Thursday, October 4, 2007

Of gender and classrooms

Warning: minor rant incoming (at least, it is planned to be minor; I'll try to stick to that, since there's yarn content to be gotten to before dinner comes out of the oven).

I picked the girls up from school today, and as we were walking out to the car, Tess was giving me the update on her day. I was listening with half an ear (I was also thinking about how to go to the store to get milk, and what homework needed to be done; you know how it is). I heard her say something about her human values class, and that she was an ambassador for the girls (here's where my attention was caught) to bring their complaints about the boys to the boys' attention.


So I asked some questions. What do you mean ambassador? She told me that their assignment for human values this week was for one ambassador from the girls (her) and one from the boys (someone unnamed) were to gather from their constituencies complaints about the other group. They were then to bring those complaints to the opposite ambassador, who would negotiate a change in behavior on the part of his or her constituency. She mentioned that she'd already gathered some complaints from the girls, and that they included poor hygiene, general aggression, name-calling, etc. The boys had already levied complaints about gossip.

I about foamed at the mouth.

Two general issues come up here. One is the whole boys versus girls thing. I teach future teachers. We discuss with them the pedagogical and social problems with setting up a constant boys/girls, us/them mentality, and how to avoid it. And here these people are, advocating it. In particular, setting up a complaint sharing in this way is just asking for stereotypical complaints to arise, and lo, they did. (I'm telling you, I'm tempted to write a paper about this, I honestly am.) I also have a very serious problem with the "you all do these things, and I know it because someone said so, but I can't tell you who" set up here. It's exactly *not* what I'm trying to teach the girls. I would SO rather they felt able to walk up to a person honestly, say, "this bothers me, can we talk about it", and go from there. Grrrr...

So, I called her teacher. She was as upset and surprised as I was (the human values program has generally been very good, and I like what they talk about). She's going to talk to them, and deprogram the kids, and I've spoken to Tess. The funny thing is, this being a Montessori school, the kids are less concerned with gender issues that I've seen elsewhere (and frankly, the girls are just as dirty and aggressive as the boys, who gossip plenty!). So, we'll see what happens.

OK, rant over (for the moment).

I got some pictures of Kivrin's socks this morning:
(note the toes turned out in approved Irish dancing fashion) I'm pretty happy with them, especially given that they're all my own design (such as it is). She's quite charmed with them herself, and insisted on wearing them to school, which is the reaction that a mother wants. Of course, I didn't quite manage to use up the sock yarn, so I still have little tiny dribs and drabs of the Cherry Tree Hill and the STR yarn. Ah, well.

I also got my Dream in Color today! Three colors, and I love them all:
Those colors are (from left to right): Summer Sky, Beach Fog, and Visual Purple. The strange thing was that I almost didn't get the Visual Purple, and at this moment, it's the one I'm most excited about knitting up. Funny ol' world, isn't it?


Anne said...

Terrific that the teacher was so responsive, both with you and in trying to undo the damage done! I can definitely imagine situations where there'd be tremendous effort involved in explaining why you were upset.

I'm so salivating over that Dream in Color...

Sheepish Annie said...

It's funny...the classes I teach are almost exclusively "male." When I do get the rare female student, I am always sort of surprised by how quickly they bring gender issues into the mix. I'm really glad that the teacher was so quick to step in and remedy the situation. That was a civil war waiting to happen and one that was only going to further the idea that we have to live according to preconceived ideas of behavior.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for delurking! I loved getting the chance to visit you.

Carrie K said...

All three of those yarns are gorgeous.

It's nice that the teacher and you are on the same page though! There's enough of that boy/girl clash as it is, I agree.

Anne said...

woo hoo, you're one of Adrienne's winners! Happy Friday --

Stell said...

oh we have come such a long way in the 100 or so years since the vote, maybe a whole 10 feet? No mostly it works, but teens and gender, no they don't need any help to segregate at all. What did the teacher think was going to happen, boys vs girls? Really happy she was able to see your view of the situation and step up to sorting it.

lovely colours.

Fiberjoy said...

This reminds me of eighth grade when the language arts teacher had the "brilliant" idea of having the Navajos share what bothered them about the Anglos and visa versa. For the entire two hour period she worked the room while some of us sat in shock and agony. How stupid could she get? More. The next day she wanted to go over issues to try to heal the hurts. Until that day we'd been getting along fine. We gathered after class to denounced her and mend the breeches she'd caused.
On our own, without her interference. (There were six or seven of us Anglos in the room of about 25 students)

Beautiful Dream in Color skeins!

Tracy said...

This reminded me of a situation in my own education. My 10th-grade English teacher decided it would be a great idea to stage a debate in the classroom between those who believed in creationism and those who believed in evolution. It was a complete disaster. Most of the students were from similar conservative Christian backgrounds, leaving just two of us to debate on the side of evolution. The teacher did nothing to try to keep the debate civil and objective, and allowed the passions of some of those on the creationism side to flow largely unchecked. Even worse, she joined in on the creationist side (she was the wife of a conservative Christian preacher) and used the "debate" as an opportunity to inject her own religious beliefs into what was supposed to be a secular public school. I don't think I've remembered any other classroom lesson quite as vividly as that one from 27 years ago...