Standing in Your Truth

April 08, 2014 by Bill Ivey

As an option for weekend activities, I offered to take students to a GLSEN conference on April 5. (GLSEN is the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.) Unfortunately, two of them ended up with conflicts, but the third student cheerfully said she would still like to go, and so we headed east to Madison Park Vocational Technical High School in Roxbury. After passing through the metal detector for “males,” an extremely un-GLSEN moment all around (though I don’t think it was switched on), and stopping at the registration table, we walked up the stairs to the opening celebration, where we were enthusiastically welcomed by three cheerleaders of various genders.

Eliza Byard, the Executive Director of GLSEN, welcomed all of us and spoke movingly of the experience of speaking (for two minutes, precisely timed by the TelePrompter) at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Given that Bayard Rustin, one of the organizers of the March who also served as a speaker, had been excluded from a meeting with President Kennedy out of the fear that J. Edgar Hoover, the homophobic Director of the FBI, might be upset, Ms. Byard’s participation was all the more moving.

Filed Under: gender, LGBT Support, On Education, social justice, Parenting, community, Acceptance, diversity, Feminism, Anti-Bullying

Circle of Uniqueness

March 06, 2014 by Bill Ivey

The end does not actually justify the means; the means create the end.
- Gloria Steinem

Filed Under: gender, LGBT Support, gender stereotypes, anti-racism, social justice, community, Acceptance, Gloria Steinem, Feminism, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Current Events, Education, MCLA

Cringe-Worthy

February 10, 2014 by Bill Ivey

Three years ago, when working on my annual Martin Luther King Day piece, I wanted to connect his dream that children in the U.S. might “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” to similar dreams for social justice for other axes of diversity. As it happened, once we had published the piece and I had spoken in housemeeting, a discussion emerged on Twitter about whether or not these very kinds of connection were appropriate or appropriation. Concerned, I wanted to seek out opinions, and seized on an interchange between two of my friends, John Spencer and José Vilson, to bring up the question. I emerged from that short discussion believing that I needed to focus more specifically on racism in any future Martin Luther King Day speeches, and I believe I have done so for the most part (2012 - 2013 (less so) - 2014). But in the process of reacting to that 2011 post, I added another cringe-worthy moment to a long and ever-growing list.

However much I might have tried to disguise it to myself at the time, what I did was unfair to José and John, and perhaps especially to José as a person of colour. Through my actions, I was making them responsible for teaching me rather than going out and educating myself. In the process, in other words, I was not being an effective ally in the anti-racist fight for social justice, however well-intentioned I may have been. I’ve tried never to do that again - which is not to say there haven’t been other cringe-worthy moments since. Hopefully, though, they are at least becoming fewer and further between.

Filed Under: gender, Piers Morgan, Redefining Realness, LGBT Support, Janet Mock, social justice, Acceptance, diversity, Feminism, Women in media, Current Events, racism, transgender

Aware of One's Gender

October 02, 2013 by Bill Ivey

"Can I ask a question?" Julia, a returning 8th grader, asked toward the end of our first all-middle school meeting. "Sure," I said as 33 pairs of curious eyes turned to look at her. "Well, it's really more of a statement (laugh). I just want to say that I love this meeting tonight. It's the best part of the whole year." It is indeed a wonderful tradition - after an all-school dinner, everyone gathers in the Capen Room where faculty introduce themselves, Big Sisters introduce themselves and their Littles, a few announcements are made, and everyone races off to begin focusing seriously on the finally imminent first day of classes. "I don't know if I'm ready to say it's all downhill from here, but I do love this night," I said softly to Andrea as kids streamed past us. She laughed and nodded. "I know," she said.

Filed Under: Alumnae, gender, LGBT Support, social justice, Beautifully different, community, Acceptance, diversity, Feminism, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Our Own Greatest Teachers

September 30, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Several years ago, a friend of mine who had just had her first child asked me what I had done to help my son grow up to be as strong, kind, grounded, and self-confident as he is. Her concerned look told me how desperately she wanted the same for her own son. My quick response, that my secret to raising my son so well had been for my wife to be his mother, was not given entirely out of modesty or humility (for one thing, my wife is truly one of the most extraordinary parents I've ever known). By, in a sense, deliberately avoiding the question, I meant to create space for her to discover the mother she was meant to be. We did have a longer, more heartfelt conversation later on, but ultimately she found the secret on her own: her child was not my child, her family was not my family, and she had to find her own way as a parent to this unique human being and as a member of her own unique family.

Filed Under: Middle School, All-Girls, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Beautifully different, Girls Schools, On Parenting, Acceptance, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

... Like We're People

April 29, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Every August, my hometown hosts one of the great 10K races in New England, the Bridge of Flowers Classic. Hundreds of runners, from local kids to world-class elite racers, line up on the Iron Bridge while seemingly half the town lines up to watch them or goes to take their stations to volunteer and help out. On several oocasions, Greg Snedeker (our jazz and classical music teacher) and friends set up out on the course to provide musical support. It's always fun and festive, and a wonderful way to spend the morning.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, On Education, Bill Ivey, Beautifully different, community, Acceptance, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Nails in the Coffin?

April 25, 2013 by Bill Ivey

As many of you may know, and to no one’s surprise who follows women’s basketball, Brittney Griner, a 6’8” Senior from Baylor, was the first player to be chosen in the 2013 WNBA draft and will play for the Phoenix Mercury. With only three rounds and only 12 teams drafting, very few players are invited to attend in person, but of course Ms. Griner was there, all smiles, in a white tuxedo.

Two days later, during the course of an interview with “Sports Illustrated,” Ms. Griner was asked why she felt sexuality was no big deal in women’s sports. She responded, “I really couldn't give an answer on why that's so different. Being one that's out, it's just being who you are.” Asked if making the decision to come out had been difficult, she said, “It really wasn't too difficult, I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that. I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn't hard at all.” Though the interview received a fair amount of attention on social media, it received attention more for the low-key “no big deal” feeling to the moment than for the news itself. As Wesley Morris said in his article “Brittney Griner and the Quiet Queering of Professional Sports,” “Maybe it was amazing for its utter whateverness.”

Filed Under: Brittney Griner, Middle School, women in sports, gender, Sports, gender stereotypes, athletics, On Education, Bill Ivey, Beautifully different, Gay-Straight Alliance, On Athletics, Acceptance, diversity, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Deliberate Snub

February 25, 2013 by Bill Ivey

I confess, I don't usually watch the Oscars. I don't get to movies as often as I used to, the glamour of the ceremony has worn thin with time, and at any rate I usually have at least some schoolwork left to do on Sunday nights and can't just sit on the couch and focus on the TV. Tonight, though, in case Oscar is wondering, yes, my sitting in the dining room and working on my computer is a deliberate snub. Here's why.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, gender, Terry O'Neill, NOW, On Education, Bill Ivey, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Acceptance, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Women in media, Oscars, Catherine Hardwicke

Mission Critical

December 11, 2012 by Bill Ivey

Bullied Teen Amanda Todd Uploads Chilling Video Before Being Found Dead buff.ly/TpuvZq Another sad case.
- @JudyArzt, Twitter posting, October 13, 2012

Filed Under: Middle School, gender, LGBT Support, On Education, Bill Ivey, community, Acceptance, bullying, death, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, loss, support, Anti-Bullying

Fight Club

December 04, 2012 by Bill Ivey

After a morning chat with my wife, I decided to check in on my various social media accounts before heading out to the Wash 'n Wire, giving my cat a few extra minutes of post-breakfast lap time. My first, and as it turned out only, stop was Facebook, where the first post was from "Toward the Stars" referencing "Fight Club," an article in "The Telegraph" about the Asgarda tribe in Ukraine. Composed entirely of women and led by Katerina Tarnouska, the tribe follows the traditions of the ancient Amazons, training in the martial arts and "[learning] life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women."
Most years, at some point in time, my students ask whether female-dominated cultures exist, and I file this away should the question arise this year. Ukraine is a country where women are subject to sexual trafficking and gender oppression, and that is a contributing factor to the existence of this tribe. So does their existence serve to demonstrate the power of women taking control of their lives or is it sad commentary on the depth of damage that can be done by institutionalized sexism? Or both? Well... my students can wrestle with those questions should the topic come up.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Alumnae, gender, All-Girls, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Beautifully different, Acceptance, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education