This is a real challenge for teachers on a on going everyday basis.I teach 5th class in a mixed Gaelscoil and it is difficult to break down the barriers of gender.I was very interested to read about Naomi’s knitting initiative to put both boys and girls on a level par and to challenge the idea that only girls knit.It is an excellent skill for boys to learn as we know many Irish male fashion designers like Philip Treacy, the hat designer and Pauric Sweeney, the handbag designer. An “unusual ” skill can sometimes be a breadwinner for the talented individual, regardless of gender.

I have come across a similar challenge in our school where we have chess classes and competitions and it is mostly boys who participate.This is the long standing stereo typing that only boys are good at strategy and maths, and therfore good at chess. I began to encourage girls to practise their basic chess skills and we incorporated chess as a core activity in our annual Maths Week, especially for Rang 2-6. It was very successful but we need to focus on the girls and keep encouraging them to participate. The parents can be very helpful in that it is a lovely game to play with your child.I see that Professor Luke O Neill has commented on the mathematical benefits of parents/ teachers playing board games with children to enhance their ability in Maths.

As regards Mary’s post about toys, I was thinking how important it is in Aistear that we have a wide variety of dress up clothes and toys so that children are encouraged to act out varied roles as doctors, vets, nurses, firemen, farmers etc. no matter whether they are boys or girls.This is a vital activity in Junior Infants when children are being viewed and judged by their fellow pupils. Children should be strongly encouraged to challenge gender stereotyping at the youngest age possible.

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