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Disrupting Gendered Pedagogies in the Early Childhood Classroom

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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 4. Gender and the Schooling of Girls and Boys

← 46 | 47 →Chapter 4

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Elementary school girls receive significantly less attention from their teachers than their male counterparts (Evans, 1998; Frawley, 2005; Sadker & Zittleman, 2005). Typically, teachers interact more often with male students whether it is to answer their questions, expand on their comments, verbally admonish them, or to help them with their classwork. In addition, young boys tend to ask more questions, control classroom discussions and conversations, and receive more praise and correction for their mistakes. Teachers are more likely to praise girls for their physical appearance, cooperation with classmates, and obedient behavior while praising boys for their achievement (Derman-Sparks, 1989). Furthermore, research has suggested that teachers are more apt to give approval to young children who engage in stereotypical gender play than those who do not (Grossman & Grossman, 1994; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1987; Thorne, 1993). Research (Sadker & Sadker, 1994; Thorne, 1993) has also noted the prevalence of gender inequity in student-to-student interactions, both inside and outside of the classroom, as well as ← 47 | 48 →in young children’s textbooks and picture books. This type of gender disparity in early childhood classrooms sends a gender-specific message to young boys and girls that could contribute to biased attitudes in young children as well as socially reinforcing gender stereotyping (Evans, 1998).

Schools are discursive spaces with their own series of implicit but widely understood normative processes and regimes of truth. This discursive environment produces the types of individuals who inhabit the spaces of schools. On one hand it produces adults-as-educators, while...

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