Sllice of Life March Challenge #26: What a student notices about teacher bias

The March Slice of Life challenge is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers
We are working on persuasive essays, and my kids have chosen topics they feel strongly about. So, I’ve been reading about the detrimental effects of too much homework (stress!! fatigue!! ruination of young lives!!), too little vacation time (scarring kids for life!!! causing families to stop talking to each other!!) and the like. Pretty run of the mill crucial to sixth graders type of stuff.  Then comes Rachel’s, and I read it, and stop to think.  She writes about the need for girls to learn separate from boys.  Here are her reasons (in her own words):

In single-sex classes, girls become more confident…Usually in class, girls are quiet because boys are loud as can be. Trying to behave, girls will keep quiet while boys chat and the teacher tries to calm them down.  Girls will generally get less attention because it is just a boy’s personality to say whatever is on his mind – including calling out the answer or talking to another classmate whenever they wish.”

I’ve seen this…even though I am extra conscious of this practice in my own classes due to the fact that my daughters complain bitterly about how this has ruined so many of their classes. 

The teacher will also be able to focus on things the boys need to work on, not girls.  Since girls mature faster, boys tend to get behind, lose things and misbehave more often. By creating single sex classes, boys’ school life will become more productive and they will get the help they need, and girls can get along with the education they are clearly ready for.

She has a point. How often do the girls in my class forget their stuff? Once in a blue moon.  How often do the boys? There is at least one every day.  I do not stop the class until the errant fellow returns with his notebook, binder, etc., but I can imagine that this happens and that Rachel is right!

Finally, some teachers tend to move along when girls get a wrong answer. But when boys get a wrong answer teachers are more likely to explain what they did wrong and how to do it right..  Teachers don’t realize what they are doing, and it turns into a habit. This is one reason why girls sometimes struggle in school.

This one really gave me pause…do I do this without even realizing it?!

There are lots of important issues raised in Rachel’s letter to think about.  So much of what we do is so automatic, sometimes we need a jolt like this to press the pause button, rewind a few weeks, and search for moments like the above… we DO want our girls to become more confident, we want to acknowledge their maturity and their abililty to stay on task, and we want to make sure their questions and misunderstandings are given equal time.  Are we doing enough to ensure that we’re doing so? Rachel, apparently, doesn’t believe this…

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7 thoughts on “Sllice of Life March Challenge #26: What a student notices about teacher bias

  1. Because our school serves a different population, I am remembering that I had just as many girls with study issues as boys. I can't go back to check, but wouldn't it be interesting to have someone observe to check off on a list the behaviors that touch on gender? I will share this with the staff, Tara, to see what they think about it too. I write a newsletter with questions and links every 2 weeks, so it's a prime time to introduce the content Rachel discusses to see what they think. Thanks very much for sharing this.

  2. That's doable but the recent studies don't support this theory. But studies… ugh… there are studies now coming from Newark that it doesn't matter if class size is small or large it doesn't impact on learning… That's baloney.Bonnie

  3. Isn't this the same girl who went overboard on the lit study? She is certainly observant. How refreshing to read a persuasive with an interesting point of view.

  4. Rachel is wise! I would like her to come to my college class titled "Classroom Management" (remember that course that had a bunch of great info—boring theories —- etc. but nothing that you could really use until you practice it as a teacher). Her statement "some teachers tend to move along when girls get a wrong answer. But when boys get a wrong answer teachers are more likely to explain what they did wrong and how to do it right.. Teachers don't realize what they are doing, and it turns into a habit." is a major focus of several class discussions…I think these soon-to-be teachers would learn it from Rachel better than me.

  5. Interesting perspective, especially when it's such a thoughtful, non-whiny, observation. I was going to say unselfish, as the vacation time and homework topics are, but it is still a bit "selfish" (not in a bad way) in that she probably feels that she has been overlooked at least in some classes, some years. It would seem that teacher inexperience, and teacher habit, can allow this to happen. It may not be gender related so much as it is individual related, and for her, there may just be way more boys than girls hogging the attention. Very interesting though, and would be fun to tally a teacher when they weren't aware of it. I had the same feeling when I was in school. It may just be that when you are ready and eager to learn, it is not fun waiting for the class clowns to finish their acts.

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