Gender Lesson: For Schools

I created this “gender lesson” for teachers to present in schools based on the needs of gender nonconforming children I see in my private practice and those I read about online. Please share with any and all classrooms/teachers! Below is the lesson, and following that will be a PDF with the lesson and a list of “expectations” that can be posted in the classroom.

This lesson was created in particular for those teachers who have gender nonconforming children in their classrooms. However, it is my belief that this curriculum is needed in ALL classrooms, to change society’s stereotypes, reduce stigmatization of children, decrease bullying, and increase acceptance of each other.

This lesson is to be presented at the very beginning of the school year to set standards of expectations for behavior, and can be reviewed as needed throughout the school year. It should be appropriate for grades K-5; please modify as needed. Role plays are included at the end of the lesson for comprehension reinforcement. Give the child the scenario and have them attempt the correct response first; give suggestions as needed. Lastly, please hang the attached rules in your classroom as a reminder of the acceptance that is expected.

For a very long time, people have been separating things into what girls like and what boys like. A lot of people think these things are very different, and call them “boy things” and “girl things”. Have YOU noticed that?

What are some things some people might say are “girl things” or “boy things”?  What might some people say are “girl toys” and “boy toys”?

The truth is, all children get to pick what they like, and everyone likes different things.  Repeat after me: There is no such thing as a “boy thing” or a “girl thing”. Some kids are boys who like things that other people think are for girls. Some kids are girls who like things that other people think are for boys. It can hurt their feelings if you or someone else says something to them about it, or acts like there are rules about how someone should be. That would be like saying only girls can eat ice cream, and only boys can eat jelly beans!! That would just be SILLY! Sweets and treats are to be enjoyed by everyone, just like most things in life. 🙂

Are there certain colors that some people think only girls like and colors that only boys like? Most people think girls like pink and purple, which is ok, but it’s silly to think that ONLY girls like pink and purple! There are plenty of boys out there who like pink and purple, too. Lots of people think only boys can like blue! Girls can like blue, too. All the colors of the rainbow are for everyone, and it’s fun that we all get to pick our favorite. You don’t want anyone telling YOU what your favorite color should be, do you??

Some people also have very strong ideas about how boys and girls should look and dress. Is it ok for some girls to have short hair, and some boys to have long hair? Of course it is!  How someone chooses to dress is up to them, too. Some girls wear skirts and dresses, and some girls wear shorts and pants. Some boys wear shorts and pants, and some boys wear skirts and dresses.  This may surprise some people, but it certainly isn’t wrong.

How someone dresses and wears their hair is a part of their “style”. Everyone’s style is different! What if everyone were to dress and look exactly alike? BOR-ING!  The next time you see someone who wears their hair a little different than you expected or is wearing something that surprises you, be kind and say, “I like your style”.

How wonderful would it be to have a classroom (or a WORLD) where kids just get to like what they like? Are you ready to help create a world like that?

One of the most important things to remember is to be KIND to one another. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were the other person. Be sure to avoid saying anything that would hurt someone else’s feelings. If you can see another kid likes something, don’t tell them why they shouldn’t. Remind yourself, “different people like different things”, “it’s OK to be different”, and “I am accepting of others”.

If you hear someone telling another kid there are rules about how to play, how to be, or how to dress, stand up for them! Remember, you are helping create a world that is more accepting. Nicely tell the other person what you have learned from this lesson. You can say something like this:

“That’s their style, and I like it.”

“Anyone can play with anything.”

“Everyone is different. Different people like different things.”

“Please don’t tease my friend. I like him/her just the way he/she is.”



All toys are for all children.

Colors are for everyone.

People are different, and everyone likes different things.

Everyone gets to pick how they wear their hair.

Everyone gets to pick the way they dress.

Everyone gets to pick their own style.

Role Plays:

Act out the RIGHT way to handle the following situations:

You are playing house, and a girl wants to be the dad.

You hear someone teasing a boy about wearing a skirt.

A group of boys playing soccer tells a girl, “You can’t play! No girls allowed!”

You’re having a tea party and a boy wants to join in.

You see a girl getting teased for having short hair.

You see a boy wearing a pink backpack.

In Our Classroom…

We are kind to each other.

All toys are for all children.

Colors are for everyone.

Everyone gets to pick their own style.

Being different is OK.

We stand up for others.


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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Education is the key, yes? With the help of teachers and parents, the next generation has the opportunity to grow up with greater awareness and acceptance.

    PS This is great stuff. You should really blog more often… 😉

  2. I am in a University Class Womens Studies course called Gender in Society. I will be adding information and taking information with this. I Will make a great report for others to read. -Kei

  3. Reblogged this on Raising My Rainbow and commented:
    Two or three days ago I read a “gender lesson” created by Darlene Tando, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, for teachers to present in schools based on the needs of gender nonconforming children. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this lesson and what an excellent tool it is for teachers, so I’ve reblogged it here with Tando’s permission. I can’t even explain to you how happy I would be if every teacher at C.J.’s school gave this lesson to their students during the first week or two of school. (BTW, there’s a PDF at the end for easy printing, sharing and posting.)

  4. Thank you, thank you! This is wonderful. As a leader and volunteer with kids, I am going to try to use this any way I can. I think some adults need this lesson, too!

  5. Wow, wish I had this last year for my son’s first grade teacher. I love the rules at the end! I will share this with our school’s guidance counsellor.

  6. It is so nice to see this. It is so appropriate for all aspects- as you so smartly point out. Great just great.

  7. Hello! I just clicked over from C.J.’s Mom’s blog (Raising My Rainbow) and I just wanted to tell you that reading this has made my day. 🙂 As a “gender-non-conforming” woman myself, I can truly say that I wish more people had looked at these things this way, back when I was a child. Kudos for writing this entry! 🙂

  8. I left this comment on RMR, and just wanted to repost it here for others to review:

    That was a really really good basic lesson for that intended audience. That would be a great start as the kids enter the JHS experience, they would probably be subconciously aware at least of “style”, that which is both in personal expression or behavior, and would be expected then to have less chance of bullying behaviors, at least around and about of personal expression.

    I’ve said before, we are all odd ducks in our own ways, from children to the elderly and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of us as a result. It’s just being different. I think if we can at least get through to people that there are few things in the world that are truly boy things or girl things, and certainly color and clothing aren’t in that grouping, that will go along way in and of itself.

    People may disagree with me, but I don’t agree that saying, in the response area of her lesson, that “that’s their style, and I like it” in response to other’s teasing of their friend, because syle is a personal thing, and one has to have the ability to have the right to like or not like something. If you do like it then say so, and if you don’t you should be free to say that too. It does not however give anyone who doesn’t like it to bully, laugh, threaten or anything else the right to do anything beyond saying they don’t care for it. I’m sure that’s the message in her lesson there, but I think promotion of freedom of speech, and/or thought, and freedom of expression go hand in hand. Denial of one is not freedom, in in the face of political correctness. It’s a matter of treating everyone with dignity.

    As a therapist also dealing with these issues, in adults and children, I’m the happiest when I can get through to friends and family of the client that there is no such thing as boy or girl things, or activities, there is only likes and dislikes. Thaat advertising and the media is the one who has demarcated that, and they did it for their own benefit, not yours. When they finally really grasp that concept you see a whole shift in their face, and a huge shift in their attitude toward the individual. That’s the fun part for me.

    • Great response and I agree with you on your above point regarding “that’s their style and I like it”.

  9. A beautiful lesson. And you’re right – it shouldn’t just be applied in classrooms with gender nonconforming children. Tolerance should be a lesson to all in their early years.

  10. That is fabulous and I agree, it should be taught to all classes whether or not anyone knows or thinks they have a gender non-conforming child in their class.
    Thank you for presenting this. I only wish I were still teaching and could use it in class. I will pass it on. 🙂

  11. Thank you for posting this. I am transgender and when I was a kid, I didn’t know how to tell my parents or my teachers. I remember well the pain of being told, “You can’t have that–it’s for boys” and being excluded from “boys only” games on the playground. This is a wonderful resource to help future generations avoid the type of pain I suffered as a child. I’m reblogging this and sharing it on my Facebook page.

  12. Reblogged this on SJA-Advocacy: A Personal Companion and commented:
    This post is a reblog of a wonderful resource for elementary school teachers. Parents may find it helpful too.

  13. This is a great start, but it is still very binary. It seems to indicate that there are just “girls” and “boys” who can play and dress how they want, without addressing that not everyone is a girl or a boy, or that gender can be fluid. With some tweaking, this could be far more inclusive of other gender non-conforming children.

  14. And you’ll get fired, the cynic in me says, for daring to say that “non-normal” sexualities and expressions therein are ok.

  15. What I want to know is what and who decided for this culture what is normative and atypical behavior? Is it cast in stone? is it truth with a capital T. hardly. It is a collective brainwashing that boys do this, girls do that and never the twain shall, (or even should) meet.

    I propose this is a media and advertising concoctment that we all have seemed to buy into. I for one do not, and have not ever, believed in boy things or girl things, I just see things as likes and dislikes. If it were true that there are boy things and girl things, in activities, behaviors or anything else, then Danica Patrick would not be a race car driver, no girl would be allowed, nor should she want to play baseball, only softball at best for her, and don’t even think of her wearing boy clothes. She would be at home, in a dress or skirt, and only be the nurturing family head.

    The feminist movement turned that archaic notion on its’ collective head by the late 1960’s. Somehow though it didn’t get through to boys or men, nor even most women who wanted it both ways-they want the freedom to do what they please yet any intrusion on their preconceived world order by the masculine branch is met with derision and scorn as not being manly. What the heck does that mean?

    As an Adlerian therapist, one of my questions to patients is what does it mean to you to be a man or woman etc. The answers I get are generally written out of a movie script. that’s nonsense too, as that tells me they’re on autopilot.

    What, a boy (man) couldn’t defend his family with ferocity if he wore a skirt whilst doing that? That
    would imply that girls who wore skirts couldn’t either, Obviously the skirt is the common denominator. Or he can’t wear nailpolish because he simply likes color, but if he does he’s emasculated??? Makes no sense whatsoever.

    What is wrong with a boy being sensitive? Is there then nothing wrong for a girl to be aggressive and competitive? That I have to even ask the question is disrespectful to the individual. Boys can be sensitive, they can like color and beauty and wartoys, and dolls and a zillion other things that they like. Girls can be coquettish, and go to war, and run companies, and nurture little babies as to whatever they like, and they, as well as the boys can dislike ny number of things equally as well. But what does need to be emphasized is that nothing the individual does, because that’s who they are, or what they like should be chastised or even applauded based on gender normative stereotype, because the stereotype is misguided at best.

    • It’s easy, the majority as usual.

      • indeed the simple answer given. It’s deeper than that, than just majority rule

      • I would argue more about this but I’m not a learned person, other than the school of hard knocks. But I’m sure we’d touch upon things like group dynamics and peer pressure and the vocal minority..

  16. Wow, this is so inspirational, i have always stressed on gender neutral upbringing for children.

  17. I believe you’re far too modest, bearfoot. peer pressure indeed. My biggest laugh comes from the world of youth, that insists on the wonderfulness of being different, yet they all look different the same way. They all express individually, yet one is a clone of the other. if anyone dares to show up different than their collective individual expression, then those individual expressionistas get picked on and bullied, notwithstanding issues about gender conformance.

    I suspect there’s the herd mentality of not standing out to protect the species, the bullies then become the predators of the herd, taking the place of sabre tooth tigers in the unconscious memory. The advertisers are keen implentation managers of psychology and use this then to further their own aims, and the cycle goes on and on.

    • I am unique, just like everyone else. I know how that goes.

      And I think it’s more that at the very core we are all herd animals, so to speak. We all feel like we need to belong to some sort of group. Just like we feel the need to have someone to look down upon. We do want to be unique and fit in at the same time.

      As to the kind words, thank you. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, that’s all I’m saying. If I did I’d write a book and make a billion.. 🙂

      All I know is that I grew up male in a predominately female household with no real male role-models. I know I’ve dealt with gender issues and how they effect people on a very personal experience. I’m 36, male and I still have my cabbage patch kid after all. 😀

      • feel free to ask about my experiences, by the way. I am a very open person.

  18. Reblogged this on Your Info Linc.

  19. I love this. I wish there had been something like this when I was in school. I chopped all my hair off in fourth grade and was teased mercilessly for the next four years (I kept it short) until I went to a different high school than most of the kids in my elementary and junior high schools. I was literally the least popular person in my school and got called every ugly gay slur you could think of. I’m thankful for it now (on my best days), because it has made me a more compassionate and stronger person, but at the time it was really hard. I hope that CJ doesn’t have it that rough, but when he has bad days, just remember that it is building his character and that with awesome supportive parents like you he will no doubt survive and flourish.

    • oops, thought I was still on raising my rainbow! sorry!

  20. This is great – thanks for sharing!

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