Gender in the classroom: Q+A blog header

Gender in the classroom: Q+A

children in classroom

In a recent webinar, we were joined by Samuel Broaden, owner and founder of Honoring Childhood! Samuel joined us for an engaging conversation on strategies to discuss gender expression in early childhood. Samuel explored topics of what is gender, and how is gender defined in our early childhood classrooms. He walked us through how we as educators can reflect on our own biases and left us with strategies for how to create a welcoming and supportive classroom for all children. 

Watch the webinar that inspired this blog post here

Educators often face issues not being on the same page as colleagues and families when it comes to gender expression in the classroom. They can struggle with how to manage these conversations. We are sharing some of the most common questions received and their answers below! 

In terms of labeling things in a classroom, such as a mailman, snowman, etc., what are your thoughts on replacing that terminology with person? 

This is something that is super difficult. Everyone is a work in progress and currently going through unlearning. However, this is something that is important to watch in the gendered language we use. Another hard one for me is ‘you guys’. We want to do our best to stay away from terminology like this. For the mailman, we could use mail carrier. It is hard to unlearn these things that have been so embedded since our childhood. Thinking about what these words imply and how we can substitute them creates a more inclusive environment. 

For our youngest children, do you typically recommend waiting for gender conversations to happen naturally, or should we bring it up purposely in circle time? 

I think it can be both, it depends on the children. We know who our children are and what they are thinking or wondering about and what they can take in. Sometimes it is appropriate to sit down for a conversation and sometimes the conversation will happen organically. It is important to use gender terms organically in conversation and point out things that you notice as things happen in real-time. Organic conversation is the best way to help teach children anything. It happens in the moment as they are interested and engaged. 

How would you encourage an educator to handle hearing people referring to “that is their boyfriend/girlfriend”? 

This whole idea of showcasing “boyfriend/girlfriend” we need to stop doing. It is for no purpose and we are showing children that having a partner is super important in life. We do not want children to think they need that to feel complete. Also, do not be afraid to be an advocate when you see things that you do not believe are right. It can be difficult and uncomfortable but that is part of your job as an educator to stand up for the children. It is all about having open and honest conversations. 

Any suggestions for professional development resources on this topic? 

There is a book called Supporting Gender Diversity in Early Childhood Education that I love. I also have a lot of resources and training I have created around these topics on my website. 

We want to normalize gender conversations so that children do not feel that they are bad or negative. Bringing families and examples into the conversation can make it more real, and relatable. It is important for children to know that these concepts are real and occur in everyday life. 

Watch the webinar that inspired this blog post here

Want to learn more about important topics in early education such as socio-emotional learning? Sign up for the next webinar below, it is FREE! Even if you can’t join live, you will be emailed the recording and slides just for registering!

Samuel Broaden

Samuel began his career in Child Development in 2005. Throughout his career, Samuel has worked in varying positions and aspects of the Child Development field. From being a teacher in classrooms with Infants to School-Age children to directing various childcare centers to his current job as a Quality Coach for Family Child Care programs and Child Care Centers. Through his work, Samuel has cultivated his own philosophy for how children grow and learn, which is deeply rooted in the importance of nature and the joy of allowing children to discover who they truly are. Through Honoring Childhood, Samuel hopes to inspire teachers, administrators, parents, guardians, friends, and the world to think differently about childhood and what it means and to work together to create a more kind and beautiful world. He currently resides in Oregon with his husband, Perry, and their dogs Oliver and Mazi.