waiting for your wrestling turn."

families

8. I treat parents and family members with respect. I pay attention to what family members do and say, and value their contributions to the classroom.

Comic: teacher to mom in traditional attire- "If you ever want to come and read stories, or make food with us, we would all love it!"

9. I take the time to ask/learn from families about their family structures, traditions and norms; I stay respectful and stay curious; and I don't assume that families will respond to all situations based on their structures, traditions and norms.

Instead of thinking: "Oh, Lyla's family is Muslim- I already know they won't be supportive of her recent gender exploration," Try: "I wonder how Lyla's family thinks about her gender exploration? I know they're Muslim and I associate that with strict gender roles, but I don't know what it means in their family."

10. I am willing to adjust my curriculum each year in response to the needs of families.

Need example

11. I provide resources about the language I plan to use around gender at the beginning of the year, solicit feedback, and begin conversations with families who have questions, concerns, and input.

At parent orientation: "I am trying something new this year. I will be using the words "straight" and "queer" and "trans" and "cisgender" to describe adults and families. This is very different from my own preschool, and it's new for me as well as you. What do you think? Would it be helpful if I share the language I use to describe what these words mean?"

12. I approach relationships with families as partnerships in supporting the health and growth of their children together.

"I heard you have some concerns about Micah's play choices lately. Let's make a time to talk this week! I'd love to hear your thoughts and share some things I've been noticing."

Sharing observations of a child's joy with families and validating those expressions for a child with their loved ones "I saw how much fun you were having today playing in the mud. Do you think we could get more clothes for her to keep playing in that way?"

13. I resist holding the role of “expert” in how children should or do experience gender.

Need example

14. I remember that gender identity is just one aspect of a child, not their whole being. When I talk with families I tell them many things about their child; I do not focus exclusively on gender.

Image: parent-teacher conference form- "Areas in the classroom your child loves to explore: painting, blocks, dramatic play. Ray loves to build large structures and often invites other children to join in. I have enclosed a few of Ray's recent paintings- as you can see, there has been much exploration with color and tools- everything from paintbrushes to fingertips to toy cars. Ray also loves playing dress up! Lately Ray has been playing "sisters" with Mona and Jasmine..."

Observing a child's interests and proclivities when they aren't yet very verbal helps give them a voice and helps them be seen.

15. Do I introduce families to gender resources?

"Here's contact information for a local playgroup for gender-expansive children and their families. They have a family swim night every third Thursday! And here's a link to further resources including books, virtual support groups, educational resources and advocacy organizations." [Create list and insert links??]

16. Do I share ongoing information about read-alouds, conversations, and conflict that emerge in the classroom around gender, including the language I use to respond?

Need an example

17. When conflicts arise, I listen to family members' opinions and feelings without judgement. I validate these feelings and attempt to uncover underlying motivations.

Teacher: "I can see you're worried about Micah wearing a dress. Can you tell me more about that?" Parent: "It's not that I have a problem with Micah wearing a princess dress- I think it's really sweet! I just don't want other kids to be mean to him. I don't want him to see the looks people give him in public. It breaks my heart. It's not Micah I am worried about- it's society."

Parent: "my daughter kept getting called a boy by strangers. I bought a bunch of more feminine clothes for her, but I hate that I had to do that because she doesn't like them as much" Teacher: "Can you tell me more about why you feel like you were forced to buy her different clothes even though she liked what she had before?" Parent: "Well she was just so confused and I could see that she was feeling hurt by not being seen for who she is."

18. I talk about the strengths that come from children's gender expressions and identities rather than "problems" associated with them.

"Jay's delight in wearing that purple skirt has really caught on in the classroom-- now all the children are demanding shiny fabrics to twirl around in during movement & dance time!"

19. I advocate for children's gender health and well-being.

"Thank you for sharing your story. Now I understand why it's so important to you that Kat keeps long hair and wears dresses. You're worried Kat will experience the shame that you experienced as a child. Have you considered that for Kat, being made to wear an outfit she hates could feel shameful? When I see her putting the lion costume on each day and staying inside so that she doesn't have to change out of it, these are clues that this is deeply important to her. And it's limiting the experiences she's allowing herself to have."

20. I utilize the support I have (school mission, NAEYC norms) to support my professional responsibility to address gender justice with colleagues and families.

Need an example

CoWorkers

21. Do I instigate and encourage discussion about children's gender exploration with my co-workers?

Teachers during a planning meeting: "Let's think about the ways we gender our language without even realizing it. For instance, I noticed I was defaulting to 'buddy' with boys and 'sweetie' or 'honey' with girls. Today I stopped myself and switched it up. When I saw Leah I said 'hey, buddy' and she asked me why I was calling her a boy name! We had a great discussion- she didn't even realize that 'buddy' is just another word for 'friend'!"

22. Do I work to create a classroom culture in which teachers communicate with and understand one another?

"I know you're a devout Christian, and I associate that with strict gender roles, but I don't know your personal beliefs and how they interact with those of your church. Can you tell me more about where you're coming from?"

23. I foster continuity and consistency in the way teachers respond to children's gender exploration.

Email: "Hi everyone-- Julia's dad told me today that Julia's asking to be called 'he' AND 'she' at home, and that she'd like that at school as well. Let's all start switching up his pronouns without making a big deal about it. We can check in about how it's going at our staff meeting Thursday!"

24. I use methods of observation and documentation to reflect on children's gender exploration, taking notice of language they use to describe themselves and each other, and I share and discuss my observations with my coworkers.

Teacher with observation log: "Now that you mention it, I am looking through my notes and see that this 'sister' game started three weeks ago! And they are still playing it. And now Lucien and Emily call each other 'sister' when they are doing other things- like at lunchtime and on the yard." Other teacher, looking through his notes "Yes! I made a note last week at circle time, that Emily said- in reference to Lucien- 'She wants to sit here today.' So this pronoun shift started about a month ago, and has really stuck."

Teacher with observation log/infant toddler: I have reviewed my observation notes from the last few weeks and I am noticing Enzo has engaged less with the toys from home (i.e truck & ball) and is choosing baby doll, silk dress up items, lets continue to support Enzo's exploration process.

25. I solicit feedback and support from students, parents, and colleagues on how my gender bias shows up in the classroom, recognizing that this is an ongoing process.

Need an example

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