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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 8. Moving Forward in the Journey: Creating a Critically Conscious Classroom

← 106 | 107 →Chapter 8


As evidenced in this project, conversations with young children concerning gender, relationships, and sexual knowledge are complex and contradictory and are perceived to pose risks of various kinds. As evidenced, this oftentimes results in early childhood teachers avoiding addressing issues of gender and sexuality with young children altogether. Similar to other research (Blaise & Andrew, 2005) conducted in this area with early childhood teachers, this research showed that gender is a critical factor in early childhood teaching practices, that engaging in risky teaching can feel uncomfortable, and that early childhood teachers are oftentimes resistant to moving beyond simplistic notions of biological and socialization models of gender and sexuality.

Feminist poststructuralism and queer theory have opened up new paths for listening to, observing, and making sense of children’s talk ← 107 | 108 →and behavior in the early childhood classroom. This type of postdevelopmental mindset can help early childhood teachers in conceptualizing gender as a social, historical, cultural, and political construction and in recognizing that young children take an active part in their gender construction. The representations in this study indicate that children’s subjectivities and relationships occur within the boundaries of heterosexualized classrooms and that the dominant discourse is about the need to “play it straight” (Blaise, 2005, p. 184)

This pedagogical project offers a starting point for those teachers who wish to challenge gender norms, but it is merely a starting point. If we purposefully intend to critically rethink gender and teaching in the early childhood classroom, teachers...

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