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Disrupting Gendered Pedagogies in the Early Childhood Classroom


April Larremore

Young children’s access to knowledge about gender, relationships, and sexuality has critical implications for their health and well-being, not only in their early years but throughout their lives. This knowledge can build children’s competencies and resilience, contributing to new cultural norms of non-violence in gendered and sexual relationships. For many early childhood teachers, interacting with children about issues concerning gender and sexuality is fraught with feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. For others, familiarity with research on these topics has resulted in rethinking their approaches to sex, gender, and sexuality in their early childhood classrooms. The pedagogical project discussed in Disrupting Gendered Pedagogies in the Early Childhood Classroom examines the tensions associated with one teacher’s attempts to rethink gendered narratives and childhood sexuality in her own classroom. This project illustrates that it is possible for early childhood teachers to use feminist poststructuralism and queer theory to deepen their understandings and responses to children’s talk, actions, and play regarding sex, gender, and sexuality and to use these understandings to inform their professional practice.
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Chapter 1. Can I Rethink My Kindergarten Teaching?

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For many early childhood teachers and professionals, interacting with children about complex and contested issues is fraught with feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. For an unfortunately small number of other teachers, an openness to challenging dominant societal beliefs is considered important if this questioning leads to classroom interactions and pedagogical behaviors that can increase acceptance of diversity with/for children. This book is about one kindergarten teacher’s attempts to reframe classroom power relations—to be willing to challenge the accepted and suitable definition of the “good” teacher—to be willing to be labeled a “bad” teacher if students can benefit from perspectives and interactions that have not been labeled good, developmentally appropriate, or acceptable. I am that kindergarten teacher.

Living with diverse cultures, identities, knowledges, and ways of being in the world, some early childhood educators have called on a variety of approaches and perspectives to meet these positive yet complex challenges of diversity and multiplicity (Grieshaber & Cannella, ← 1 | 2 →2001). The reconceptualization movement in early childhood education has brought about new spaces and lenses through which a different way of thinking about children as subjects has emerged. Looking at early childhood educational practices through diverse feminisms, poststructural, and critical lenses, teachers have, and can, reflexively consider their own positions within discourses and ways that normalizing is unconsciously perpetuated and marginalizes those who are perceived as different.

In our current context, the ways early childhood teachers see, understand, and respond to young children’s work, play, and...

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