Miss, Ms., Mrs., Mr.: Thinking Gender In FDK

I’m not sure exactly what spurred this change in me.

  1. Maybe it was last week’s blog post and the follow-up comments, which had me thinking more about differences and how we acknowledge these with kids.
  2. Maybe it was the Inclusive Classroom survey that our principal, Gerry, emailed out to us recently.
  3. Maybe it was the Where Children Sleep book that we used with our class this week, and the incredible conversations that began as a result.

4. Maybe it was Sue Dunlop‘s blog post, which resonates with me every time that I say the word, “guys,” and/or hear other people say it.

Whatever it was, or whatever combination of things it might have been, I’ve become very aware of my word choice lately. And I don’t always like what I hear myself say. Not intentionally, not with a desire to cause discomfort, and not in an effort to be less inclusive … and yet, I still hear these words.

For example, if you listen to the conversations that my teaching partner, Paula, and I have with our kids and even read through the notes that we exchange with them, you will hear and see that most of them just call us, “Dunsiger” and “Crockett.” These have become nicknames of sorts. Also, during a time where we cannot necessarily connect with kids through a gentle touch on the shoulder or a hug, we’re able to further build relationships with children through these name choices.

I share this story because as much as our students naturally gravitate to dropping the Miss, Ms., and/or Mrs., I often find myself calling kids, “Miss ______” or “Mr. _______.” While my intention might be good — this has become a nickname of sorts — I have to wonder how inclusive this choice might be. Am I making assumptions about the pronoun that a child might want to use and/or does use?

Our kids are still young. A few of them just turned four. While some know exactly who they are and who they want to be, others are still figuring it out. Over the years, Paula and I have taught some children with stories similar to the one that Darla Myers shared on a recent Instagram post of mine.

While the referencing part that Darla shared in the last part of her comment is not an experience that we’ve had before, it did cause me to pause. This was my reply to her.

The discussion made me think of a Twitter post that I saw just over a month ago. Parsa Shahid, a teacher in our Board, shared some really powerful observations around self-portraits. I would encourage you to click on the link and read the entire thread.

How ingrained are stereotypes, even at a young age? How ingrained are previously held beliefs around race and gender? What might be needed to change them? While our kids are still in kindergarten, this past week has taught me just how capable they are of having mature discussions. As always, we start with the child, provoke thinking, include families in the conversation, and consider developmentally appropriate practice. These discussions are new for us. They are not always easy, and definitely require additional planning and thought. We are probably making mistakes along the way. Likely many. But we both strongly believe that school should be a safe and joyous space for everyone. Are these difficult conversations also an essential part of ensuring that all kids and adults feel safe, happy, supported, and heard? Know more, do better. We definitely intend on doing just that through the books we choose, the examples we share, the discussions we have, the questions we ask, the words we use, and the choices we make. What about you?


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