With five teacher/advisors volunteering to chaperone the 8th graders on their annual trip to Washington, DC, it seemed only right for me to step up and sign up to sub in their absence. I got Andrea's 7th grade Science/Math class and Meghan's Junior IB Bio I class. We got off to a bit of a slow start in the 7th grade Pre-Algebra class as the 7th graders who were in the predominantly 8th grade Algebra 1 class downstairs were apparently baking, and there was a tidal wave of enthusiasm for the idea of our doing the same despite the fact that we had neither ingredients nor oven. But it wasn't long before I was tossing dry-erase markers to students to go put up their answers to the homework on the board before checking them over.
(written Tuesday, September 23, 2014)
Filed Under: Teaching, All-Girls, gender stereotypes, The Girls School Advantage, social justice, gender equity, Girls Schools, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, girls' school, Education
Other than the persistent and depressing cold, which I’ll concede has the virtue of bringing people together united in the strong desire for spring to just come already tinged with a sense of pride that we seem to have survived winter, it’s been a relatively normal return from spring break. The faculty began with an excellent in-service day. We spent the morning thinking about gender and sexual identities and how they relate to adolescent development, and how best to support our students. In the afternoon, we learned about Korean culture and spent time thinking about ways to best support all the English learners in our school. Kids greeted each other with the usual screams and hugs. Classes got back to work with a general good will and air of curiosity, although I’ll admit here that my Humanities 7 class was openly (and occasionally successfully) trying to distract me from starting the brand new unit. They would eventually agree that the unit’s theme would be judging, with the discussion underlining that we were especially looking at how ideals get set, why some ideals end up so superficial, and the sources and effects of judgment on people in general and 7th grade girls in particular.
Wednesday morning, while looking for interesting articles and comments to share on the school’s Twitter stream, I stumbled across an article at edweek.org entitled “Single-Sex Classrooms Making a Comeback for All the Wrong Reasons.” That certainly caught my attention! Reading through it, I felt as though I were in an alternate reality. The concluding sentence, “It seems that there must be a better way to encourage young women, and men, in their academic studies without implementing the archaic practice of total separation in classrooms.” summed up the general drift of the article, and was followed by a question that, in the context of the article, I hope and trust was sincere: “Are you in favor of, or against, single-sex schooling models?”
Filed Under: gender, All-Girls, LGBT Support, gender stereotypes, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, social justice, Girls Schools, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education
“When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’” So begins the website at http://banbossy.com/, a new organization co-founded by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In Foundation and the Girl Scouts of America. The website points out that girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boy’s from elementary to high school, that girls are twice as likely as boys to worry about being called “bossy,” and girls are still called on less and interrupted more in class. (Ban Bossy) There’s no question that we need to do something about that, and there’s no question we know some of the things that work.
On the Girl Scouts’ website, for example, they share the results of a study done in 2008 that showed the following (Girl Scouts):
- Girls, even at a very young age, have definite ideas about what it means and takes to be a leader.
- Promoting leadership in girls is primarily a matter of fostering their self-confidence and providing supportive environments in which to acquire leadership experience.
- To be relevant to and successful with girls, a leadership program must address their aspirational or preferred definition of leadership, their need for emotional safety, and their desire for social and personal development.
- Girls have a range of “leadership identities,” from strong aspiration to outright rejection of the leadership role.
Filed Under: gender, All-Girls, gender stereotypes, intersectionality, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, anti-racism, social justice, Parenting, On Parenting, community, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, Women in media, girls' school, Current Events, gender activism, Education
To enter the toy section of virtually any major store these days, you’d almost think boys and girls were two different species, one of which apparently falls head-over-heels in love with anything pink. Or possibly purple. Yet, whatever sex-based differences may be present at birth and whatever gender-based differences may be acquired from birth on, such extreme gender segregation of toys is a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact, this iconic 1981 Lego ad makes it clear that 33 years ago, girls were perfectly happy to build with traditional Legos, and Lego was willing to advertise that fact.
To be fair, as was noted in an article in the Huffington Post, Judy Lotas, the creative director in charge of Lego’s ad campaign, had to fight to have Rachel Giordano (then age four) included. The mother of two daughters, she knew better when others argued that only boys like to build, and successfully stood her ground (further proof, by the way, that we need more women involved in advertising!). Ms. Giordano and other child models were given about an hour to play with Lego sets, and were then photographed holding their own creations. As it happens, those are also her own clothes (blue jeans and blue t-shirt) she wore in off the street. Maybe it’s that genuine quality that has helped this ad endure.
Filed Under: gender, All-Girls, gender stereotypes, The Girls School Advantage, social justice, Parenting, Girls Schools, All Girls Education, National Engineering Week, girls' school, Current Events, engineering
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Center for Teaching Quality is holding a book chat on Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax, the founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. (NASSPE) His work is centered on the notion that understanding gender differences enables us better to help our students learn.
Filed Under: Teaching, gender, All-Girls, gender stereotypes, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Annie Murphy Paul, Girls Schools, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Scott MacClintic, Education
Recently, as part of a book study, I sat down to read Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax. I’ll confess, the title set me on my guard even though he is the founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. By the end of the book, I was poised to write a comprehensive, point-by-point take-down. Fortunately, that is not where the story stops.
I paused near the end of the book to send out a message on Twitter asking for people’s reactions to Dr. Sax and his work, realizing that in my frustration with certain ideas I might not be giving other ideas sufficient credit. A parent said he had opened her eyes to the notion that single-gender education might be best for certain kids. A teacher said that kids at her school were highly engaged with him and refused to settle down and stop asking questions after he spoke when time was up. And another online colleague wrote me privately, in part to support his ideas but also to humanize him.
One day in Humanities 7, class, we were talking about different ideas of what is feminism and what is feminine when suddenly their voices began to get louder and more urgent. There was an edge, and I could tell there was something below the surface I hadn’t quite deciphered yet when one of the girls told another, “You’re a dudist!” Before I’d recovered laughing from the inventive spontaneity of the word “dudist,” I knew I had finally figured out what was going on: some kids in the class viewed feminism as inherently anti-men, while others didn’t. I explained that, while there is indeed a small and often vocal group of feminists who are anti-men and who perhaps get disproportionate coverage in the media, by no means do they speak for all feminists. One could, I told the kids, in fact argue there are as many kinds of feminism as there are feminists. And that led to an inspiration.
“Some of the strongest feminists in this school,” I told the students, “are in Ms. Durrett’s Sophomore Honors English class. Would you like to invite them to join us one day to talk about all this?” They loved the idea, as did Ms. Durrett and her students. Both classes wrote questions to help frame the discussion, and on the appointed day, the sophomores came streaming into our room, the eyes of former Humanities 7 students lighting up as their faces softened with memories. The kids all settled into every beanbag chair in the middle school, some doubling up, with a look of anticipation on their faces.
Filed Under: women in sports, gender, All-Girls, The Girls School Advantage, community, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Women in media, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School
co-authored with Charlotte M. '16
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