When I was growing up the saying, “Boys will be boys” was heard regularly. Boys built with blocks and girls played with dolls. It was a rare occurrence in my Kindergarten class to see girls breaking out of these gender stereotypes. But here at The Park School, we realize the importance of breaking through gender roles and gender expectations. Recently, one Lower Division teacher decided that she needed to try something new in her classroom after the boys had regularly been dominating the block area in her classroom. She gathered her students on the rug and made an announcement to the class. The block area would be closed to boys for the week, and only the girls would be allowed to use the blocks. The girls responded with a joyful cheer and the boys sat devastated. One boy just shook his head and said over and over again, “What am I going to do?” The girls quickly dispersed moving towards the block area. They began to build castles, animal shelters, and hotels. Many of the boys sat and wondered what now? The teacher offered a variety of other classroom activities, and she waited. Slowly the boys headed to different activities some begrudgingly, others with curiosity, and others with enthusiasm for trying something new.
When I returned the next day to see what was happening in the classroom, I was amazed by the change in the class dynamic. The boys were painting with watercolors, some were researching favorite animals, others were playing checkers, and the block area was crowded with girls building and designing. When the students were later asked how they felt about the change they responded with comments like;
“It felt great! I have never spent so much time in the block area, and I got to build lots of buildings!”
“It felt weird and different at first at first but not now.”
“At first, I felt mad and then I liked coloring and drawing superheroes.”
“At first, I didn’t want to make the change, and now I love it!”
I love working at a school where teachers aren’t afraid to push kids to try new things, break away from gender roles, and help children discover new interests. One of the boys who was most upset with the change has now started a superhero movement in his class. I look forward to seeing and hearing about all the other ideas that grow from a teacher’s desire to disrupt the notion that “boys will be boys.”