Recently, I have become a preschool teacher and after the initial shock of the energy of the kids, I have realized a few tendencies and feminist tendencies that are evident in my way of maintaining the classroom. I don't exactly find these things surprising yet I do wish that more teachers would share these type of viewpoints and not categorize their students based on gender. In my class, both girls and boys are allowed to play with any toys. This includes the dolls (of all races) and different princess dolls that my girls frequently bring into class. All students know they must share and the phrase "boys/girls can't play with that" is not allowed in my room. No matter what the toy or how it is being played with (whether traditional gender role playing or something unique) it is allowed and encouraged by everyone in my classroom. Sadly, I know this is not accepted everywhere.
Some parents will actually end up having a problem with this because they will be scared their boys will become gay and their girls will become too tom boyish. I, however, plan on working with children to realize that no matter what their gender is, they are able to work with anything. They are able to like any colors or toys or games.
Sometimes I wonder if this is taken too far. In group discussions I purposely make a point to say that I not only like purple but that I like green and blue and don't really like pink all too much. Though this is true, I know that by me saying this I am modelling certain behaviors for my students that they will most likely follow. This could either be beneficial for the girls or completely brainwashing for them. They should be free to decide for themselves but yet I also struggle with the concept that they should also be allowed to choose "boy colors".
I've even altered things from the bathroom signs that are pink and blue for boys and girls. Why do these colors signify gender to society and to my preschoolers? Should I contribute with these signals that blue and pink are designated for certain types of people? I want my youngsters to feel no restrictions because I know they will be bombarded with that all their life. If I can instill something about their freedom of choice at an early age then maybe they can take that with them to encourage them when everything else is telling them which gender roles to fall into.
Its not an easy task to be a teacher of any sort. Expectations are high and the pay is low yet the morale outcome is higher than anything. Teachers need a background in feminist epistemology to use as a base for some guidelines of maintaining a basic nurturing and learning classroom. Sadly, it is almost natural to designate certain roles to boys and girls but becoming aware that these roles exist and are a pattern with oneself in particular, it is possible to change them.