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4 Ways To Challenge Gender Stereotypes In The Classroom

Gender stereotyping is currently big news in mainstream media across in Europe and the US. At the centre of the debate is a growing concern over the unfair treatment of transgender students. But the issue goes much, much deeper.

So deep, in fact, that every single day we unconsciously reaffirm stereotypes without even realising it. For instance, by supporting ideas like only girls like to sing and dance and they're supposed to look pretty, or that boys are the big and strong ones and like to run around and play sports. Some of these ideas are in many cases, of course, accurate. But the point with gender stereotyping is to not make sweeping generalisations and presumptions. Just because someone happens to be a certain gender, doesn’t mean they should fit into the socially accepted norms.

Challenge gender stereotypes in your classroom today by applying these four simple and effective tips.


1. Introduce new role models


Whether it's history’s greats or everyday people from the local community, using role models is a great way to challenge gender stereotypes in the classroom. Introduce children to real-life examples of figures who counter traditionally held ideas, like women are homemakers and men are the breadwinners, and ask what makes them different. Chances are they won’t even pick up on it, and yet the exercise is no less valuable as a way to help maintain and support a gender-neutral
perspective.


2. Explore gender through stories


Once the issue of gender stereotyping comes onto your radar, you’ll be amazed at how both sexes are underrepresented and depicted across the world of literature and fictional storytelling. Likewise, though, you’ll be equally amazed by the diversity and questioning of gender roles, particularly in cartoons and animation films.
Explore different types of media, both old and new, and recognise how stereotypes are either challenged or supported. You can also turn certain ideas on their heads like car books are only for boys and rom coms for girls.


3. Check the way you speak and act


Every day in the typical classroom, gender stereotypes are constantly being reinforced — whether you always sit the class ‘boy-girl- boy-girl’, allocate certain tasks to 'big strong boys' and others to 'trustworthy and reliable girls', or support the idea that boys always misbehave and girls always gossip.
These unconscious acts can create divisions where they don’t need to exist. Be aware of them and try out alternative methods that are not gender-based, for instance lining up according to age or alphabetically and using ‘children’ instead of ‘boys and girls’. This treats each child as an individual and creates an environment in which they won’t feel as burdened by their gender. The trick is to focus on commonalities they share rather than differences that separate them.


4. Practice role play and theatre

Bring characters to life and give the children the opportunity to embody roles outside what's accepted from their gender. Theatre and role play expands perspective, challenges the idea that children are expected to behave in a certain way, and is simply a fun way to learn about an important issue. Ask a shy boy to play the role of a powerful woman or an outgoing girl to play a reserved male.


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