From Rogue to Regina George, Hermione Granger to Josie Alabrandi, society has created a variety of images of what girls ‘look like’ in the classroom. The images and role models we see influence the way we behave, act and interact with others and school is an important social setting for learning about and experiencing equality.
Today is International Women’s Day so I thought I should use this short post as an opportunity to begin to reflect on my role as a feminist in the classroom. Too often, people shy away from this label but I believe it is important for all those passionate about social justice to own it and work towards true equality.
If I really believe this I need to ‘get my act together’ and start implementing some better strategies in my classroom. I’m not saying I need to have posters of Rosie the Riveter on the wall, but some democratic teaching strategies that support equality will go a long way. Just being a ‘good person’ does not cut it, I need to know what I want to achieve, why and how.
In the classroom, teachers have a unique position of power as the facilitator and leader. Due to this, I believe it is important that I am highly aware of the social dynamics and interactions of students during my lessons.
As a young and white male teacher in the classroom, I acknowledge the privileged social position I come from. I have a variety of responsibilities and one of them is to be an agent of social change, creating a democratic classroom that empowers all of my students and delivers equality.
When establishing and re-establishing classroom expectations with students I made it very clear that language that degrades others based on gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity was not acceptable in my classroom. I have had to reiterate this quite a few times, particularly in one class.
While this might be a small thing, I think it is really important that a standard for what is acceptable in society is set and maintained at school.
One thing I have noticed in the last five weeks of teaching is that in each class there is a small group of confident students who put their hand up to answer questions. Many of these students in my classroom are louder boys but it differs from class to class.
Due to this I have decided to trial the idea of ‘no hands up‘, instead using a ‘wait time’ and cold-call system, allowing all students the opportunity to be engaged. This ensures those students who sometimes get drowned out by the loud and eager ones, are actively involved in their class and learning.
When learning about the ancient world, my lessons have focused on some of the historical figures. Unfortunately on reflection I realise that these have mostly been men. I believe it is important for my classroom to highlight the incredible women of history who are not highlighted by many mainstream history texts. A good place for me to start is using resources from A Mighty Girl in class.
Another thing I have noticed is that the literature in my classroom is dominated by books written by men and with male leads. I need to change this.
I have a long way to go to work on my teaching abilities but I hope that with this reflective practice and conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ll be able to improve and become a great teacher for all my students.
From this blog post I have started reading a number of interesting pieces from the ‘Ban Bossy‘ campaign, A Mighty Girl and some other interesting blog pieces on being a feminist in the classroom. This is only the beginning but if you have any particular ideas please post below.
I’d like to end this post by thanking all the incredible women who have inspired me to teach. From my Mother to my former teachers Sheena, Jenny, Aira, Chris, Barbara and Helen. You know who you are. 🙂