We are posting our classroom audit tool online section-by-section. The whole thing will be available for (free) download alongside the release of our book Supporting Gender Diversity in Early Childhood Classrooms: A Practical Guide in fall. Sign up for our mailing list to get notified when we make this and other resources available!
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. There are many ways to do this! Here are a few we recommend:
Make a date with a friend and take turns asking each other these questions. Give each other time to talk without interrupting. (Some people like to do this while taking a walk, or sitting at a beach or park; others like to meet over food or drinks. Make a date that works for you!)
Use the questions as drawing/art prompts. Try an artistic medium in which you're a beginner! Focus on expressing your feelings surrounding the memories rather than creating "finished" products.
Make up a song or a little jingle with your responses. If appropriate, share them with the kids you care for!
Make some time for yourself to just write in your journal.
You’re welcome to use the text areas to type your reflections. Pressing ‘share with us’ means that you are giving us permission to use your examples in future versions of the audit tool, in workshops, etc.
Note: If you think your answer to any self-work question is "this doesn't apply to me," we challenge you to dig a little deeper!
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?
2. Do I allow children to explore genders beyond the gender binary, rather than insisting on all children being a boy or a girl?
3. Do I affirm children's gender expressions (the ways in which children externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, etc.) and identities (the gender that children feel themselves to be), without drawing undue attention to choices, expressions and identities that cross social norms?
4. Do I approach children as equal partners in co-creating a culture of gender creativeness and exploration?
5. Do I believe that children are the experts on their own gender and experiences and respond to children accordingly? Do I trust in what children are sharing about themselves today, even if what they said yesterday was different?
6. Do I allow children to set the pace on if/when they want to share their gender identity with others? Do I never "out" a child without their explicit consent and having dialogue with the family?
7. Do I notice how I am treating children differently based on gender? Do I make sure I actively contradict the stereotypes so that ALL children get a variety of positive attention from me?
8. Do I treat parents and family members with respect? Do I pay attention to what they say and value their contributions to the classroom?
9. Do I take the time to learn from families about their family structures, traditions and norms? Do I stay respectful and curious, and not assume that families will respond to all situations based on their structures, traditions and norms?
Instead of thinking: "Oh, Laila's family is Muslim – I already know they won't be supportive of her recent gender exploration," try: "I wonder how Laila'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. Am I willing to adjust my curriculum each year in response to the needs of families?
11. Do 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?
12. Do I approach relationships with families as partnerships in supporting the health and growth of their children together?
13. Do I resist holding the role of “expert” in how children should or do experience gender?
14. Do I remember that gender identity is just one aspect of a child, not their whole being? Do I tell families many things about their child, not focus solely on gender?
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, educational resources, virtual support groups, and advocacy organizations."
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?
17. When conflicts arise, do I listen to family members' opinions and feelings without judgement? Do I validate these feelings and attempt to uncover underlying motivations?
18. Do 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 and dance time!"
19. Do 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."
20. Do I utilize the support I have (school mission, NAEYC norms) to support my professional responsibility to address gender justice with colleagues and families?
21. Do I instigate and encourage discussion about children's gender exploration with my coworkers?
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. Do 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. Do 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 do 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: “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 and ball) and is choosing baby doll and silk dress up items. Let’s continue to support Enzo's exploration process. “
25. Do 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?
Next Section: Administration & HR →
*Pressing ‘share with us’ means that you are giving us permission to use your examples in future versions of the audit tool, in workshops, etc.