Teaching Masculinity in a Girls School

June 12, 2016 by Bill Ivey

Before you keep reading, I’d like to invite you to read a piece my friend Christina Torres wrote for Teaching Tolerance entitled “We Can’t Dismantle What We Can’t See: Teaching Concepts of Masculinity.”

<pause>

Done? Good. Thanks.

Filed Under: gender, LGBT Support, gender stereotypes, gender equity, Feminism, girls' school, Gender Diversity, gender activism, Education, feminist school

Cultural Shift

January 13, 2016 by Bill Ivey

Early on in our current Humanities 7 unit on science and human behaviour, the students had asked me if I’d be willing to make up a Jeopardy! game for one of our group activities. I agreed, and one of the students asked if she could help write the questions (I said she could, and she contributed four questions to the “Life Science” category). I found a Creative Commons Google Slides template with six categories, and filled in “Physical Science,” “Social Sciences,” “History of Science,” “Process of Science,” and “Scientists” as well as “Life Science.” I set about writing questions, trying to ensure there was a genuine range of challenge and yet each question was theoretically possible for them to know, keeping an awareness that if I wrote the questions well, they would be learning as they went.

Filed Under: gender, LGBT, LGBT Support, social justice, sexuality, Feminism

Should we teach gender in schools?

April 28, 2015 by Guest Student Author

In Humanities 7 classes, the students design most of the units and, along with group work, choose individual Focus Questions to explore. For a recent unit on Education, Beatrice '20 chose "Should we teach gender in schools?" and created the essay below as a basis for her in-class presentation, which generated a thoughtful and moving discussion.

At Stoneleigh-Burnham, we support religious freedom and ask that all members of the community be treated with respect. I should be clear in that context that Beatrice pointed out during her presentation that she does not believe the family mentioned in the first paragraph represents all Christians, or even all Catholics. And later on, the point was specifically made that many Christians embrace the full spectrum of gender and sexuality with love.

As does this class.

With Beatrice's permission, then, here is her essay.

- Bill Ivey

“Gender needs to be taught in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something,” was written in the suicide note of 17 year old transgender girl, Leelah Alcorn. “My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s f---ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.” Leelah was a mistreated girl from an oppressive Catholic family. Her family's disapproval of her transgenderism caused her to commit suicide last year. It was this and even more recent death of a transgender boy named Zander, that ignited something in my mind. A fire called injustice burned. They weren't even adults yet and they died because of ignorant people, bullying, and no one being there to help them. This turned something over in me because I knew that this wouldn't have had to happen if someone had helped them and accepted them. Why no one did, I don't know. So should we teach gender in schools? There are positives and negatives to teaching it. But think, if kids were taught how to deal with this in school, how to help friends with their problems then maybe we could start on 'fixing society' as Leelah requests. But on the other hand, considering this would be an entirely new topic, how can we teach to young kids and explain to them what it means to feel that you are not who your chromosomes tell you to be?

Filed Under: gender, Gender Diversity, gender activism, StudentVoice

A Very Good Place to Start: On Teaching for Respect

December 01, 2014 by Bill Ivey

“Excuse me, ma’am?” I turned to see a woman approaching me as I sat working at Rao's coffee shop. “Yes?” I said. “Can you please give me directions to (we’ll say it was La Veracruzana)?” I did, and she thanked me, acknowledged my “You’re welcome,” and turned and left. Clearly, she was either open or oblivious to the contrast between whatever it was about my appearance (hair? clothing? something else?) that had caused her to “ma’am” me and my baritone voice. Myself, at this point in my life, I respond naturally to either “ma’am” or “sir,” reasoning that in either case, someone is addressing me respectfully.

Respect is the key word here. It’s what underlies most successful human interactions, and what is most often missing when dysfunction takes over. It’s a firm underlying principle in each of my classes. I expect respect not only for each other (which they almost invariably show anyway) but also for fictional characters, reasoning that if we are generally talking about them as if they were real, we might as well carry it to the logical extreme.

Filed Under: gender, LGBT Support, gender stereotypes, Transgender Day of Remembrance, anti-racism, social justice, gender equity, TDOR, Acceptance, diversity, In the Classroom, The Faculty Perspective, transgender

Trans 101.5

November 18, 2014 by Bill Ivey

Transgender Awareness Month comes right on the heels of National Bullying Prevention Month, and in many ways that makes sense, as transgender people are disproportionately affected by bullying (as with street violence). GLSEN reports that fully 82% of LGBT kids have had problems with bullying, 44% specifically due to gender identification (reported on the nobullying.com website). GLSEN’s 2013 National Climate survey is available by download for anyone who might be interested.

In an age where definitions of different genders are becoming as fluid as some people’s sense of gender itself, it can be hard to keep up with the latest terms. For starters, (biological) sex is not the same as (social) gender, and 1-2% of people are born neither female nor male but rather intersex. Additionally, even though “transgender” refers to someone whose gender identity differs from that assigned to them at birth, not everyone who might fit that definition automatically chooses to identify as transgender. Moreover, though some transgender people (such as noted teen activist Jazz Jennings, here in an interview with Katie Couric) feel they were always girls trapped in a boy’s body or boys trapped in a girl’s body, not all transgender people feel that way or even identify within the gender binary. Partially blurring the binary are bigender people and androgynes, and within the Native American tradition, two-spirit people. But other transgender people might identify as polygender, agender, genderqueer, or just plain nonbinary, and still others avoid terminology altogether. Some may have a stable gender identity while others might be more fluid. Facebook, as many people know by now, offers a menu of over 50 gender choices, and even then, it is not 100% comprehensive.

Filed Under: gender, LGBT Support, gender stereotypes, social justice, gender equity, Transgender Awareness Month, community, Acceptance, diversity, Feminism, The Faculty Perspective, Education, transgender

Why I Came, Why I Stay

November 13, 2014 by Bill Ivey

The other day at Open House, one of the attendees, a public school teacher, asked each of us present on a faculty panel to talk about how we ended up at Stoneleigh-Burnham, and why we stay. Our stories were as individual as we are. My own begins the summer I was getting married…

It was the summer of 2004, and my fiancée and I had just graduated from the M.A.T. program in the French and Italian Department of the University of Massachusetts. Each of us had completed all the requirements for Massachusetts State certification except for the French proficiency exam. My fiancée called up to find out details, and was told that there was a non-refundable fee of $75 and it would be given on one of three possible Saturdays in August, one of which was to be our wedding day. The exact date, she was told, would not be given out until no more than three weeks ahead of time, “for security reasons.” We were about to spend a year living in France anyway, so we elected not to register for the exam. That meant, when it came time to apply for teaching positions, we had no choice but to apply at independent schools. And that’s how I ended up at Stoneleigh-Burnham.

Filed Under: Teaching, gender, All-Girls, On Education, Girls Schools, All Girls Education, Feminism, The Faculty Perspective, girls' school, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education, Admissions

"Are you in or out?"

October 15, 2014 by Bill Ivey

(title credit from a song in the Disney movie Aladdin and the King of Thieves)

Filed Under: gender, LGBT Support, Gay-Straight Alliance, community, Acceptance, diversity, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Current Events, Anti-Bullying

Making Feminism Cool

October 01, 2014 by Bill Ivey

“Bra-burning. Man-hating. Angry and unattractive. Such stereotypes have shadowed the women’s movement over the past few decades — and a slew of young, fashionable celebs are working to clarify feminism’s true definition.” (Fairchild) Setting aside for another day the question of why such a stereotype may have come to life and remained, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, so persistent, Caroline Fairchild raises a good question in her article “Will young celebrities make feminism ‘cool’?” Besides noting Emma Watson’s epic speech at the UN launching the “He for She” campaign, Ms. Fairchild mentions Taylor Swift’s recent realization that she has been a feminist all along and Beyoncé’s performance at the VMAs backed by the word “feminist” in huge block letters.

Feminism, many analysts note, has been waging an uphill battle for years to define itself as being in general far more inclusive than it is typically portrayed. I’ve certainly seen many students over my three decades here echo Ms. Swift’s sentiment when she said, “As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.” (Swift, quoted in Thomas)

Filed Under: gender, All-Girls, LGBT Support, anti-racism, social justice, gender equity, community, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, Women in media, racism

One Mind at a Time

September 15, 2014 by Bill Ivey

I try to be on the lookout for chances to react to blogs, knowing (as Bill Ferriter has pointed out on more than one occasion) that one of the highest compliments I can pay a blogger is to leave a comment or even write a whole new blog in reaction, thus showing how much of an impression they’ve left on me. So when Brianna Crowley opened one of her blogs at the Center for Teaching Quality with a writing prompt from a 30-day blogging challenge for teachers, the temptation to write my own blog based on the same prompt was strong.

Until I really absorbed the prompt: “Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).”

Filed Under: Teaching, gender, On Education, social justice, Parenting, gender equity, Girls Schools, On Parenting, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Education

Not a Four-Letter Word

August 12, 2014 by Bill Ivey

The recent controversy around the Science magazine cover objectifying and dehumanizing trans women highlights not only how trans women may be treated within the scientific community but also how women in general may be treated within the field. The short answer: not well.

Filed Under: Alumnae, gender, LGBT Support, social justice, gender equity, Girls Schools, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, girls' school, STEM, Education