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Teaching and Pink Rabbits

About Amy:

I am a newly qualified teacher from London. I came to teaching after a decade of working in university bookshops after completing a degree in English Literature. My motivation for teaching comes from my love of reading and continuous learning; something I want to pass on to others.

Out of the classroom, I love nothing more than a nice long walk. It is vital that we take notice of the little things around us, otherwise life is very boring.

Pink Rabbits

I am reading Natasha Walters’ Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. The book among other topics, looks at the increasing polarisation between the expectations, aspirations and general trappings of the two sexes and from a shockingly early age. Pink fluffy stuff for girls and a myriad of exciting adventure toys for boys. Yes, there are adventure heroines for girls too, but they are usually defined by strong social skills, good clothes and a feistiness that suggests a maturity associated with much older children. Who can imagine a female Harry Potter; complete with NHS glasses and a scar?

Natasha Walters quotes a whole raft of “scientific” study and popular literature that suggests that girls are expected to learn nurturing and sophisticated social skills and boys to negotiate their surroundings from a more individualistic approach. Now, I am sure that whatever your stance on gender politics, the thought that such clear lines are defined at such a young age, is quite alarming. I myself went to school in the early 1980’s, when gender specific toys for very small children were largely seen as a hangover from a less enlightened age. Today even Lego comes in a specially marketed variety for girls.

On a recent Friday morning, I taught an RE lesson in a year 1 class (I might have to write another blog about how I always seem to be teaching RE!). The topic was prayer and the children represented a variety of faiths. We started by discussing the things we might like to say to God: Thanking for family, friends and food, saying sorry for bad things we have done and finally, asking for things that will make us better people. The children wrote these down on a cloud-shaped piece of paper and decorated them appropriately.

Going around the class to check, help and mark, I was delighted that most of the children were writing about how grateful they were for their parents and how sorry they were for fighting with their siblings. One child actually said he would ask God to make him better at sharing toys with his brother! Generally I was relieved that the children were not writing Santa lists for material possessions, though pets were asked for a lot. One boy said he wanted to ask God for a cat, another thanked God for making dogs.

 I reached the last table of children; a group of relatively high-achieving girls, one of whom was particularly dominant. Her prayer read: “Thank you God for my mum and dad, please can I have a pink fluffy bunny?” I went on to read the wishes of her peers, most of who had added pink fluffy bunnies to their work. As I read the last girl’s work; beautifully decorated, I was instantly reminded of Natasha Walters: “I would like a pup pink fluffy bunny.”

This girl had clearly wanted a puppy more than anything, but as the rest of her more dominant peers followed their leader, she was compelled to discard her non-gender specific wish and replace it with the more sophisticated-sounding pink pet. Is there such a thing as a pink fluffy bunny?

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Tags: AmyC, Primary Teacher, Supply Teacher, NQT, Teach in London, Gender roles, Toys, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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