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Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation

Related imageRelated imageRelated imageThere are many ways that homophobia and heterosexism permeate the world of young children. If we examine the cycle of socialization it is evident that no one is born with a set of preconceived notions or prejudice attitudes towards any one group (Harro, 2010). All of this is learned through the next two phases of our social development which Harro explains are called the first socialization and the institutional/cultural socialization (2010). Through the first socialization, we learn what is acceptable behavior, attitudes, and thoughts about ourselves and other groups. In this phase, there are learned attitudes that could lead to misinformed thoughts (stereotypes) and even different “isms” like racism, genderism, homophobia, ageism, etc. Sometimes the messages that children learn at home whether overt or covert are then reinforced by other institutional/cultural experiences and interconnections. This is the phase that Harro explains as Institutional/Cultural socialization where children are then given additional messages about isms, stereotypes, or prejudice attitudes about diverse groups and cultures.

In the case of Bradley and Jonah, two boys who had begun to identify their genders as the opposite of the one they were born with, the professional therapy and family intervention they received consisted of two different approaches. Bradley was sort of given an intervention which consisted of more of a reform. Bradley’s parents and therapist sought to change his behavior and this type of approach involved taking Bradley’s ability to choose his own identity and in turn take away things that he preferred to play with or wear which were dolls and dresses (Speigel, 2008). Although in the end both the therapist and the parents felt better about how Bradley’s social development was headed, Bradley’s mother stated that she knew he was not as happy, he developed an obsession with pink and repeatedly ask to not be around things that color because he loved the color and all the feminine ideals that were associated with it.  She also noted that he had emotional fits and it was hard for him to transition into boy clothes and boy toys. Bradley did not want to go to school anymore. Although she feels that he has now begun to play more with boys and do boy things, she fears he is leading a double life and behaves one way in school and another at home (Speigel, 2008). To me, it seems as though they had committed a disservice to Bradley by limiting and reforming his personal identity. In the case of Jonah, Jonah’s family and therapist allowed Jonah to develop his identity on his own, uninterrupted by their own perceptions of sexual orientation, and so, in the end, Jonah was a lot happier as a child and chose to be a girl instead of the gender he was born with. According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), institutionalized and individual prejudice and discrimination exist against gay, lesbian, and transgender people and families. I wonder if Bradley’s parents had grown and developed in a more accepting environment regarding sexual identity as children, would they have thought that Bradley needed fixing?

I believe that like any other “ism” children should be taught anti-bias approaches to homophobia. Creating an environment that exposes children to the gay, lesbian, and transgender cultures through books, posters, dolls, and toys so that children are presented with the many opportunities to explore this cultural group and their own identities (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). The more that children are comfortable with different family structures including gay parents (two moms or two dads) the more that children will develop into accepting adults in a society which could be less homophobic.

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My Hopes for Early Learners & Their Families

Image result for families with disabilities

I have learned a substantial amount of information and lessons regarding how to create an anti-bias learning environment and how to implement strategies for working with diverse families. The deepened lessons learned had more to do with how to best communicate, intervene, teach, and create a warm diverse anti-bias learning setting. From respectfully making diverse families visible in the classroom, to supporting all children’s families in a positive manner, it is important that we convey the message that all are welcome, all are appreciated, all are accepted, and are all valued in our safe learning environments.

Image result for lgbt familiesMy Hopes for early learners, their families, and their learning experiences.

Image result for multiracial familiesI hope that educators, help children build self-awareness, positive identities, and family pride. I  wish that educators are able to broaden children’s knowledge of diversity by ensuring that they learn how they are similar to other children and how they are different from others as well as how to respect those differences. I hope that educators can teach children to recognize what is unfair and have the skills to stand up for others and themselves. I hope to see early learners dispell stereotypes learned by messages in the media and society through acts of kindness, knowledge of self-identity, acceptance of diversity, and skills to stand up to injustice (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

 

Image result for multiracial familiesMy biggest hope is that ALL early childhood educators and professionals have the opportunity to gain knowledge of how to implement an anti-bias curriculum and how to create an anti-bias environment.  I would like to thank my colleagues and Dr. Maria Meyers for allowing great discussions to develop and evolve, for their great ideas, and for sharing their valuable perspectives, experiences, and insights. I believe each colleague shed light on different aspects of the topics studied. Thank you.

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The Sexualization of Early Childhood

Image result for sexualization of toysMessages about sex are everywhere, in music, animation, fashion, magazines, movies, video games, and television. Children in our popular culture are inundated with inappropriate images and messages of sex Levin & Kilbourne (2009). Through these messages, children learn the wrong messages about body image, beauty, and gender roles. Children are inundated with so many messages and images of sex that they associate sex with relationships and miss the most important parts that make-up a good relationship like compromise, trust, love, and communication. These values are not learned as primary elements of romantic relationships. According to Levin & Kilbourne (2009), girls more than boys are affected by these sexualized messages. In general, “the exploitation of our children’s sexuality is in many ways designed to promote consumerism. (p.5).

Related imageFor decades, Disney princesses have been sexualized. They are portrayed with very small waists, big busts, and make-up. The princess movies and story-lines have been exclusively themed around romance, marriage, and finding the perfect man even though the princesses are very young, some in their teens. Just as disturbing are the look-alike toys that also promote a warped send of beauty and body image for girls.

In my experience music is very influential and contributes to the sexualization in children.  My niece was singing this Spanish song which is well known in pop culture called “Despacito”. Her idol Justin Bieber is in the remix (newest) version of this song. She was watching the music video and was moving her body very sensual manner emulating dance moves she saw on the video (although she is only just 6 years old). After asking mom (who does not speak Spanish) if she knew what this song meant and mom replied “no”.  I translated the lyrics for mom and she realized how detrimentally sexual the song was. Here are some of the lyrics in English:

Despacito: Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr_GAJZviR0

Nice and slow
I want to undress by extra slow kisses
Sign on the walls of your labyrinth
And make your whole body a manuscript (get up, get up, get up)

Let me surpass your danger zones
Until bringing on your screams
And that you forget your last name.

Mom then sat down and explain to her daughter that this song was conveying a message that was meant for adults and not appropriate for young children. She didn’t really go into details but did say that she was not allowed to listen to the song again. Mom then understood the awakening of sexuality that her daughter could be internalizing.

I agree with Levin & Kilbourne (2009), that we must protect our children from a sexualized childhood. Although I was aware of sexualization in children, I never knew how many layers and different outlets convey the same messages. As early childhood educators, we must also be aware and able to deal with children who have been exposed to sexualization and expressing these messages. Educators should be equipped to help children and families.

 

 

 

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Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

In order to do anti-bias work, we must first look within ourselves and reflect on our experiences and attitudes toward diverse groups (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). As children many of the view we have of people and diverse cultures are the ones that have influenced us. As a child who lived in poverty experienced racism and classism it seems that in my past I have carried scars that will always stay with me. However, as an adult and early childhood educator, it is important for me to reflect and acknowledge them taking pains to accept what has happened to me and to vow to fight so that others do not have to live those experiences.

Experiencing “isms” like ablism can really impact an educator’s professional practice. I currently have one nephew who was born without a lower arm. As an educator, I am driven to read many books on ableism, physical differences, differences in general so make others aware. I also am passionate about ensuring that children are exposed to ablism so that they are able to accept and not point out with someone is different because of varied abilities. On a negative viewpoint, I can be very sensitive when children are singling out other children with varied abilities but I have learned to address it in a matter-of-fact approach and be for informative than reactionary. Hopefully, this will continue to evolve and change so as to help others learn about children with varied abilities.

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Observing Communication

Upon observing communication between a young child and their babysitter in an indoor child entertainment facility, I realized that the babysitter was loving to the child through her display of non-verbal communication with the child. The Babysitter did hug and show social-emotional support to the child but did not talk to the child much or explain games to the child when the child felt frustrated. Most of the time the babysitter talk at the child giving the child no opportunity for input or conversation.

To make communication more effective the babysitter should have bent down and lowered herself to the eye level of the child. In addition, she should have asked the child questions and explained to the child the way that the games worked so that the child could confidently partake in the games. Furthermore, the babysitter could have played and interacted with the child instead of playing on her phone.

Because of lack of interaction and explanation on the part of the babysitter, the child was visibly frustrated and began to disengage from all interaction with her and the activities at the indoor facility.

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Creating Diverse Learning Environments

Image result for diverse classroomCreating a physical learning environment which conveys a strong positive message to the children and families in your class that they are welcome, accepted, and essential is crucial to partnering with families and ensuring that children feel safe and comfortable. Besides the critical elements of connecting with families and building positive relationships with the children and families in your class, it is equally vital to ensure that the environment created in the classroom contains visuals and materials that reflect an anti-bias ambiance which is consistent with the cultures of the families in your class.

According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), children begin to reflect the stereotypes and attitudes (negative and positive) of social discourse regarding various cultural groups. Preschool children whose classroom environment does not reflect their home environment can start to feel invisible, which can lead to cultural discontinuance. Cultural discontinuance can manifest in a variety of ways in children, from children not wanting to speak their home language to children abandoning their culture in order to adopt the dominant culture’s ways of living and being.

Arranging an effective anti-bias environment with strong cultural consistency that reflects the children and families in my class would involve ensuring that the cultures of the families and children are visible and celebrated in various parts of my classroom. Creating a family tree with pictures of all the families in my classroom would ensure that all the different families and children are represented and visible. Creating a home-like feeling of artifacts from the homes of the children could help them transition from home to school. Adriana Castillo had sort of a calm transitional room where children could sit, relax, lie down, and even play. The room had soft lighting, music, big pillows, soft surfaces for naps, and favorite books (Laureate Education, 2011). I thought this concept to be a great idea and would like to take it a step further with asking parents to donate soft artifacts like blankets and cultural books that they have at home to make it more culturally consistent.

In addition to reflecting cultural artifacts, family pictures as well as photos that reflect the cultures in the classroom, I would also add photographs and books that reflect other cultural groups in the community (e.g., people with disabilities, ages, genders, races, religions, diverse family structures, and economic groups). Derman-Sparks & Ewards (2010) suggests that children should be able to learn about diversity beyond their own culture and identity.  However, I would be careful not to post or have images of tokenism. Tokenism can occur when for example a teacher purchases one black doll and places them among numerous white dolls or when a teacher does a study or unit on a specific culture or group of people then never presents or refers to them again almost as if these cultural groups are not the norm of the classroom community. Briefly studying a cultural group conveys to children from that culture that they are not considered the norm in the classroom or community and that their culture is not important enough to ever mention again.

Moreover, I would also infuse books, music, dolls, dramatic play props, that reflect the diversity of the community and the classroom families. Most importantly, I would ensure that children are corrected when they reflect learned stereotypes by educating and helping them identify stereotypes using persona dolls. Persona dolls should reflect the diversity and culture of the children in the classroom, but most importantly persona dolls should communicate the different social problems and stereotypes, prejudice and “isms” that children in the classroom reflect. Teaching anti-bias and social justice will help children see how “isms” and stereotypes affect and hurt other people and promote acceptance of cultural differences (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

In conclusion, selecting learning materials in the classroom that help promote anti-bias education will always be an on-going process because it will have to reflect the new groups of families and children that enter your class from year to year. Asking parents to donate artifacts, or present them during units of study can build trust and positive community in your class.

References:

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen, Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Building on children’s strengths. Baltimore, MD: Author

Creating a physical learning environment which conveys a strong positive message to the children and families in your class that they are welcome, accepted, and important is crucial to partnering with families and ensuring that children feel safe and comfortable. Besides the important elements of connecting with families and building positive relationships with the children and families in your class, it is equally vital to ensure that the environment created in the classroom contains visuals and materials that reflect an anti-bias ambiance which is consistent with the cultures of the families in your classroom.

According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), children begin to reflect the stereotypes and attitudes (negative and positive) of social discourse regarding various cultural groups. In addition, preschool children whose classroom environment does not reflect their home environment can start to feel invisible which can lead to cultural discontinuance. Cultural discontinuance can manifest in a variety of ways in children, from children not wanting to speak their home language to children abandoning their culture in order to adopt the dominant culture’s ways of living and being.

Related imageArranging an effective anti-bias environment with strong cultural consistency that reflects the children and families in my class would involve ensuring that the cultures of the families and children are various parts of my classroom. Creating a family tree with pictures of all the families in my classroom would ensure that all the different families and children are represented and visible. Creating a home-like feeling of artifacts from the homes of the children could help them transition from home to school. Adriana Castillo had sort of a calm transitional room where children could sit, relax, lie down and even play. The room had soft lighting, music, big pillows, soft surfaces for naps, and favorite books (Laureate Education, 2011). I thought this concept to be a great idea and would like to take it a step further with asking parents to donate soft artifacts like blankets and cultural books that they have at home to make it more culturally consistent.

Related imageIn addition to reflecting cultural artifacts, family pictures as well as pictures that reflect the cultures in the classroom, I would also add pictures and books that reflect other cultural groups in the community (e.g., people with disabilities, ages, genders, races, religions, diverse family structures, and economic groups). Derman-Sparks & Ewards (2010) suggests that children should be able to learn about diversity beyond their own culture and identity.  However, I would be careful to not post or have images of tokenism. Tokenism can occur when for example a teacher purchases one black doll and places them among numerous white dolls or when a teacher does a study or unit on a culture or people then never presents or refers to them again almost as if these cultural groups are not the norm of the classroom community. This conveys to children from that culture that they are not considered the norm in the classroom or community.

Moreover, I would also infuse books, music, dolls, dramatic play props, that reflect the diversity of the community and the classroom families. Most importantly, I would ensure that children are corrected when they reflect learned stereotypes by educating and helping them identify stereotypes using persona dolls. Persona dolls should reflect the diversity and culture of the children in the classroom but most importantly persona dolls should communicate the different social problems and stereotypes, prejudice and “isms” that children in the classroom reflect. This will help children see how isms and stereotypes affect and hurt other people and teach acceptance of differences and cultural awareness (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

In conclusion, selecting learning materials in the classroom that help promote anti-bias education will always be an on-going process because it will have to reflect the new groups of families and children that enter your class from year to year. Asking parents to donate artifacts, or present them during units of study can build trust and positive community in your class.

References:

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Building on children’s strengths. Baltimore, MD: Author

 

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Giving Gratitude and Thanks to my Fellow Early Childhood Colleagues

I would like to state that communication is the most important mode of interaction that human beings possess with one another. It can solve wars, diffuse conflict, and convey love for humanity. However, as early childhood educators it is our duty to model the best possible communication strategies that we can to promote nonviolent communication in our schools, students, communities, and families. In addition, as professionals we must continue to reflect and grow as communicators and accept that this part of interaction with others is always on ongoing opportunity for growth.

I thank my colleagues for sharing their experiences, strategies, perspectives, and insights into the subject of communication. I have learned more in communication within this class than I have learned in my entire life as a life-long learner and early childhood professional. My hope is that we as educators internalize and utilized what we have learned from this course and from each other and pay it forward in order to spread the knowledge and skills we have learned.