Because 10 and eleven year olds can deconstruct gender inequality in the classroom better then adults can anywhere. so andy beat me to it… but who cares? keep up the good work Kate!!!next up? teacher “silent” day… exploring the effect of traditional power structures and how they effect the classroom community.
Because Iâ€™m all for using the word â€œoppressorsâ€ in the lunchroom over a chalupa: Boy-Silent Day and an example of a Best Practice: “
After getting an email largely excerpted below, I asked friend and colleague Kate, an elementary school teacher, if I could share her story here. Below, she spells out an exciting activity she conducted, which Iâ€™m thrilled about adapting for students that are nearly twice the age of her 10 and 11-year-old students. Enjoy! [Kate’s words follow, student names removed.]
Something great happened today. When I tried to share this with my colleagues at lunch today, I was kind of met with silence and then I felt weird for being â€˜too political.â€™ I muttered to myself on my way out of the lounge â€˜Who actually uses the words â€˜oppressorsâ€™ in the lunch room over chalupa???â€™ but I can tell you, right?
A couple of months ago, after saying, for the millionth time, â€˜Can I hear from one of the females in the house?â€™ One of the boys said, â€˜They donâ€™t like talking.â€™
Me: â€˜Oh really? Why do you think thatâ€™s so?â€™
â€˜Cuz theyâ€™re shy.â€™
Another boy: â€˜Cuz they donâ€™t know the answers.â€™ etc.
Since then, I pointed out to them that pretty much whenever a girl opened her mouth, the boys either: shut her down, started talking to a neighbor, or interrupted her. I thought of a â€˜boy silent dayâ€™ and asked them about a month ago what they thought of it, as an experiment. They agreed in the spirit of exploration. Weâ€™ve discussed homophobia, racism, and sexism, and when we discussed this habit of theirs, it was always as an observation, not a judgment. Iâ€™m assuming this is why they were willing. I think they were also genuinely curious to see what would happen.
So today we had our â€˜boy-silent day.â€™ We posed it like a science experiment. We had discussed this several times in the past and they knew it was happening today. All but one boy was on board (and even the nay-sayer went along with it). We discussed the goals-everyone was clear that this was in no way a punishment, but an exploration into why the girls donâ€™t participate more. We started with a question-what will happen if the boys donâ€™t talk? Then we thought-paired-shared, made a list of predictions, and then dealt with ground rules (â€™What if I have to use the bathroom?â€™ â€˜What if two boys are in a partnership?â€™ â€˜What do we do for think-pair-share or group work?â€™). This was fun and collaborative; we came up with answers together. We discussed the use of body language to communicate and that the boys could still participate, but in silent ways (like attentive listening, e.g.). Everyone kept a sheet of paper at their seat so they could jot down observations of the class and their feelings throughout the day.
And the day started. I have to say, from a teacherâ€™s point of view, my day felt stress-free. There were literally no behavior problems and no distractions. I had no private interventions. During writing workshop-quiet, calm, focus. During independent reading, the same. Incredible. The boys, to their credit, kept their commitment! During directed lessons, they didnâ€™t call out, they didnâ€™t sabotage. They were so mature and reflective. I have had a very challenging year. Many of my little ones struggle with academics and impulse control, so this was all the more exciting (btw-my class is 2/3 male and 1/3 female). The girls did not overwhelmingly participate (i.e. pretty much the same few girls who normally participate were the ones participating), but they seemedâ€¦more in control. More confident. They were chatty in the hallways. Was I imagining that I saw more of them smile? I dunnoâ€¦but it seemed like it. Maybe it was me-giving them more attention, noticing them in ways I hadnâ€™t prior. We joked around at several points throughout the day and it felt so collegial and close, like we were sharing something special.
We spent the last hour or so of the day debriefing. We started with a quickwrite, answering two questions: 1. What have I learned (about myself and the class) from this experiment? And 2. What will I do differently as a result of this experiment? Then we sat in a circle on the rug and discussed these same things. Many boys expressed theirÂ frustration and boredom during the day. At one point, [a girl] said, â€˜It feltâ€¦weirdâ€¦because when we talked, they were, like, listening.â€™ Some girls spoke of how the boys made efforts to give them eye contact and to show them through body language that they were present, but some said that the boys did not do this. This was an opportunity to revisit the meaning of sexism and how it appears and gets perpetuated. One boy said, â€˜Can we have a girl silent day?â€™ to which I responded, â€˜What would be the goal?â€™ [Another boy] said, â€˜So they know how we feel!â€™ [Another boy] said to him, â€˜They already know how we feel. This is how they feel all the time.â€™ At the end, we went around and said one thing that we would do differently as a result of today. A shy boy said, â€˜Iâ€™m gonna raise my hand more and take risks.â€™ Another said, â€˜Iâ€™ve been disrespecting girls; I havenâ€™t been listening to them. Iâ€™m gonna listen more.â€™ Another: â€˜Iâ€™m going to try not to interrupt.â€™ One of the girls who is a frequent participant said, â€˜Iâ€™m going to step back so others can share.â€™ A shy girl said, â€˜Iâ€™m going to risk myself more.â€™
I asked them to do some writing tonight about their thoughts, and Iâ€™m excited to read their essays. One boy who stays after school with me wrote something like, â€˜For girls to feel safe, the boys need to listen to them.â€™ One thing Iâ€™ve said to them is that sexism doesnâ€™t get crushed if itâ€™s only females fighting against it, that we need boys and men to recognize it and fight against it too. I was really pleased with today and proud of the maturity of these 10 and 11 year olds!
Two final stand-out comments from kids about the day: one girl said, â€˜This was the best day of my lifeâ€™ (remember, sheâ€™s 10!) and a boy had written on his observation sheet, â€˜Itâ€™s so quiet in here. I feel like I can learn more.â€™
(Via The American Crawl.)