A group of kindergartners are given generic outlines of people depicting careers — firefighters, pilots, police officers, doctors — and asked to name the figures.
Would you be surprised to learn that overwhelmingly the students chose boys' names?
By kindergarten gender expectations are often already in place, but they don’t have to stay set in place.
“Gender Equity in Elementary Schools” is a new book by longtime Mount Kisco resident Dorothy Chiffriller Venditto, who taught in the Bedford School District for 15 years and recently retired.
Her interest in gender equity began about 10 years ago when she was pursuing additional certification and needed to videotape her classroom.
“Watching the children,” recalled Venditto, “it became clear that gender was influencing their interactions and my interactions with them. It inspired me to study how early in their lives this begins.”
Venditto was an enrichment and remediation teacher, covering grades K through 5, and was able to bring in gender-role discussions into her classroom in a way both emotionally safe and respectful of other cultures and traditions. She also started workshops for her fellow teachers on gender equity.
... it became clear that gender was influencing their interactions and my interactions with them."
“I created professional development lessons. There’s nothing taught to educators about how your gender impacts how you feel about yourself, about how you might learn, how you might interact with a teacher,” said Venditto. “I was very lucky my school and district encouraged you to do things for which you have a passion and can substantiate a reason.”
Venditto was also lucky that she received no pushback from school officials or parents, although she initially expected to hear from moms and dads who might have more traditional views.
One of the things Venditto did in her curriculum was invite speakers in nontraditional gender careers just for pure exposure.
While the book is written predominantly for educators, Venditto feels parents can benefit as well.
“I think I started this book thinking it would be focused on girls and how girls are minimized because of gender roles,” said Veneditto. “But the more I looked as some of the results from my own classes and the research that has been done, I saw that gender roles are damaging for both girls and boys.
"It limits boys emotionally and their ability to communicate while limiting girls in their accomplishments. It’s heartbreaking when you see it in a five-year-old.
“I believe in equity. I don’t believe in roles — I believe in opportunities for everyone.”
"Gender Equity in Elementary Schools" was released Saturday, Sept. 12 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.