By Samantha Schnupp
“It’s never too early for children to feel equal and accepted in everything they do,” Dorothy Venditto writes in her new book “Gender Equity in Elementary Schools: A Road Map for Learning and Positive Change.”
Venditto taught at West Patent Elementary for most of her 15 years in the Bedford Central School District. Throughout her time at the school, she, along with several colleagues, created workshops and worked as a Tiered Support Teacher to help guide students through assignments such as coding and 3D design.
Her career in the classroom was a catalyst for her recently released book. Venditto, who worked in publishing as a production supervisor on a wide range of magazines including Psychology Today and PC Magazine before becoming a teacher, began publishing articles about increasing gender equity in schools for the website Edutopia.org.
Her personal journey of exploring and researching gender issues began when she watched a film of one of her classroom lessons that she was teaching. Venditto said “something as small as the placement of students’ seats, which students she called on or even how they spoke, captivated me to explore the unconscious thoughts she had about gender.”
Venditto’s book is designed to make the classroom a safe space for boys and girls without gender limitations.
“My main goal is for children to accept themselves as who they are and feel confident in whatever they decide in the classroom,” said Venditto, currently the director of Enlightened Schools, a company that provides professional development on gender as a critical component in social-emotional development.
She said the development and awareness of gender roles and bias begin to present themselves before children reach elementary school. Girls and boys are told how they are supposed to act, Venditto said. Children, especially during their early elementary school years, absorb everything being told to them by their educators.
For example, acting tougher can indicate how boys should behave or coloring with brighter colors tends to be more for girls. Schools and educators play an influential role in messages about gender are healthy and positively spread.
Her book provides goals and resources to help educators, classroom lessons and professional development on teaching gender-healthy concepts to elementary school students and teachers. It allows educators to learn more about gender equity and helps them identify implicit bias, report imbalances and direct positive messages to all students, she said.
“The classroom is designed to be a safe space where children can be free to be whoever they want to be and have equal opportunity, no matter what gender,” Venditto said.
“Gender Equity in Elementary Schools” is published by Rowman & Littlefield. For more information or to order the book, visit www.rowman.com.
Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly reported that Dorothy Venditto stated that much of the education system undermines gender equality.