Deborah discusses her workshop ahead of the 3rd
National Gender in Early Years Conference...
This workshop will look at practical ways to create a positive environment for children, parents and carers and practitioners when thinking about sexuality and gender and how it is reflected in an early years setting. There will also be resources from Working with Others to take away.
Gender is socially constructed and children learn messages about gender from a very early age. In a fair society it would then follow that early years practitioners would be revered, respected and showered with accolades for all the important and significant work that they do in laying the foundations for children learning about themselves and the world around them.
As we know that’s not (always) the case and some early years ‘care’ is regarded as just that – childcare and babysitting. The wages paid to early years practitioners also reflect that status.
As such it is perceived as ‘natural’ women’s work in the same way that children are seen as being ‘naturally’ boys or girls – and by the way why do we always say ‘boys and girls’ instead of ‘girls and boys’? This feminised view of early years can discourage men from entering into it as a viable and respected profession.
‘Strange choice of job for a man’ was a comment I often heard when I was talking to parents of children in early years settings. As Local Authority Inspector in the early 90’s part of my role was to resolve complaints and I found that parents and carers sometimes viewed men in childcare with suspicion and were more likely to complain about their actions.
Helping early years practitioners establish and explore notions of gender with young children is important and challenging work and I think that it’s important for settings to make space to do this and not assume that it will ‘naturally’ occur.
Having a range of activities that specifically support this work as a base line for good practice is a starting point. Getting staff teams to take part before they are launched with children is imperative.
This good practice can only take place within a cohesive and motivated staff team. Having time as a team to talk about personal reactions to notions of gender as a construction in an atmosphere of trust and knowledge that there is no ‘saying the wrong thing’ is a good underpinning starting point.
Ultimately, how can we ask of children what we will not explore as adults?
Deborah Price works as a lecturer and trainer for The Open University and Working with Others. During her career she has worked as a lecturer in early years in higher and further education, an Ofsted inspector, playworker, primary teacher and youth worker.
She has co written four books: on leadership, LGBT awareness, gender awareness and assertion techniques – all based in early years practice and published by Routledge. Most recently she has written ‘A Practical Guide to Gender Diversity and Sexuality in the Early Years’ published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
BMIEY are a city wide network of men and women who work with children aged from birth to seven. Consisting of Early Years Practitioners, Teachers, Head Teachers, Governors, Childminders and Family Support Workers.They meet four times a year to share experiences and ideas as well as talk about current research and issues. Get involved with our next network meeting here.
The Third National Men in Early Years Conference, will take place Tuesday 10th July 2018 at City Hall, Bristol. Tickets here.