18 introduction what we all have learned since our own early childhood is no longer useful—indeed, is even harmful! We ask you to rethink, relearn, reflect, and change the way you feel and believe for the good of us all. The very fact that you are reading this book makes me hopeful that you will try to make these changes for the good of those young children you care for and educate so diligently. I am most grateful for your tireless efforts and dedication. Thank you! Being a teacher is an awesome profession and an awesome respon- sibility because we are the people who can give our students different options about how they think about and understand gender identity, and we can influence the all-important choice to change their world- view. In the words of William Ayers (1998, xvii): The fundamental message of the teacher is this: You can change your life. Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, the teacher invites you to a second chance, another round, perhaps a different conclusion. . . . To teach consciously for social justice, to teach for social change, adds a complicating element to that fundamental message, making it more layered, more dense, more excruciatingly difficult to enact, and at the same time stur- dier, more engaging, more powerful and joyful much of the time. . . . And so the fundamental message of the teacher for social justice is: You can change the world. I am grateful for my colleagues’ contributions to our different per- spectives on gender and early childhood. It is my hope that this collection of chapters will shed some light and insight, as well as stimulate discus- sion and reflection about how young children learn about their gender identity. No matter what the subject—mathematics instruction, literacy, dramatic play, or social studies—teachers’ interactions set the tone for what happens in classrooms, and they decide which messages are trans- mitted to children unconsciously or intentionally. We have the power to reinforce gender stereotypes or we can choose to abandon those stereo- types and develop more humane, just, and fulfilling ways of relating to one another. Whether our scholarship is qualitative and descriptive or quantitative and accounted, the way in which we reflect and synthesize our findings will be determined by our biases, early emotional memories, or life experiences, as well as by knowledge gained. Self-reflection, there- fore, is key to unlearning systems and traditions that are no longer useful for us and that cause discrimination, social inequality, and injustice.