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Bending gender

Third graders think about stereotypes and how to defy them
Thursday, February 16, 2017
 
Third graders have invited everyone at Gordon to think about how to defy gender stereotypes.
 
 


For this lesson, students each wrote extended reflections on how they fit - or don’t fit - the gender norms that they encounter every day.
 
 


Then they opened the question to the entire school, inviting everyone to post their own “gender benders” in the hallway.
 
 
 


The third graders have been following the contributions closely.
 
 

One unexpected result: it seems to be easier for females to find ways to defy stereotypes.
 
 


Is that because the stereotypes around females are more constricting, so that girls can’t avoid “bending” them all of the time?
 
 


Or is it because the stereotypes around males are more constricting, so that there are only a few ways for boys to “bend”?
 
 


The class continues to discuss this question, and others, as the data continues to come in.
 
 

Students and adults are all welcome to contribute their own gender benders to the wall in the third grade hallway, between the fishtank and the theater, through next week.
 
 
 
 

Defying gender norms in Middle School

Gender norms are a hot topic at every age level. Here are two snapshots of gender bending in the Middle School this week:
 

above: fifth and sixth grade teacher Susan Reenan was photographed at Gordon with her husband for a profile in Sunday’s Providence Journal.

Susan Reenan, fifth and sixth grade humanities teacher, recently became the first female from Rhode Island to hike the forty-six tallest Adirondack peaks in the winter.
 
She’s not your stereotypical mountain climber by any estimation: she climbed her first mountain at age forty.
 
That was five years ago, and, since then, all of her students have heard about her adventures as she has tried to achieve her goal of climbing the Adirondack forty-six - and the fifty-four tallest Colorado peaks as well.
 




above: Tom Gleadow, who played Edna Turnblad in the Theater by the Sea’s 2011 production of Hairspray, came to Gordon on Tuesday to talk with students about the role and help choreograph Edna’s duet with her husband.

The Middle School musical, Hairspray, raises issues of gender on a number of levels.
 
One of the female leads, Edna Turnblad, is traditionally played by a male in drag.
 
As one of Gordon’s eighth grade boys prepares for the role, the casting has led to interesting conversations about irony, camp, female impersonation, and the difference between cross-dressing for laughs and dressing in drag.
 
These would be tricky topics for most adults; for Gordon’s Middle School students, they're just one element in a demanding, ambitious production bursting with energy and music.
 
Hairspray opens next Wednesday at 6:30pm

 

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