Is Your Classroom Female Friendly?
What can we do to create classrooms free from gender bias?
You might think you have an all singing and all dancing inclusive classroom but it’s doubtful. There won’t be many classrooms that are.
Tait Coles (2014) in Never Mind The Inspectors Here’s Punk Learning asks us
How many images of female role models have you got hanging on your walls? Are the women writers, scientists, designers and artists displayed there put up as an afterthought? How frequently do you use female work as an inspiration?
He has a point. It can feel like this sometimes although some classrooms you’d struggle to find any female representation displayed for girls to take inspiration from. But then it can go the other way – a classroom I visited recently was plastered with female role models etc to such an extent, the teacher was oblivious to the chilly climate she had created for boys.
Girl friendly teaching is also boy friendly teaching and so we must ensure that our teaching is gender equitable and our classroom experiences are equally empowering for boys and girls.
But on the whole, the bias is more towards male than female and so girls can and do feel inferior and overlooked as they are surrounded by imbalance, wonky displays and male oriented curricula and schemes of work.
Some of the things we can think about include:
1. Being vigilant of the number of questions we ask boys and girls – are we paying then equal attention?
2. Thinking more carefully about seating arrangements and where pupils sit – do boys sit at the back and girls at the front? do we have gender ghettos? do we experiment with different groupings?
3. Understanding the often lower levels of self confidence in girls and ensuring they have a voice in the classroom.
4. Providing examples and activities which reflect girls’ interests and experiences as well as those of boys.
5. Being openly questioning and critical of teaching and learning resources which do not include or reflect girls’ interests and which portray women and girls in stereotypical roles.
6. Having a zero tolerance policy for gender-based teasing and harassment in and outside of school.
7. Actively promoting initiatives that promote what girls can do, not what they can’t. For example, I am Pretty (the EDF Energy adverts to inspire young girls to follow their curiosity, ask questions about what they find interesting and pursue STEM subjects) and This Girl Can.
Gender justice is a priority and I’m not oblivious to the binary nature of my blog and realise that importance of an LGBTQ-Inclusive classroom environment too. There are lots of blogs written about LGBTQ-inclusive environments and one of my favourites is by Lewis Maday-Travis, a queer and trans educator who teaches 8th grade human biology and health in Seattle, WA.