So I’ve been working on my Teacher as Advocate badge, tirelessly researching, but now I think it’s time I finally draft my Advocacy Action plan. In choosing a subject, I wanted to find something I really related to. I also wanted to diverge from the focus of my last badge of equity of education with a concentration on accessibility of education to low income groups. I want to explore the multifaceted entity of education in all of its issues of access and quality so that when I become a teacher, I will truly appreciate the spectrum of identities in my classroom and the struggles they face in school.
In another education class of mine, we have been talking about gender in the classroom. When the professor first introduced the subject, I didn’t expect to hear much new information. I predicted talk of the glass ceiling, societally imposed gender roles, and opportunity in the career world. What I got, however, was a new perspective.
Looking at gender in the classroom is an incredibly interesting endeavor. There are so many small differences you wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for them. It seems that we take the socialization of our gender roles every where we go, and the classroom is not excluded from this. Research has shown that teachers treat students differently based upon their gender because of residual socialization resulting from our society’s views of gender roles. Female students are expected to be social, calm, good at language arts, neat, and quiet, whereas male students are expected to be independent thinkers, boisterous, rational, academically able, and socially uncommunicative to name a few.
These differences of expectations bleed into teachers’ treatment of students in discipline, class engagement, and attention allotted. The worst part about this issue is that teachers are unaware of their own bias. I think that it is the continuous socialization of gender imposed upon people throughout the entirety of their lives, including through their education, that results in the more blatant injustices that permeate our society today. Students are receiving different educations based on their genders and it needs to be addressed.
This issue requires a teacher advocate who can raise awareness of the problem. Each gender needs to be advocated for in classroom expectations because both genders should have equal expectations and opportunity. This isn’t to say that we must abandon the standard methods of discipline that have proven successful in the past, but that teachers need to stop generalizing based on gender. It might be easy for them to see a boy talking, rather than a girl, and assume he is acting out because of stereotypes, but that is an incredibly biased, unfair assumption.
Another aspect of the advocacy of this issue is research. We see boys and girls receiving different treatment in the classroom, and we recognize the potential problem, but we can’t stop there. There could be underlying factors of the differences. What if boys and girls respond better to differing levels of reservation when teachers choose to discipline? What if girls tend to like language arts more than math or science? Trends do not indicate correlation, but they do create and perpetuate stereotypes. If we do more research on this subject, it might lead us to better understand what the true issue is, and how to solve it. Trends do not define the individual.
The main point, then, of this issue is to adhere to the age old advice of getting to know your students. Treat them as individuals, not a carbon copy of their peers. Each student is unique and generalizing based on any trait they possess is incredibly neglectful to the person they are, and your duty to facilitate their intellectual growth.