“Stereotypes shrink your brain!”

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In preparation for Pink Shirt Day, we have been having discussions about bullying, stereotypes and how cruel and ignorant people can be. These discussions have  been inspired by many picture books that have helped us understand and explore stereotypes – particularly gender stereotypes. Over the past two days we have been making pink day collages based in part on Henri Matisse‘s collages. We have also been writing banners that question stereotypes.

The overall effect posted up on our hallway bulletin board is very powerful!

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Some girls really wanted to point out that generalizations about girls did NOT apply to them! Carmen explains that she doesn’t like wearing dresses or skirts!

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Catriona is also very clear:

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Boys also wanted people to understand that there shouldn’t be stereoptypes based on their gender. Sergio‘s words are powerful.

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Isa always sees the beauty in the natural world that many of us miss. His statement is an important one!

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Deandra reminds us that it is never too early to talk about our appearance and question the value we put on it. None of us have to be perfect but it is certainly sad when girls feel that pressure to look a certain way because they’re supposed to be “pretty.”

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These pieces were inspired by three great stories we read and talked about today.

William’s Doll by Charolette Zolotow. Illustrated by William Pene Du Bois.

William really wants a doll. His Dad thinks he should have a basketball. The boy next door calls him a “sissy” and his brother thinks he’s a creep. But William desperately wants a doll to care for and love. When Grandma comes to visit, she understands. She buys William a doll and makes his father understand that he is thinking of the whole thing in a limited way. William wants a doll to love, but also to “play” at being a father – learning to do all of the things he will need to do one day for his own child. Such a lovely timeless story that shakes up the stereotype that dolls are just for girls!

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

Everyone in Oliver’s life seems to struggle with the fact that he wants to dance instead of doing boy things like “. . . any kind of ball!” The boys from school are particularly cruel, writing hurtful things on the wall at school.

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Oliver never gives up his passion and shows everyone, even those boys, that someone who is true to themselves is a real star!

The Only Boy in Ballet Class by Denise Gruska and illustrated by Amy Wummer is a more recently published book addressing the same theme.

Tucker loves to dance. Lives to dance. Dances through life! This should be something to celebrate but of course the boys his age tease him for being different. His Uncle Frank is convinced he should be playing football. When Tucker is approached by the boys to be on the team for the championship game because they must have one more player, his Uncle agrees for him. Tucker manages to bring the team to victory by using his dance agility and grace to avoid being tackled. What is great about this book is that it doesn’t end here. The next page shows Tucker walking to his dance studio door and finding a pile of running shoes. The football boys who teased him have realized that ballet moves are pretty awesome and have come to join his class. Ballet becomes something cool and not stereotypically just a girl’s thing!

Our discussions were fantastic today. A few more important points:

* The title of this post was inspired by Catriona who wrote, “Your brain shrinks when you do steroetypes.”

*We had a very interesting conversation about why lego would market pink lego when girls already like lego!? They’ll like pink lego more? What’s with that?

*We did talk about why each of the books we read today featured a boy character being teased for doing a so called “girl” thing. What about girls who do “boy” things? Great question and on our “to read” pile tomorrow is Princess Knight but . . . It does seem that often girls liking/doing “boy” things is more generally tolerated than boys liking/doing “girl” things.

*The great thing I noticed? Stereotypes are not ingrained in these children’s brains like they were when I was a child! “Of course boys can dance,” they would comment easily. “Boys can like dolls and girls don’t have to! It’s just who you are!” Yes, we need to explore stereotypes. Yes, we need to talk about how ignorance leads to cruelty/bullying. But we can also be grateful that these children don’t just celebrate diversity. Diversity is, for the most part, what they know and expect.  Hoorah!

2 thoughts on ““Stereotypes shrink your brain!”

  1. Ms. Gelson, I love reading your posts – you choose such excellent books. I love the Pink Day activities you’ve done with your students and the statements they wrote about themselves.

  2. Pingback: My Picture Book 10 for 10 for 2013 | There's a Book for That

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